Sterling Heights

‘Our future is bright’: Sterling Heights recognized as five star community by UM-Dearborn’s iLabs

What’s happening: Researchers at iLabs, University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Center for Innovation Research, have named the City of Sterling Heights as one of its “five star communities,” recognizing the city’s contributions to Michigan’s entrepreneurial growth and economic development. Sterling Heights is just one of 97 communities statewide to have been honored with the designation.

What it is: Each year, researchers at iLabs analyze publicly available data from 277 communities spread across 54 counties throughout the state. Five-year changes in property values, community assets, and tax rates are considered when determining the four- and five-star communities, the latter of which is the highest honor available. As iLabs project manager Kari Kowalski says, “Each year, the eCities project aims to highlight the successes and continued commitment of cities and townships to grow business and support entrepreneurship within their communities.”

No surprises here: “It makes sense that Sterling Heights would be awarded as a five-star community,” says Sterling Heights Senior Economic Development Advisor Luke Bonner. “The City has been very intentional with our public investments over the past several years, including infrastructure, technology, entrepreneurship and workforce development improvements. These have all had a strong impact on creating a desirable community and driving the City’s business attraction efforts.”

Impressive numbers: According to Bonner, Sterling Heights has $8.2 billion in Gross Regional Product, higher than the GDP of nine entire states, and $34 billion in imports and exports, which represents 15 percent of Michigan’s total import and export activity. Successes cited over the past five years include $800 million in overall investments, the attraction of popular national chains like Portillo’s and Jollibee, the new incubator Element at Velocity, and more.

The future is bright: “While we’ve been very successful in attracting private investment over the past several years, we still have many developments on the horizon as well,” Bonner says. “We’ll be working to re-purpose the Target at 15 Mile and Van Dyke, re-imagine the future of Lakeside Mall, welcome additional advanced manufacturing to the Sterling Innovation District and highlight Corridor Improvement Authority projects like the new Chaldean Community Foundation housing and the Van Dyke streetscape enhancement project. Our future is bright.”

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.