EDA Center for Regional Economic Innovation Update

By Jennifer Bruen, REI Project Coordinator

In late 2019 the MSU EDA Regional Economic Innovation University Center called for proposals to leverage knowledge to create, identify, and develop new economic development policies and practices. Through December to February project proposalswere reviewed by our consultative panel and selections were made. We are excited to announce the Co-Learning Plans and Innovation Fellows for 2020!

Co-Learning Plan 2020 Project Awardees

Co-Learning is a process in which multiple parties collaborate to generate new knowledge. In a Co-Learning Plan, innovative economic development tools, models, strategies, policies, and practices are researched and the findings and recommendations serve as key resources for economic development practitioners and policymakers in Michigan. Co-Learning Plans can be written by practitioners, decision-makers, community leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars, or other stakeholders.

Janice Beecher, Ph.D., MSU Institute of Public Utilities

Paying for Infrastructure: Policies, Practices, and Models for Funding and Financing

Improved infrastructure has a myriad of economic and social benefits. Critical infrastructure is often identified with the public utility sectors. Funding and financing are sometimes confused as means of addressing infrastructure needs. How we pay for infrastructure (taxes or user fees) matters in terms of economic efficiency (costs) and distributional equity (cost allocation). In Michigan, constitutional law and legal precedents complicate the challenge. Disparities among communities are reflected in infrastructure disparities, and these issues are especially acute in distressed communities. This project will explore policies, practices, and alternative models to address infrastructure challenges.

Monirehalsadat Mahmoudi, Ph.D., MSU School of Packaging

Fighting Hunger and Reducing Food Waste in Michigan by Addressing Strategic and Operational Challenges in Measuring Food Accessibility

The aim of this project is to eliminate food waste by making excess food available for people in need. A food donor (e.g., a farm, a retailer, or a caterer) donates some food to a food bank. Then, the food bank quickly decides whether to send the food to distribution agencies or to composting facilities. For this decision making, the food bank should consider various factors such as environmental (e.g., harsh weather conditions), physical (e.g., personnel and mobility resources), social (e.g., recipients’ food restrictions due to various cultural and religious backgrounds), and economic (e.g., monetary budgets). We develop an analytical framework that can provide an applicable guideline for food banks to decide about the final destination of the donated food (with respect to the availability of the resources, as well as quality, volume, and type of donated food). This can result in a significant cost-saving and improve the availability of excess food for people in need.

Innovation Fellow 2020 Project Awardees

The REI Innovation Fellows Program seeks to implement tools, models, and policies identified in past Co-Learning Projects, putting them into practice in Michigan. REI aims to attract and support top champions to tackle the tough economic development issues. We have three Innovation Fellows for the 2020 year who are eager to put their economic development concepts into action.

Angela Barbash 

As part of an informal coalition in Michigan working toward a future where community capital is ubiquitous and universally normalized, Revalue (project lead, Angela Barbash) will map the ecosystem of people, organizations, and resources that make up the marketplace and present findings to a coalition of 40 members, making information publicly available through a variety of media (blog post, a recorded webinar, press engagement, and an easy to share infographic). The team will also draft a program concept for leaders who would like to develop a community investment market in their town or region. This project will pave the way for future funding opportunities by other coalition members or by MSU REI and Revalue as joint sponsors.


Sam Butler 

Sam Butler is the executive director of Doing Development Differently in Metro Detroit, otherwise known as D4. Founded in 2010, D4 is a diverse coalition of labor and community organizations, committed to equitable development and using the built environment to create “win-win” scenarios for the community, the economy, workers, and the environment. Prior to D4, Sam was director of planning and technical programs at Michigan Community Resources and served as interim executive director of Creekside CDC. The proposed action plan includes these primary projects designed to infuse more community benefits into Detroit development practice:

  • Advocating for Detroit to adopt an incentive zoning policy
  • Encouraging Detroit to adopt stronger engagement and noticing requirements for developments
  • Establishing equitable development standards for publicly-owned land
  • Collaborating to negotiate a community benefits agreement for a large-scale project
  • Collaborating to support the Access for All program, designed to train more Detroiters and people of color to enter the construction trades
  • Collaborating to reach mutual understanding about how to revamp Detroit’s Community Benefits Ordinance


Mitchell Shapiro 

Following up on his REI Co-Learning Project examining issues and strategies related to the potential for rural electric cooperatives (RECs) to help bridge the digital divide, Mitchell’s Innovation Fellowship will focus on aligning a broad range of stakeholder resources to more effectively expand broadband and its benefits in rural Michigan. This will include the state’s RECs as well as its regional planning associations (RPOs), local governments, and community anchor institutions (CAIs). The project will also support efforts to effectively leverage the expertise and longstanding Michigan-focused experience of Connected Nation Michigan, as well as the recently launched Michigan Moonshot project. The Moonshot project is a statewide effort to expand rural broadband led by Merit Network, a nonprofit university-owned network operator that has been providing high-performance communication services to the state’s educational and CAI community for more than 50 years.


To learn more about REI success stories visit our story maps:


REI Announces 2020 Innovate MI Summit

The 9th annual Innovate Michigan! Summit and Michigan Inventors Coalition (MIC) Expo will be held on September 3, 2020 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center in East Lansing (health advisories permitting). The Innovate Michigan! Summit features presentations on unique economic development tools, models, programs, and policies along with community-university projects from around the state. Participants will gather to prioritize ideas for future REI activities and are invited to join the MIC Expo and reception following the Summit. We hope to see you there!

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