Category Archives: Economic development

MSU CEC Team treated like rock stars in Nebraska

Mark Thomas, Kay Cummings, Andy Hayes, Khurram Imam, Micah Loucks, and Frank Gublo pose for a photo in front the Loop Brewing Co. brick building.

MSU Extension Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC) From left to right: Mark Thomas, Kay Cummings, Andy Hayes, Khurram Imam, Micah Loucks, Frank Gublo. Photo courtesy of Andy Hayes.

This week, we’ll hear from Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator Andy Hayes sharing about the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities (CEC) Team’s experiences in Nebraska:

Our MSU Extension CEC Team traveled to McCook, Nebraska, to participate in the state’s first CEC conference. Patterning their conference after our successful Michigan model, the Nebraska Extension team added their own flair and expertise and created an outstanding entrepreneurship conference.

MSU Extension team members Frank Gublo, Mark Thomas, Kay Cummings, Micah Loucks, Khurram Imam and I traveled to the conference and also gave breakout session presentations on a variety of entrepreneurship topics.

Approximately 80 people from 40 Nebraska communities participated. After hearing excellent keynote speakers in the local restored vintage movie theatre, participants attended breakouts around town in a wide range of businesses such as shoe stores, coffee shops, antique furniture stores and jewelry stores.

Nebraska Extension team members were so appreciative of the multi-state partnership between Michigan and Nebraska and our coaching and guidance; and participants were grateful that we traveled all that way to attend and participate; we truly felt like rock stars. And McCook is a cool town – the perfect setting for the team’s first conference.

Some of us even ventured out to the plateau at 5:30 a.m. to watch the mating dance of the prairie chickens. (Honest, you can’t make this stuff up!) It was seriously cool, and the scenery while watching the prairie wake up with the sunrise would make anyone want to live there.

While en route, we picked up a traveling companion from the University of Minnesota Extension, which made the trip even better. We ate beef in a local restaurant in York, Nebraska, and had time to tour the Food Innovation Center on the Nebraska Campus. All were truly impressive.

A great trip, and what makes it even more perfect is that we probably learned way more from our partners in Nebraska than they did from us.

Thank you, Andy, for sharing the stories from your trip. We’re thrilled about the positive impact that you and everyone on the CEC Team are having on the people of Michigan, and we’re proud that your ideas are spreading nationally.

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Filed under Conferences, Economic development, Entrepreneurial, Partnerships, professional development

Strategic connections take time: Reflections from D10

Andy Northrop, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator, works with communities statewide to create and maintain sustainable communities using tourism and economic development. He is the chair of the tourism team for our Greening Michigan Institute (GMI), and he is also on the government and public policy work team. Andy has built connections over the past two years by consistent networking and needs assessment in the communities where he serves.

“I have a personal passion for social change and sustainability,” Andy said. He also gives credit to his GMI colleagues and their programming for building trust in communities around the state through their track record of facilitating the rebirth of rural communities. “I have learned that strategic connections and anticipated outcomes take significant time,” he reflected. “Although we want to see change today, being patient and confident success will come is all part of the process.”

In St. Clair County, in MSU Extension District 10, Andy built a relationship with the St. Clair County Economic Development Alliance (EDA) and The Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce. The EDA and the Chamber of Commerce became partners in hosting the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference in 2016. Their collaboration on the conference brought together planning agencies, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, private investors, nonprofits, educational professionals, and a number of partners and interested citizens in seeing Port Huron’s rebirth and vision for fostering a culture to support entrepreneurs. The conference drew 138 people, who traveled from two countries, five states, 27 counties and 58 communities.

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Andy, like many of you, works to create connections across the state as well. He has developed key partnerships with Region 6 of Gov. Snyder’s Prosperity Initiative (RPI 6), which comprises seven counties across MSU Extension Districts 9 and 10. One key partner in RPI 6 is Genesee County Planning, which has been instrumental in strengthening our relationship by employing GMI’s tourism team to deliver four First Impressions: Assessing Your Community for Tourism (FIT) programs during 2017.

FIT, officially offered in 2017 for the first time, assesses communities through the eyes of first-time visitors. Four teams of four educators from GMI will conduct unannounced assessments as tourists to four communities across RPI 6 during the spring and summer of 2017 and work directly with their community leadership teams to strengthen their rural tourism industry potential.

