Blog: Bob Guenzel

Bob Guenzel is the Administrator for Washtenaw County. A U-M Law School graduate and resident of Ann Arbor, Bob has been deeply involved in local community organizations, sits on several boards and is currently the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for Ann Arbor SPARK. He will be writing about the potential opportunities our current economic downturn provides us, as well as leadership and literacy in Washtenaw County.

Post No. 3: The Eastern Leaders Group

One of the themes I've been pushing in these blog entries this week has been collaboration. If you have become, as I have, a frequent visitor to the Concentrate site, you see evidence of new partnerships generating new ideas with every click of the mouse.

The economy today isn't going to let us get far without collaboration. Today I want to speak to the exciting prospects underway in the eastern part of our County through the collaboration of the Eastern Leaders Group (ELG). This group includes Eastern Michigan University and civic leaders in business, education and government who are seizing the opportunities presented in Ypsilanti and the eastern part of the County.

The area is rich with opportunity – and now, with the continuing leadership and community engagement from Eastern Michigan – there is both the will and the way to make things happen.

To borrow a slogan from one of or private sector partners, the eastern County should be the best place to "Live. Work. Shop. Play." Just this week, a high energy meeting on this initiative demonstrated the willingness and ability of local government, including a fiscally revitalized City of Ypsilanti to step into the future.

And real steps forward have begun.

§ Eastern Michigan University is using its considerable influence and resources to develop programs and partnerships to meet the pressing needs in the community. This includes a targeted effort to establish premier schools in the area. In January, EMU and all local school districts signed a partnership agreement for hosting services and improvements initiatives. This includes the development of a centralized website portal, facilitated by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, to share information on current initiatives and successes as well as AP classes, dual enrollments, fine arts programs, and athletic program information.

§ SPARK East is the name of the high-tech business incubator, tentatively set to be housed in the Smith Furniture Building at 15 S. Washington in Ypsilanti. The target date to open the incubator is September 1, 2008. Similar to Ann Arbor SPARK, the incubator will be based on an open concept with cubicles of approximately 300 square feet, conference rooms, administrative offices and possibly two training/classrooms with a capacity of 30 people each.

§ Eastern Gateway Project - The purpose of this part of the Eastern Leaders Group initiative is to develop concepts for land use, property redevelopment and physical design for the "gateway" into the City of Ypsilanti. After all, from our most populous neighbor and destination city, Detroit, Ypsilanti is the "Gateway to Washtenaw County". It is our important connection to future development there, like the Aerotropolis project.

So, you can give me all the details you want about what's not working in Washtenaw County. I think I can beat you hands down with what is! Let me know what you think.