Category Archives: Economic development

New grant aims to help farm women increase effectiveness

Thanks to a grant from the North Central Risk Management Education Center, MSU Extension will soon be able to help farm families become savvier financial managers. The Center awarded MSUE nearly $19,000 to support four Annie’s Project educational programs in Michigan.

Annie’s Project is as a comprehensive educational program and support network for farm women, providing new learning avenues and introducing technologies to understand and manage farm businesses. The curriculum focuses on farm and family financial management with opportunities to learn specifics about legal matters, marketing, business planning, estate planning, insurance, communications and other important topics. One significant component of Annie´s Project is the opportunity for women to network with neighboring farm women. 

The project team—Warren Schauer, project lead; Bob Battel, co-chair; Mary Dunckel; Mike Erdman; Jeannine Grobbel; Emily Sneller; Marilyn Thelen and Bonnie Wichtner-Zoia—will collaborate with the Farm Service Agency, Greenstone Farm Credit Services and the Michigan Milk Producers Association. They hope that 50 women in four locations throughout Michigan will participate to gain a better understanding of business planning and finances and the impact on their families and farm business.

 If you’re interested in learning more, consider attending the orientation and training on Annie’s Project by Ruth Hambleton, farm coach and project founder, July 14-15, 2009 in Clare County. Visit the MSU Extension Professional Development Web site for more information.

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Filed under Agriculture, Awards, Economic development, Farming

Young entrepreneurs form Montcalm cooperative

How often do you walk around a fair grounds or spring achievement and think, “wow! There are some really talented 4-Hers out there!” It happens to me all the time. That’s why I was interested in hearing about the new 4-H Market Shack in Montcalm County—a cooperative of young entrepreneurs who will pool their textiles, crafts, artwork, non-perishable foods, plants, flowers and services together and offer them for sale during the county fair.

This fabulous concept not only gives young artists an opportunity to sell their work, it also teaches financial skills, cooperation and management. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what the group has to offer. If it’s successful at the fair, the group may test the waters at local farm markets and festivals later in the season.

Kudos to Pat Dignum, 4-H educator, and the volunteers who are inspiring young people to be creative and profitable!

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Filed under 4-H, Economic development, Youth development

Northern Lakes Economic Alliance marks 25 years of success

I had the opportunity to speak to the Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) during their annual luncheon on May 11. NLEA is as a non-profit, public/private partnership serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet and Cheboygan counties. Their mission is to “enhance the economy of our region by acting as a resource to local government and companies to retain and create quality jobs.”

MSU Extension has been a partner in the NLEA since they it was formed in 1984, and we remain closely linked to the partnership today. In fact, NLEA contracts with MSUE to serve as employer for the Andy Hayes, NLEA president, and Wendy Wieland, an MSUE educator and NLEA staff member. In addition, Dean Solomon, Charlevoix CED, and Patrick Cudney, North Region director, sit on their board of directors.

As we look for linkages with economic development efforts across our state, we can learn a lot from the NLEA model. It’s clear that there’s a need for educational programming in economic development, as exemplified by MSU Product Center innovation counselors such as Wendy.

The NLEA helps communities and businesses attract and retain businesses and jobs. It provides counsel to small businesses in partnership with the MSU Product Center and the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center. Their 2009 economic development plan is a great formula for communities and regions across the state: helping local manufacturers diversify their product lines; recognizing, educating and capitalizing on the shift toward the knowledge economy; being prepared to react quickly to growth opportunities as the economy begins to rebound; assisting entrepreneurs at all levels; and leveraging resources to help communities become more attractive to companies.

Most important, NLEA works and succeeds BECAUSE it is an alliance—a partnership. And it is powerful: 350 people attended the annual luncheon. That’s an amazing team for four counties in northern lower Michigan. I know there are similar alliances elsewhere in the state, and we would be well served to link with them in the way we are linked in with NLEA.

Thanks to all of the MSUE staff—past and present—who help make NLEA a success.

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Filed under Economic development, Leadership

MNFI is keeping birds safe while the energy keeps flowing

The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) was recently awarded a $100,000 Department of Energy grant to help operators find appropriate sites for new wind turbines while respecting bat and avian populations. MNFI is partnering with several others, including Eastern Michigan University and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

Kudos to Barb Barton and Joelle Gehring for winning this national RFP.

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Filed under Agriculture, Economic development, Land use, natural resources

MSUE and LPI ensure opportunity doesn’t blow away

When the Michigan legislature passed the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act last fall, MSU Extension educators and our partners at the Land Policy Institute saw an immediate opportunity to help Michigan residents learn how to make the most of this influential legislation. The act requires that at least 10 percent of an electric provider’s energy must come from renewable sources by 2015. That lends itself to a great opportunity for farmers, residents, investors and others to build renewable-energy infrastructures that allow them to sell energy back to energy companies.

Beth Stuever photo.

Beth Stuever photo.

Within eight weeks of the act becoming law, the MSUE Land Use Team and LPI launched a workshop focusing on the wind industry and how it works. Over the course of five months, they taught 1,100 people in nine locations throughout Michigan about wind-energy systems and local ordinances. The attendees, many of whom were elected or appointed officials, received sample zoning guidelines and land-use decision making tools, and learned how to address on-site and personal energy-generating systems. To top it all off, many received Master Citizen Planner credits.

This fast-turnaround, high-value workshop is an excellent example of our how our nimble network of Extension educators and partners can quickly respond to Michigan’s needs.

