Create a program to connect with community leaders

Pro-active approach to community development.

An essential building block for successful community development is establishing a relationship with community leaders. A tool that local economic development teams can utilize to establish this relationship and keep the line of communication open is an annual visitation program. Creating a pro-active program that allows a dedicated time to visit with community leaders and learn of their recent successes, challenges and opportunities is critical to helping them achieve desired growth.   

Michigan State University Extension partner, Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) has been successfully implementing a community visit program for years.  A typical visit lasts about an hour and is most beneficial when incorporated into a driving tour of the community. The format is more of a “conversation” with no set agenda. The visit arms the economic development team with knowledge of future plans and directs the types of resources and funding opportunities recommended throughout the year.

This relationship building tool establishes a bond between the economic development group and the community. It makes future conversations much more positive and productive. It can also be a great way to identify issues and come up with solutions before they become a challenge.

Michigan State University Extension has had a unique relationship with the regional economic development organization Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) for more than 20 years. Recognizing the strength of combining resources, this partnership focuses on economic development, entrepreneurship growth and community infrastructure throughout a four-county region in the northwest Lower Peninsula, specifically Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties. As a result, the NLEA utilizes resources offered through MSU Extension as it provides leadership to state-wide programs sponsored by MSU Extension.” 

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