The 2020 Virtual Innovate Michigan! Summit

By Jennifer Bruen, Assistant Director, CCED

The U.S. EDA Center for Regional Economic Innovation (REI) hosted another successful Innovate Michigan! Summit, this time completely online due to the COVID pandemic ( Eighty-plus economic development practitioners, business leaders, finance providers, scholars, local and state government officers, students, and community leaders gathered around Zoom. The summit kicked off with recorded welcoming remarks from Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin and Senator Gary Peters, followed by 11 presentations by REI’s project collaborators and project leaders. If you missed the event, projects are described below with links to project pages and recorded presentations. 

Aligning Resources to Expand Broadband and its Benefits in Rural Michigan 

Mitchell Shapiro 

Following up on his REI co-learning plan examining issues and strategies related to the potential for rural electric cooperatives (RECs) to help bridge the digital divide, Mitchell’s Innovation Fellowship was focused on aligning a broad range of stakeholder resources to more effectively expand broadband and its benefits in rural Michigan. This included the state’s RECs as well as its regional planning associations (RPOs), local governments and community anchor institutions (CAIs). The project also supported 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, and the Southwest Regional Michigan Planning Commission. projects/digital/aligning-resources-to-expand-broadband-its-benefits-in-rural-michigan-2020

Community Capital Investing: Mapping the Ecosystem 

Angela Barbash

As part of an informal coalition in Michigan working toward a future where community capital is ubiquitous and universally normalized, this project involved mapping the current ecosystem of people, organizations, and resources that make up the current marketplace. The project findings were presented to a coalition of 40 members and the information was made publicly available via a variety of media (a blog post, a recorded webinar, a press engagement, and an easy to share infographic). The project is available to leaders who would like to develop a community investment market in their town or region. This project is paving the way for future funding opportunities. investing-mapping-the-ecosystem-2020

Labor and Community Equitable Development Agenda 

Sam Butler

This project focused on six primary areas to infuse more community benefits into Detroit development practice: (1) Advocating for Detroit to adopt an incentive zoning policy; (2) Encouraging Detroit to adopt stronger engagement and noticing requirements for developments; (3) Establishing equitable development standards for publicly owned land; (4) Collaborating to negotiate a community benefits agreement for a large-scale project; (5) Collaborating to support the Access for All program, designed to train more Detroiters and people of color to enter the construction trades; and (6) Collaborating to reach mutual understanding about how to revamp Detroit’s Community Benefits Ordinance. equitable-development-agenda-2020

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

Dr. Monireh Mahmoudi

The aim of this project was to eliminate food waste by making excess food available to people in need. For example, a food donor (e.g., a farmer, a retailer, or a caterer) donates food to a food bank. The food bank might quickly decide to send the food to distribution agencies or to composting facilities. For this type of 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). This project provides an analytical framework that can provide applicable guidelines for food bank decision-making regardingthe final destination of food donations  (with respect to the availability of  resources, quality, volume and type of donation ). It was found this can result in significant cost-savings and improve the availability of excess food to people in need. waste-in-michigan-by-addressing-strategic-and-opera

Paying for Infrastructure 

Dr. Janice Beecher

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 explores policies, practices, and alternative models to address infrastructure challenges.

Strategy for Youth Empowerment and Entrepreneurship in the North Side of Flint 

Psalm Bingham and Dr. Stephen Gasteyer

This project developed an outline for youth entrepreneurship on the north dide of Flint, Michigan, with the help of WOW Outreach of Flint. The report helpsfurther WOW Outreach’s goals of reducing violence through positive opportunities and increasing economic opportunities through the use of Flint’s Community Capitals Framework. Through this research WOW Outreach will be able to address critical development needs, specifically focusing on youth empowerment, and assist youth entrepreneurship to grow and prosper on the north side of Flint. empowerment-and-entrepreneurship-in-the-north-side-of-flint

Urban Planning Techniques and Sustainable Design for Autonomous Vehicles 

Dana Dake

This project shed new light on autonomous vehicles and the impacts that such a new form of mobility will present in many different ways. The research completed during this project analyzed sustainable design and urban planning techniques that are involved in the development of autonomous vehicles in Michigan. The information gathered provides necessary data for a comprehensive analysis of economic, social, and environmental infrastructure needs that will emerge as autonomous vehicle incorporation progresses. techniques-and-sustainable-design-for-autonomous-vehicles-2020

To watch recordings of the presentations, visit


Back to Article list