Neighborhoods, cities, regions and states across America are taking notice of how important "place" is in the economic development equation.
Michigan is no exception.
To revitalize Michigan we must examine our state through a new lens, taking into account the types of places where New Economy workers, entrepreneurs and businesses want to locate, invest and expand.
This approach is commonly described as a "sense of place" or just "placemaking." It’s a simple concept really, based on a single principle -- talented and young people settle in places that offer the amenities, social and professional networks, resources and opportunities to support thriving lifestyles. Michigan can attract and retain talent-based workers by focusing on how best to utilize our regional communities' unique placemaking assets such as squares, plazas, parks, streets, green spaces and waterfronts.
Our job begins by working together to build and maintain quality places in each region of Michigan that will reinvent our state for the 21st century.
Don’t just take our word for it. Ask Cynthia Kay, founder of a high-definition media production and communications consulting company.
Kay’s six-person firm’s clients include multinationals like Herman Miller, Amway Global, Siemens Industry, Novartis, Wiley Publishing, as well as educational institutions like Michigan State University, Grand Valley State University and Hope College.
She could have opened her state-of-the-art shop anywhere. Kay chose Grand Rapids because of her belief that a vibrant community is vital to success -- not just to her corporate bottom line but to the quality of life her family, employees and neighbors proudly enjoy.
"Our downtown is a place where people want to be," she says. "You’ll find students, young professionals, entrepreneurs and corporate types out and about networking and socializing, in cafes, restaurants and parks. We get to rub shoulders, rub ideas together, and the magic that results is good for business.
"And the arts scene in Grand Rapids is a big part of it all. From museums to Art Prize, it’s an energizing environment where things can and do happen. When you’re a part of a community like this, you want to become a part of it and give back -- that’s why we donate our services to many nonprofits. It’s part of the cycle that brings people and ideas together."
The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) share Cynthia Kay’s belief: placemaking matters.
Together, we are helping Michigan’s state and local governments eliminate barriers to placemaking, leverage private investment, promote diverse housing choices and mixed-use development, spur alternative transportation, embrace cultural activities and cultivate green spaces. The best thinking about successful communities and regions points to one conclusion. Creating vibrant, attractive public spaces is not just a winning economic strategy. Placemaking is picture-perfect for Michigan’s return to prosperity.
Learn more about Michigan placemaking at the new, groundbreaking site miplace.org which will be unveiled at the Building Michigan Communities Conference April 23-25.