As the League has traveled around the state of Michigan, we’ve seen numerous shining examples of creative placemaking in communities large and small. The stories behind these placemaking efforts were so inspirational that we wanted to share them with the world.The result is our new book, “The 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 not a science, and displays itself in as many shapes, sizes and colors as a community can imagine.

Each page takes the reader on a virtual journey across the state to discover how these large and small efforts have transformed communities. Get a taste of how Baroda and Paw Paw have cultivated the local wine industry into a growing tourist attraction. Feast your eyes on Traverse City’s Film Festival and Ludington’s Sculpture Garden that bring in art aficionados from near and far. Get ready to pedal through scenic pathways, like Oakland County’s Paint Creek Trail and Marquette’s Noquemanon Trails Network—along with thousands of others who frequent the trails as well as the surrounding communities. Kick your civic engagement practices over the goal line as you read Detroit’s playbook on using sports and food to bring the community together. Many more stories like these fill the pages of the book.

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.  Each chapter will also include case-specific examples of Public Policies and Programs, Legislation, Action Initiatives, Community Partnerships, and Economic Drivers that can facilitate similar efforts.

More details on the book, including ordering information, are available here.

 

MSAE-Diamond-Awards-group-shotThree new awards are now proudly on display at the League’s Ann Arbor office following the recent 2014 Diamond Awards Dinner for the Michigan Society of Association Executives.The awards program recognizes excellence, innovation, and achievements in the association industry and honors outstanding individuals who have made significant contributions to the association profession.

This year, the spirited awards competition had 38 entries in ten categories within two budget divisions. The League was honored for its efforts in the following areas:

  • The Review magazine won a Diamond Award, the highest level, in the magazine publishing category for associations with budgets of $1 million and greater.
  • Crowdfundingmi.com – and all of the League’s crowdfunding partnerships and efforts – won a Diamond Award in the innovative collaboration category.
  • The Great Revenue Sharing Heist informational campaign won a Gold Award in the government relations project category.

“The Diamond Award represents the best of the best in Michigan’s association industry,” said Cheryl Ronk, CAE, CMP, president and CEO of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. “Michigan Municipal League’s innovative collaboration through crowdfunding and its magazine, The Review, are now exemplary models for other associations to borrow brilliance. Congratulations again to the Michigan Municipal League!”

The League is no stranger to winning awards in the MSAE competition. Last year, the The Review won a Diamond Award and the placemaking.mml.org website won Gold. In 2012, the League won two Diamond Awards and the Strategic Association Leader for CEO Dan Gilmartin. And in 2009, the Legislative Link e-Newsletter earned a Diamond Award and our website took home Gold.

We are proud to see the work of our staff be recognized in such a highly-prestigious competition. Good work, team!

As soon as we stepped out of the airport and onto the nearby platform for MAX Rail, my colleague Sarah Craft and I knew we weren’t in Detroit anymore. For only $2.50, this clean, quick, quiet light rail system whisked us to downtown Portland, where we got off just a block from our hotel – and the site of the National League of Cities State League Staff Workshop.

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Live music at Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland

Along the ride, several locals noticed our suitcases and engaged us in friendly conversation, asking us where we were from, where we were going, and pointing out local landmarks. We passed a farmer’s market, gatherings of food trucks, public plazas designed for concerts and other fun community activities, and walkable streets filled with people streaming in and out of stores, restaurants and offices. In short, we saw placemaking in action.

All of this set the stage for the State League Staff Workshop, the reason for our visit to Portland. We were part of a large contingent of league staffers from around the country who had come to learn and share their knowledge. As a first-timer, I discovered that state leagues come in all sizes – some as small as 2 or 3 staff members – but we all have the same dedication to the cities and towns we represent.

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Right off the bat, I was impressed with the generosity of my fellow workshop participants. At the Communications Networking Roundtable, everyone chimed in with questions and suggestions on everything from convention and video apps to social media strategies. When we broke into sessions, league staffers shared successes and lessons learned on a number of topics. One of my favorite sessions was on PR. The League of Arizona Cities and Towns showcased their Arizona Cities @ Work PR campaign, designed to highlight the great work being done in their cities. Samantha Womer and Rene Guillen brought plenty of campaign “bling” – mugs, tote bags, lanyards and more – which they gladly offered to everyone in the room.

