Celebrating the 10th Annual 'Innovate MI!' Summit, Ideas to Innovation & REI Team Transitions

By Mary ZumBrunnen, Project Coordinator, University Center for Regional Economic Innovation

It’s been a jam-packed summer and the leaves are beginning to change colors at the MSU U.S. EDA University Regional Economic Innovation Center (REI). The spring has led up to successful completion of seven student-led/faculty-guided projects, four co-learning plans and two innovation fellow projects spanning from the Keewanau Penninsula down to Adrian, MI and across four universities including MSU, Michigan Tech, Wayne State, and the University of Michigan. It was exhilarating to witness the innovative and entrepreneurial efforts of students, faculty, and community leaders. Projects, tools, and resources were shared during the 10th annual Innovate MI! Summit creating a very special milestone.  

This year, REI was pleased to host two dynamic Summit keynotes including: Ms. Susan Brehm, Director of the EDA Regional Chicago Office, and Dr. Hazel Henderson, globally renowned futurist and author, through the generous support of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. During the Summit, on September 2nd and 3rd, REI also put out the call for “Ideas to Innovation” rankings. Over the course of the year, scholars and practitioners all over Michigan submit ideas for future co-learning plan topics. Then, REI asks its consultative panel of more than 30 industry experts to weigh in on each area and rank these ideas. With communities’ input and our panel’s guidance, we hope to solicit for 2022 Co-Learning Plans and Fellows soon.  

None of this is possible without the tireless support of the REI research assistants. These students are working to edit, format and load presentations and final reports to the REI website. From there, we will jointly work to share them community and economic development practitioners to support job creation and help improve quality of life in distressed communities.  To assist with this, the team has posted a research assistant communication opening available https://ced.msu.edu/about-cced/student-opportunities.  

As the REI program year comes to an end, we look both ahead (with some exciting news on the horizon) and also back – reflecting on the last decade of community innovation, revitalization and Center efforts. The REI would not have the success it does today without the leadership, creativity, and tremendous efforts of Ms. Jennifer Bruen. Jennifer took the REI from a fledgling program contract to a successful statewide network of over 3,000 participants and a popular annual event showcasing development efforts, innovative economic models, program and policies from around the state. In September of 2021, Jen announced that she would be transitioning out of REI and moving with her family to Colorado. Her spirit and energy will be greatly missed! Moving forward, please direct your inquiries, questions, and comments to Mary ZumBrunnen, at zumbrun1@msu.edu.   

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