Marquette Gathering a Hit With Civic Leaders

The premiere learning event for local and civic leaders in Michigan took place in Marquette this past weekend. The city is a perfect laboratory for such a meeting with the cutting edge efforts going on around downtown revitalization, brownfield development, placemaking and cultural enrichment.

Those in attendance were able to bike the Noquemanon Trails Network, experience the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and engage with local merchants and civic leaders who are making great strides in the Upper Peninsula’s largest city.

Keynote speakers included Jamie Bennett of Art Place America and Catherine Bracy of Code for America. Both of them were right on message- great community building starts at home and leverages all resources possible.

Next year we’ll be in downtown Traverse City, a beautiful place that is home to the Traverse City Film Festival and the National Cherry Festival. Come out and join us!

Check the hashtag #mmlconv for more.

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The Prosperity Agenda: Placemaking Stories Detailed in New League Book

prosperity-agenda-thumbYou ever say to yourself, “Man, I’ve got so many good stories I should write a book?” Well, that’s exactly what the Michigan Municipal League said when hearing of all the amazing placemaking work happening in our communities. So we did it – we wrote a book. Our October Prosperity Agenda radio show on News/Talk 760 WJR focuses on our new book, The Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities. Learn more about the book at this blog and you can buy it here. My co-host for the show is Chastity Pratt Dawsey, a Detroit native, and writer for Bridge Magazine. Our guests are a co-author of our book, Elizabeth Phillips Foley; Chuck Eckenstahler, a local planning consultant and placemaking expert, who was heavily involved with a project in Baroda that’s featured in the book; and Jermaine Ruffin, Placemaking Policy Specialist at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. The Michigan Prosperity Agenda is a monthly radio show that challenges listeners to help make Michigan a better place to live, work and play by creating vibrant and prosperous local communities. It has aired on News/Talk 760 WJR since 2010. The show airs 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 24, on News/Talk 760 WJR, but you can listen anytime at the League’s website or by subscribing to the FREE iTunes podcast. Learn more about the placemaking concept here as well as on this blog.

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New Book Aims at Focal Point of Great Communities and Sound Economics

One of the rewarding things about working in local communities is that you get to meet some remarkable people along the way. When you combine innovative thinking with people who are passionate about the places where they live the results can be extraordinary.

Our latest try at the League to illustrate the power of people and place is the book The Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities. The book is a mix of economic strategy, cultural enrichment and human triumph. The stories in the book and the lessons that they provide are inspiring. I am grateful to be part of the team that sees the power in these stories and works to drive the critical concepts of placemaking forward so that everyone can live, work, play and learn in better communities.

As many of you know this book is the second time the League has dipped its toe in the publishing waters. We published our first book in 2011 and lucky for us- you liked it! That book, EoP: The Value of Building Communities Around People, includes essays from yours truly and several of our partners who spearhead important advancements in city building. Authors include Carol Coletta, now with the Knight Foundation, Chris Leinberger from LOCUS and Lou Glazer from Michigan Future Inc. They introduce readers to many new ideas about building competitive cities and affirms some old truths about the importance of communities. The ideas in the first book are as relevant today as they were in 2011. The book continues to provide insight into the place-based policies that we advocate at the League.

Our latest publication is, dare I say, even more ambitious than the first. If the first book answered the question of “why”, the new one sheds light on “how”. We detail over a dozen community placemaking programs in detail.

  • If you’re interested in a post-industrial reclamation site then you’ll want to review the piece on Marquette, a mining town on the shores of Lake Superior. The chapter shows how Marquette leaders continue to overhaul huge swaths of abandoned property and create great spaces for everyone in town.
  • If you want to learn about how the local food movement can spur economic activity in rural communities then read the chapter “From Great Lakes to Great Grapes”. The chapter details the tremendous growth in agritourism in southwest Michigan, including 18 new businesses and over 100 new jobs for the area.
  • If you want know how cultural activity can stimulate growth then check out “Return of the Last Picture Show” to see how the Traverse City Film Festival is shaping change. In 2013 the TCFF sold 119,000 admissions at over 100 screenings and amassed over 1,500 local volunteers. TCFF leaders have pumped millions of dollars in proceeds back into the local economy to support cultural programs in schools, historic theaters and a burgeoning comedy festival.
  • For an inspiring story of how a successful local business with a commitment to the community acts as an incubator for entrepreneurs read the chapter on Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor.

I could go on but, after all, I want you to buy the book! (Mom and Dad always told me to be honest with people)

If you are so inclined, please share this blog via email or through your social networks. We’re hoping to spread the information as far and wide as possible. I thank you in advance.

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Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities


This book goes beyond placemaking as a concept, to offer real-world examples of economic drivers and agents of social and cultural change in Michigan’s own backyard. They represent some of the many place-based catalysts that can spark the kind of transformational changes that reinvent and revitalize a community, with tangible payoffs in terms of livability, social and cultural enrichment, and economic development. But most of all, they show us that placemaking is an art, and displays itself in as many shapes, sizes and colors as a community can imagine.

The stories run the gamut from marketing campaigns and municipal projects, to special events and recreational opportunities. Some were large-scale efforts involving significant funds and long-range planning. Others were small ideas that led to big impacts. Some were organized strategies in a larger vision. In other cases, someone simply wanted to launch a business or improve a community asset that became part of a larger movement – maybe without even realizing that what they were doing was part of this thing we call “placemaking.”

These in-depth case studies are presented as storytelling narratives meant to engage and inspire readers with the power of placemaking. But they are also intended to provide a path to replicate their successes. Each chapter includes valuable resources, data and teaching tools related to the specific topic as well as case-specific examples of Public Policies and Programs, Legislation, Action Initiatives, Community Partnerships, and Economic Drivers that can facilitate similar efforts.

Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities is available for purchase here.

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