This program was adapted to Michigan by modeling from program partnerships with five Northeast Central for Rural Development land-grant universities. It will be the first of its kind to be offered under Extension in partnership with a prosperity initiative.

The four successful communities will also receive state funding from RPI 6 to implement the suggested results from assessments. In 2017, the program is already serving as a cross-workgroup program within GMI. The tourism team envisions this being a cross-institute/Extension-wide program where experts across all four institutes can be tapped to move rural community tourism development forward.

“Overall, these partnerships have positioned GMI and other institutes as reputable partners in areas related to business and economic development, sustainable tourism and placemaking,” Andy said.

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Filed under Economic development, Entrepreneurial, Greening Michigan, Leadership

Making a difference in MSU Extension District 6: Recap of the state council visit

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel north to District 6 along with our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and AgBioResearch State Council. Shari Spoelman, district coordinator, and the crew in MSU Extension District 6 worked hard to give us a great overview of the programming, research and outreach going on in the district, and arranged for us to spend time with the people they serve.

For those of you who are new to Extension or unfamiliar with the council, we have members from all over the state who serve as a liaison between us and our county councils, field station advisory groups, and state agencies and organizations. The members come from various backgrounds: commodity group leaders, county commissioners, 4-H volunteers and farmers. We even have a meteorologist. The more they know about the work we do and the difference we make around the state, the better they can share the Extension story with our local and state decision-makers.

We began our trip with a chance to see the Kettunen Center, a conference facility owned by the Michigan 4-H Foundation. We heard about how 4-H and Extension use the center to connect with youth and volunteers. Chris Gentry, Kettunen Center director, provided us with a tour. We heard from Sara Keinath, youth development educator, and Jake Stieg, 4-H program coordinator, on the work they do with 4-H such as Mock Interview Day and 4-H Winterfest.

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Next, we traveled to B & B Farms, owned by Dan and Bonnie Blackledge, and heard about how MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center has helped them grow and market their canola seed and oil products. Jerry Lindquist, grazing and field crops educator, met us there to talk more about the relationships that MSU Extension has with specialty crop growers.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products. Everyone stands by their house and barn.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products.

Afterward, we visited Hidden Hills Dairy with Kathy Lee, senior dairy educator, and saw modern technology and the results of MSU Extension input at work on the farm.

State council members tour below the milking parlor where the machines send the milk.

State council members tour the milk machines below the milking parlor at Hidden Hills Dairy.

We ended the day in downtown Cadillac with Marcus Peccia, the city manager, and Carla Filkins, the mayor, to hear about their partnership with the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction; MSU Extension and the Michigan Municipal League to create a successful placemaking plan. Marcus gave us a tour to see some of the new efforts to make downtown Cadillac a place for the community to gather as part of the Heritage Plaza PlacePlan. We saw the new amphitheater, the outdoor fireplace, the park and the future location of the Cadillac farmers market.

State Council members and administrators pose for a group photograph in downtown Cadillac.

State Council members and administrators in downtown Cadillac.

On Wednesday, Jill O’Donnell, a senior agriculture and agribusiness educator who has worked with the Michigan Christmas tree industry for over 32 years, joined us as we visited the Dutchman Tree Farm in Manton. We met with Steve VanderWeide, the owner, as he shared about farm operations and his connection with MSU Extension. We learned about the soil, tree growth process and market changes that characterize this area of the state.

Next we met up with Erin Lizotte, integrated pest management educator, at Arlene Hops to learn about hops as a re-emerging specialty crop in Michigan and MSU Extension’s efforts to provide research and support. Brian Tennis from the Michigan Hop Alliance answered questions about growing hops as well as the importance of having Extension as a valuable resource in moving forward.

State Council members stand in a hops field and listen to Erin Lizotte talk about Michigan hops.

State Council members get a chance to hear from Erin Lizotte about hop growing in Michigan.

We ended our tour at the Lake City Research Center with Jason Rowntree, Kable Thurlow and Jerry for a tour of the center and a chance to learn more about their research on forage-based livestock, potato production and bioenergy crop production. Jason is an MSU faculty member and Kable is a beef educator who conduct research and outreach at the center.

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Many council members expressed how important it was to learn more about the work we’re doing in this area of the state. It was an extremely successful trip, and I’d like to send a huge “Thank you!” out to everyone who made our visit possible.

