Holland – People On Sidewalk – Burden (38)

Five Michigan Cities that Combine “Business Friendly” and “Quality of Place”

Many communities around Michigan and the U.S. are doing well despite the economy and the broken partnerships with state government.  Innovative thinking, something not often cited in government, is leading the way in smaller places like Houghton/Hancock, Marquette, Holland and Greenville and others.

Houghton/Hancock. Two of only three Upper Peninsula communities to gain population in the last decade, H/H are strategically leveraging their assets of education (namely, Michigan Tech University @michigantech), quality of life (have you been there?) and two distinct and historical downtowns. Houghton especially has experienced a steady growth of people and opportunities and seems poised to really take off once the national economy rounds into shape.  The minute you drive into town you feel an energy emanating from the community and the high tech, entrepreneurial culture that is taking shape. Their attention to high tech business incubation is a key.

The two communities also have big plans for reimagining their shared waterfront. Where else can you stand in one spot and see an historic downtown, a ski hill, a waterfront, a university setting, walking trails and the historic remnants of a bygone mining culture?  Very cool!

Marquette. If you have been paying attention Marquette’s reemergence has been happening for awhile. As the only other population gainer in the UP during the 2000s, Marquette has steadily been implementing a formula similar to the one described in the League’s (@mmleague) 21c3 program– namely building their brand around culture, higher education, walkability (and biking), green initiatives, and quality of life.  Their bike trails in particular are world renowned.

Holland, MichiganHolland. Holland (@cityofholland) has done a lot of good things over the years. For example, I would list their downtown among the top 10 in the entire state. However, the kudos that I want to give then here have to do with heat- namely heated sidewalks.    I recently came across this blog entry from Sally Augustin of  She says it best.

“[Holland] a small town in Michigan, best known for its annual tulip festival, diverted waste heat from its power plant into pipes that run under streets and sidewalks in the central business district.  For generations Hollanders have appreciated their forefathers’ prescient decisions, especially in hard, freezing winters with their Lake Effect snow storms.  Thanks to the underground pipes, no matter how cold it gets, the sidewalks stay clear and dry, all because someone was thoughtful enough to use an industrial by-product that other towns blithely discarded. This early decision, which lead to the installation of 120 miles of tubes, have kept downtown Holland alive, even as towns of similar size have been decimated, with shops decamping to nearby malls.”

As this example illustrates, true “business friendly” practices and real “quality of life” efforts go hand-in-hand.

GreenERville. Nearly decimated by the loss of its major employer, the community set out on a path to reinvent itself as a cutting edge place for the development of green energy.   Great results.  Still climbing.  Check it out here.