Blog: Gretchen Driskell

Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell has put her stamp on a multitude of development and transportation projects during her seven terms in office. This week she writes on why loitering is welcome in downtown Saline, the personal property tax, and mass transit coming to lower Michigan.

What Makes a 21st Century Community?

Why do you choose to live here?  Is it because of the cultural offerings in the area, the entrepreneurial environment, or the outstanding educational systems? Maybe ease of access to biking, walking and outdoor recreation, the diverse population of the region, or an environmental conscience are important to you.  Quality of place is a driving force for talent location, from young millenials to senior executives, so what can we do to make it better here?

The Michigan Municipal League (MML), which exists to create better cities across our state, studied how to become excellent at place making in 2006.  I was fortunate to participate in the four full-day sessions, with speakers from around the country who have affected or identified change opportunities in place making.  Municipal leaders from across the state worked through what we heard in these sessions to formalize the toolkit of strategies we are using today.  The League identified the eight assets that Michigan's communities need to grow and strengthen, for our state to sustain and prosper in coming years. Research shows that physical design and walkability, green initiatives, cultural economic development, entrepreneurship, multiculturalism, messaging and technology, transit, and education are essential to a community's livelihood. Saline has been implementing/strengthening these assets since then to become a more successful community.

This year the MML wrote the book, The Economics of Place: The Value of Building Communities Around People. This is a great compilation of essays by an array of experts in place making, which integrates these eight assets into their personal perspectives. It is written for you and I (the non-experts), in an effort to help all of us understand what it takes to make Michigan competitive with the rest of the world.  

How do we create places around this state that will entice talent, create jobs, and build stronger communities? Our region has been built on strong assets, primarily our education systems, which in turn have positively impacted the other place-making strategies. However, we have a ways to go to truly be competitive with the rest of the world.

So, read the book…broaden your horizon a bit…. And think about how we can make our state great again.