You know, the most meaningful part for me is when we meet community members and hear how MSU Extension made a difference in their lives. Nothing beats that.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Parks, Partnerships

How one person leads to another: Strategic connections in District 1

Erin Carter is a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator with the Extension Health Research (EHR) and Disease Prevention and Management (DPM) teams. She’s been with us since 2015 and serves our MSU Extension District 1. As part of the DPM aspect of her position, she offers programming in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Diabetes Prevention Program, Dining with Diabetes, Matter of Balance, Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) and Diabetes PATH. She works with an Ishpeming 5th grade class to offer the SPartners physical activity and nutrition program.

Headshot of Erin Carter, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator in District 1.

Erin Carter, MSU Extension health and nutrition educator in District 1.

The goal of the recently formed EHR team is to serve as a model to promote partnerships nationwide between Extension and university academic faculty to advance health in all our communities. EHR offers “Are You Research Ready?” to train Extension educators to use their health programs, expertise and community connections to work closely with the MSU College of Human Medicine researchers. The team also offers “Speed Meetings” to inform statewide faculty about Extension programming so they may use our programming, our connections or both in their research.

When making strategic connections, Erin told us that she’s not quiet for long.

“When I feel strongly about something I only sit back when forced to do so. With this being said, I talk about Extension a lot, which opens doors to things I didn’t know existed or something I could be involved in,” Erin said. “It’s interesting how one person leads to another and with each relationship, positive things began to happen.”

Erin made an important connection when a person who works in health with the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians approached her. He asked her to help him form a coalition at the K. I. Sawyer community.

Once a pristine U.S. Air Force base, K. I. Sawyer, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, turned rural Gwinn into a bustling small city starting in 1955. This all changed after the Base Realignment Commission of the federal government decided to close K. I. Sawyer in 1993. Upheaval of the Air Force base left behind miles of land. Air force properties sold to private individuals, companies and the Sault Tribe mostly for $1 per property. Some of the housing is vacant, but other homes are inhabited by families and individuals, many of whom cannot afford to live elsewhere.

Eighty-seven percent of students in the K. I. Sawyer School are eligible to receive free and reduced lunch. The community within K. I. Sawyer, Lake Superior Village, reports numbers of 100 percent free and reduced-lunch status. In this small section of K. I. Sawyer, the former community center has opened its doors to serve these families with volunteers within the neighboring counties. Donations have been the only means of providing services for an after-school and summer program, which offers healthy snacks.

The residents of Lake Superior Village do not have access to health care. The closest hospital is a 30-minute drive for individuals having the luxury of owning a car.

If employed, individuals usually work in service jobs earning minimum wage or just above minimum wage. Since these jobs are primarily in Marquette, workers must take public transit or drive personal cars requiring more cost and hardship.

“It only took me one visit to know this partnership was important and could do some great things in a community of need,” Erin said. “The social determinants of health talks about the importance of healthy communities and how unsafe or unhealthy communities affect everyone. If there are no programs for this community, what will happen to the outlying communities? It takes committed people willing to take the time to see the needs and begin to help the people of a community left behind.”

The coalition came together with representatives from the Sault Tribe, the YMCA of Marquette and MSU Extension. They teamed together with other local partners to offer programming in healthy food preparation, physical activity, diabetes prevention and gardening.

Erin sent us some amazing updates of the coalition’s progress:

  • A kickoff dinner brought the K. I. Sawyer Coalition idea to community leaders, police departments, city planners, early education specialists, garden experts, K. I. Sawyer community building employees, local papers and media, Marquette city professionals and community residents.
  • A new community center kitchen that will offer cooking demos and serve more people healthy food is in the blueprints stage.
  • The basketball courts are being repaved, and the MSU Extension Marquette County 4-H group is working to improve the baseball fields.
  • An abandoned hoop house at the school will be moved to make room for a garden.
  • Buses from the school will transport community residents to the events at the community center.
  • Volunteers from all over Marquette County will start a butterfly garden this summer.
  • Partnering with the Sault Tribe has increased MSU Extension programming participant numbers in the area three-fold.
  • Northern Michigan University students collaborate with us in the schools to bring healthy changes to the school’s students by encouraging physical activity.

Paul Putnam, MSU Extension District 1 coordinator, shared the results of Erin’s work.

“Erin has helped to expand our relationships and partnerships with her joint position, and has community connections in both the Houghton/Hancock and the Marquette areas,” he said. “She along with several other strong community partners are making significant impacts in a relatively short period of time.”