It takes many hands to put something like this together.

  • Kurt Schindler, district land use educator, took the lead in creating development and siting guidelines.
  • Mike Schira, Houghton CED; Bill Carpenter, Iosco CED; and Adam Kantrovich, Ottawa CED, developed materials for a sample county-wide ordinance.
  • Wayne Beyea, LPI associate director of citizen empowerment; Glenn Pape, regional land use educator, Charles McKeown, LPI; Mary Ann Heidemann, regional land use educator; and Jasneet Sharma, land policy educator, taught the workshop.
  • Soji Adelaja, director of the LPI, provided the vision to ensure MSUE is on the forefront of these activities.

Next up, the group will retrofit the information for a national audience and make it available through the North Central Region Center for Rural Development.  Thanks to the team for their quick and effective response!

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Filed under Agriculture, Economic development, Farming, Land use, natural resources

Urban planners partner for practicum

Dr. Steve Lovejoy

Dr. Steve Lovejoy

by guest blogger Steve Lovejoy, MSU Extension associate director

Every spring we get treated to an outstanding example of how MSU Extension and our partnerships affect urban communities throughout Michigan. Zenia Kotval and Rex LaMore, through the Urban and Regional Planning curriculum, offer a class composed of undergraduate and graduate students that work with MSUE county staff members to identify urban planning issues. Then, groups of students tackle the issues and report back. On May 1, I had the opportunity to hear several of the student presentations.

I heard about some very innovative ideas for stabilizing the State Street neighborhood in Saginaw by implementing a very specific list of objectives—some requiring funding while others only suggested more activities by local residents.

I also heard suggestions for marketing the Eastpointe and Mount Clemens in Macomb County. The strategies were based on students’ asset mapping and included strategies for both property and community marketing. Different asset meant different marketing suggestions for each community.

Another group of students examined how to energize the Michigan Avenue Corridor (between the MSU campus and the Capitol) by focusing on a variety transportation methods. While the population of the area was insufficient for full-fledged Transit Orientated Development (TOD), the students provided several alternative strategies for making this corridor more appealing to diverse groups of residents and small businesses.

Unfortunately, I missed the presentations on developing metrics for measuring progress in two Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods and the feasibility study of an RV park in Lowell, and a project focused on developing a parking-demand model and strategies in Portland.

These student presentations really illustrate how we can use our resources to help revitalize urban communities. MSUE educators helping identify issues and assisting with the campus/community partnership truly illustrate what MSUE is all about: Bringing Knowledge to Life!

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Filed under Economic development, Guest bloggers, Land use, Urban Collaborators

Making a case for farmers’ markets

It’s almost here. In a few months neighborhoods throughout Michigan will be teeming with farmers market. You can almost smell the fresh produce in the air. Data shared in this article from the Minnesota’s Federal Gazette shows that the popularity of farmers’ markets is on the rise. And that includes the Sault Ste. Marie farmers’ market as Jim Lucas, Chippewa CED, explains in the article.

Thanks to Jim and all the other great Extension personnel from Michigan and beyond who work to bring fresh food to communities.

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Filed under Agriculture, Economic development, Farming, Food

Ag Day at the Capitol

It’s not every day that you can stroll through our state Capitol building and sample pickled asparagus spears, pick up a pine seedling for your yard, sip on Michigan grape juice, salivate over Michigan-smoked sausages and admire a blooming tulip. In fact, you can only do that once a year. And unless you were at the Capitol yesterday, you missed your chance.

Yesterday was Ag Day at the Capitol, an annual event that features Michigan agriculture and food industries to educate legislators and promote Michigan grown products to the public. Michigan Farm Bureau provides leadership for this program, and this year more than 30 commodity groups and organizations, including MSU Extension and the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station greeted legislators and their staff members as they discussed agriculture’s role in the state’s economy.

We were fortunate that the MSUE/MAES state council meeting corresponded with the event. Council members were able to talk with key legislators about the impacts of MAES research and MSUE education programs in their communities and the promise they provide for helping to strengthen Michigan’s economy. It’s always amazing to see the breadth and reach of Michigan agriculture at this event, and a reminder of how fortunate we are to work with producers, processors and consumers in this fundamentally important industry.

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Filed under Agriculture, Economic development, Farming, Food, Funding, natural resources

Got wine? You should have been at this conference!

Nearly 90 people tasted some knowledge during the 2009 Michigan Winery Conference, Feb. 17-19 in Benton Harbor. Don’t expect to see any of them on billboards with purple stains on their upper lips – that marketing trick has already been used by one of Michigan’s other agricultural products.

Winery development and operations experts from across the country joined forces with local MSU Extension educators to teach attendees about legal, regulatory and financial issues. They even touched on the equipment and marketing strategies that are essential in starting a winery.

The committee that put the event together—Tom Zabadal, Diane Dings, Diane Miner, Joanne Davidhizar, Millicent Huminsky, Karl Kincade, Allen Zencka, Mike de Schaaf, Mark Thomas and William Harrison III—gathered more than $30,000 in sponsorships from businesses and agencies interested in further developing the Michigan winery industry. And it sounds like they hit the right people! A followup survey painted a picture of an audience that is serious about their winery prospects. More than 50 percent intend to start a new winery, and 85 percent feel they are better prepared to address the challenges associated with starting a winery.

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Filed under Agriculture, Conferences, Economic development, Farming, Food, Resources, Uncategorized