My other favorite session was Don’t Reinvent Content … Reuse, Recycle, Reformat for Maximum Impact. Mary Brantner of the Municipal Association of South Carolina and Jennifer Stamps of the Texas Municipal League made the point that people generally need to see or hear something seven times to really get the message. They then shared ideas on how to publish content in a variety of formats on different platforms to meaningfully reach your members.

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Voodoo Doughnut

When I wasn’t engaged in a session, I took the opportunity to explore a little of downtown Portland. Just a block away was Pioneer Courthouse Square, affectionately known as Portland’s Living Room. This urban park hosts events almost every day of the year. I was lucky enough to enjoy live lunchtime music one day and sand sculptures the next day. Since there is no sales tax in Oregon, I made a quick dash into Macy’s and snapped up some summer bargains. I relished the local cuisine at Bottle & Kitchen and Clarklewis Restaurant. And, oh yeah, I definitely made a side trip to Portland’s infamous Voodoo Doughnut. At the 3rd Avenue location, placemaking had turned the alley alongside the shop into an inviting space with picnic tables and attractive landscaping. I soaked up the morning sun at one of those tables as I munched on a yummy chocolate-glazed old fashioned doughnut.

bike-sharingCycling used to be part of my personal transportation plan. On warm, sunny days, I loved riding my bike leisurely around my neighborhood near downtown Plymouth. Sometimes I had a destination in mind – usually the Dairy King on Main Street – and other days I just enjoyed feeling the breeze in my hair and admiring my neighbors’ beautiful flower gardens. Then along came my husband, who acted like he was training for a 100k ride through the mountains every time he hopped on his bike. I couldn’t keep up, so I gave up.

But the recent surge in bike-sharing programs in places like Chicago, New York, Washington, D.C. – and now Michigan – has piqued my interest. Like the legions of urban cycling enthusiasts, I appreciate the benefits to my health and the environment. But I’m also a fan of easily popping into stores where parking spaces are at a premium.

When I was in Chicago last summer, their new Divvy bike-share system was all the rage. Residents and tourists of all ages were renting one of the 3,000 distinctive-looking blue bikes and riding to offices, restaurants and beaches, happily avoiding traffic congestion and $25/day parking fees. The popular program, funded by federal grants and city funds, hopes to expand into suburban Oak Park and Evanston.

Bike-sharing is now catching on in Michigan. Communities are recognizing the benefits of less traffic congestion, more economic activity, cleaner air and better health that can be realized by adding a bike-sharing program to their transportation plans.

biking-in-Ann-ArborSoon, for just a few dollars, I’ll be able to jump on a bike housed at a kiosk near my Ann Arbor office, pedal to a cool restaurant for lunch, and work off the calories on my way back to work. No muss, no fuss, and no expensive gasoline sending toxic fumes into the atmosphere. Thanks to a $1.4 million budget and a partnership between the City of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan and the Clean Energy Coalition, the ArborBike program is expected to launch this summer with 14 kiosks around downtown, the central U-M campus and North Campus.

Other Michigan cities have found creative ways to launch bike-sharing programs in their communities. Detroit hasn’t yet put a formal program into motion, but last summer, Rock Ventures, a major company with several Detroit locations, started a bike-sharing program for its employees. With nine racks and 60 bikes, they logged 6.500 rentals from July through November.

capital-community-bike-share2With limited funding, Lansing became home to Michigan’s first municipally-sponsored bike-sharing system. Capital Community Bike Share, which launched in October, saved money by using A2B Bike Share’s technology, buying cheaper bikes and focusing on four locations near Michigan Avenue. Eric Shertzing, the project’s director, sees the program as a template that could benefit other communities. He also envisions replacing his fleet with Michigan-made bikes.

In Traverse City, discussions are underway for a formal bike-sharing program. But in the meantime, Carter’s Compost operates a simple system with three bikes they loan out free for two days each. Their mission: “We are dedicated to building community by using the power of the bicycle to make composting super easy for our TC neighbors.”