Erin said, “Being one of the core people to start the K. I. Sawyer coalition has made me realize how getting a few caring people together can really move a community forward. I’m fortunate I get an opportunity to see the impact a few projects can make to brighten a community and offer another type of value to people’s lives. Sometimes it feels like reaching out to make a connection takes too much time out of our schedules and remembering the value is difficult, but when this time is taken, it can really make a difference.”

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Filed under 4-H, Accomplishments, Children and Youth, Economic development, Greening Michigan, Health and Nutrition, Housing, Impacts, Native Americans, Nutrition, Partnerships, strategic connections, Uncategorized

MSU Extension helps Michigan hop into craft beer

I was privileged to be one of the approximately 340 people to attend the second annual Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference March 16‒17 in Traverse City. The conference was sponsored by Michigan State University and the Michigan Brewers Guild (MBG). Prominent speakers from around the country and the university provided sessions on horticultural practices, pest and disease control, harvest and post-harvest practices, nutrient management and much more. The conference also included expert panels featuring producers, industry representatives and brewers. This year, attendees also had the opportunity to go on a tour of MI LOCAL, Michigan’s newest and largest hop operation with 200 acres planted in 2015 that will be ready for harvest this coming fall.

MSU Extension has collaborated with the MBG on nearly every hop and barley educational program that we have developed over the last eight years. Our close working relationship with the MBG has really been instrumental in connecting hop and barley producers with brewers. The director of the MBG, Scott Graham, received the Friend of Extension Award at the 2015 Fall Extension Conference for his efforts; we are light-years ahead of where we would have been without this excellent working relationship.

MSU Extension educator Rob Sirrine provides statewide leadership for hop research, education and outreach in collaboration with other staff members. MSU Extension hosts multiple educational programs throughout the year and the Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference is the main highlight. Rob also represents Extension on the newly formed Hop Growers of America Best Practices Advisory Committee. MSU Extension educator Erin Lizotte provides her integrated pest management expertise. She coordinates the Great Lakes Hop Working Group that she formed with Rob two years ago. The group is composed of educators, researchers and other industry professionals that share information to benefit growers in their region. Dr. Mary Hausbeck, University Distinguished Professor, Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, and her graduate student Doug Higgins have been working to develop downy mildew control strategies over the last two years, and Dr. Bernie Zandstra, MSU professor in the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, will be researching weed control options in the upcoming year.

MSU Extension educator Ashley McFarland has provided statewide leadership for malting barley research, education and outreach for the past three years. Projects have included collaboration with many field crop Extension personnel throughout the state in an attempt to support this reemerging crop in response to the burgeoning craft beverage industry. In addition to variety and management trials, the program also connects farmers with entrepreneurs in the newly developed craft malting market. Ashley is supported by Christian Kapp, MSU crop research technician at the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center. Ashley also serves on the National Barley Improvement Committee.

In Michigan, the craft beer industry is relatively young, but it is experiencing tremendous growth and making its mark nationally. According to the Michigan Brewers Guild, Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in number of breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs. We are competitive on a national scale, but it’s also important to recognize the impact to Michigan residents. Data released by the Brewers Association show that in 2014, craft brewing in Michigan was responsible for 14,773 full-time jobs and $571.6 million in wages, and it contributed $1.85 billion in economic impact to our state. The Brewers Association reports that national growth of small and independent brewers continues to rise. As the craft industry grows, there will be an increased need for research-based resources and opportunities where MSU Extension can partner with the industry to facilitate its growth.

 

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Filed under Agriculture and Agribusiness, Conferences, Economic development, Entrepreneurial, Events

Thoughts on my second month as director

The focus on Flint in recent weeks and the need to address important nutrition, child development, public health and community infrastructure issues has given us the opportunity to remind folks that MSU Extension has been in Flint for 100 years. We will be there for the next 100 years, and can be an important part of developing and implementing solutions that change lives. Your colleagues are making a difference. Deanna East is helping to coordinate the Michigan State University response in Flint. Eric Scorsone and the recently announced MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy are engaging local officials and testifying before the State Legislature. Erin Powell, Cathy Newkirk and many others are addressing nutrition issues on the ground. Terry McLean and the Edible Flint crew are working closely with the Food Bank Council of Michigan, the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan and state officials to ensure that food is distributed in areas of greatest need. This is important work that underscores the breadth of our collective experience, the ability to respond quickly and the importance of partnerships that you have built over decades.

