LPI special report features ideas from 17 national/state leaders, potential strategies for Michigan

Ideas from 17 national and state thought leaders provide important information that Michigan could use

Ideas from 17 national and state thought leaders provide important information that Michigan could use to: Identify how to recognize the mistakes Michigan has made and then to move the state’s thinking forward, including making places that will attract people and economic growth; working together at the regional level; and working to restore Detroit, the success of which is necessary for Michigan to restore itself.

The MSU Land Policy Institute (LPI) has published the special report, Moving Michigan Forward: Thought Leaders on Helping the State Develop Strategies, which highlights important strategies and recommendations and advice for the state in the areas of:

  • Moving Michigan Thinking Forward;
  • Moving toward Regionalism; and
  • Moving Detroit Forward.

During the 2011 Fall semester, Michigan State University students enrolled in the ESA 450 course on Smart Growth and Strategic Land Use Decision-Making were asked to interview the leaders as part of a semester project on such topics as economic development, land use, the environment, urban design, government and social justice. The course was taught by Soji Adelaja, PhD, John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor in Land Policy; and John Warbach, PhD, LPI associate director.

The Michigan leaders interviewed included:

  • Joe Borgstrom, Director of the Downtown and Community Service Division for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.
  • Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative.
  • Eugene Jones, President and CEO of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, and former Executive Director of the Detroit Housing Commission.
  • Peter Kageyama, Co-Founder and Producer of the Creative Cities Summit and Author of “For the Love of Cities.”
  • Alece Montez, Senior Associate of Rocky Mountain Projects for the Orton Family Foundation in Denver, CO.
  • Bill Rustem, Director of Strategic Policy for Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder.
  • Rachael Franks Taylor, Director of Coastal Conservation for The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Michigan Chapter.
  • James van Ravensway, Instructor in the School of Planning, Design and Construction at Michigan State University; and former Planning Director for the City of East Lansing.
  • Gilbert White, Land Use Policy and Placemaking Consultant.
  • Dan Wyant, Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and former President of the Edward Lowe Foundation.      

This is the final report in this special report series. The first report in the series focused on national thought leaders with a focus on the New Economy and placemaking. The second report featured interviews from state-based leaders with a focus on helping Michigan find answers.

The purpose of the semester research assignment was to promote contact and discourse between students and leaders, broaden the scope of education and enhance the preparedness of students to become future leaders themselves through a better understanding of how leaders think and act. The comments the students received from their subjects were intriguing, timely and of great potential value to statewide policy makers, other distressed states and the nation.  Samplings of the leaders’ thoughts include:

  • “The best way to revitalize the economy is to attract talent and engage in the New Economy.” Bill Rustem

  • “Cities are fueled by their people, and creative, entrepreneurial people have an exponential impact on their community . . . and it may only take 719 more creative and engaged people to transform Detroit.” Peter Kageyama

  • “We need to start at the community level with community leaders and take a more regional approach and asset map the state’s strengths and weaknesses.” Dan Wyant

The state, the nation and the globe are blessed with perceptive and articulate thought leaders in the private, nonprofit and government sectors who are involved in economic development, land use, the environment and society; and who track global, national, regional and local trends. The observations and ideas for the future of Michigan are pertinent to places outside the state as well. Many of these leaders are pioneers in that they saw the big picture early and connected land use and land strategies to many of the issues that face society.

Other civic leaders in Michigan should pay attention to their contributions, as the state seeks to move the economy forward, especially in its most distressed places. Economic progress will require the implementation of strategies grounded in the context of the New Economy, globalization, a “flat world,” knowledge industries and the concentration of economic activity in the most vibrant places where they will stick. Students also need to pay attention, as they are expected to become the leaders of the future in increasingly challenging times.

According to Professor Warbach, “There has been considerable attention to the need to attract talent and the role of placemaking in meeting that need in the land use and economic development communities. These interviews show how a diverse group of people support serious attention to meeting those needs. They also provide some unique perspectives on the why and how of moving Michigan forward--through transformation from an antiquated economic development paradigm to one more suitable to our times, and through more flexibility in government and community action.”

Download a copy of the special report series: Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3.

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