The critical role that MSU Extension is playing in Flint is replicated in every community throughout Michigan. But, seven weeks into my new job as part of your team, it is already clear that not enough people know who we are. Moreover, those who do know us well are not always familiar with the breadth and depth of MSU Extension programming. I met recently with an agricultural commodity CEO, for example, who indicated that labor force issues were among his biggest industry concerns. As we talked, it became clear that, although his interactions over many years had been primarily with our Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute (for obvious reasons), many programs in the Greening Michigan, Children and Youth, and Health and Nutrition Institutes would be potentially valuable resources to him in recruiting and retaining valued employees.

We often use a slide when describing “Who is MSU Extension?” that includes the following bullets:

  • Faculty and Academic Staff on Campus
  • Extension Educators and Senior Extension Educators
  • 4-H Program Coordinators
  • Program Instructors, Program Associates, Program Assistants
  • Support Staff Members, on and off campus; MSU or county employees
  • Funded by County, State and Federal Resources

While these statements are accurate and descriptive, what if, instead, we said things like:

  • Unparalleled statewide health education delivery system.
  • Business start-up, tech transfer and product development expertise.
  • Serve schools statewide; capable of gathering more than 2,000 kids and their families for a single event.
  • Rapid response for agriculture, human health and other emergencies, such as the current Flint water crisis.
  • Future funding growth to come from building partnerships!

You can help me in at least two important ways.

  1. Don’t hesitate to tell people about the great work you do, and add in a bit about what your colleagues do in many areas across the entire state. If you aren’t aware of all MSU Extension programs, the website is a good place to start.
  2. Help us to find even more creative ways to describe what we do and outlets for sharing that information with the world. What descriptive statements would you add to this list to describe “Who is MSU Extension?”

Consider browsing through our public value statements occasionally to refresh your memory about how all of your colleagues’ work makes a difference in Michigan. We work for an amazing organization. By working together we can ensure that more people understand how we can help positively change their lives, communities and businesses.

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Filed under Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Financial education, Flint Water, Food, health, Health and Nutrition, Nutrition, Resources, Youth development

Moving our cities fiscally forward: Launch of the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy

Through my lifetime, I have seen the unfortunate decline of some of our great Michigan cities, and I feel very passionately that Michigan State University (MSU) Extension is a vehicle that can help them get back on track. MSU Extension has worked with local officials for decades through programs such as training new county commissioners and developing the first formal budgeting system for county governments.

This month, MSU launches a new resource for our state to improve the fiscal health of municipalities. The MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy will advise communities and distribute important research and fiscal-health indicators for all Michigan municipalities. The center will offer fiscal sustainability workshops, customized consultancy services, applied research on municipal governance and fiscal issues, and an annual fiscal health report on each of Michigan’s cities, counties and townships.

Dr. Eric Scorsone, an MSU economist who assisted Detroit and other struggling cities, will direct the center and will advise communities and distribute important research and fiscal-health indicators for all Michigan municipalities. In the past few years, Eric and colleagues have advised governments in Detroit, Flint, Lansing and elsewhere on short- and long-term fiscal issues. The team also worked with state officials and local municipalities to help the communities navigate and move beyond emergency management.

The center had two kickoff events – Jan. 12 at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing and Jan. 14 at the Miller Canfield law firm in Detroit. While I was attending Issue Identification listening sessions across the Upper Peninsula, Patrick Cudney, our associate director, represented MSU Extension in my absence. He told me that the launch events for the MSU Extension Center for Local Government Finance and Policy were incredible.

Patrick said, “The level of interest and involvement from government partners at both events was fairly astounding. We had local and state elected officials, attorneys, law firms, planning agencies and organizations attending with a deep level of respect for the work that MSU Extension has been doing for many years in that arena. It felt really gratifying and was one of those proud moments in my career to see Extension and the profile of Extension’s work raised in such a way.

“To have Eric Scorsone provide leadership for that initiative is perfect. Eric is such a well-respected researcher and yet he understands the application of the research to each individual situation that Michigan communities face. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each municipality has its own challenges. By having Eric in that role, it ensures that we will have our on-campus researchers and faculty, and off-campus academic staff embedded in Michigan’s communities. They can really assess what those needs are and identify the most appropriate resources to help work with those communities to really affect change.”

Here’s a link to an MSU press release about the Center for Local Government Finance and Policy if you’d like to learn more!

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Filed under Economic development, Financial education