Announcing the CCED Regional Economic Innovation University Center’s 2022 Project Awards

By: Mary ZumBrunnen, Assistant Director, and Matthew Emery, Research Assistant

As a way to assist Michigan's most distressed communities and regions, the Michigan State University (MSU) Economic Development Administration’s University Center for Regional Economic Innovation (REI) was created in 2011 by the MSU Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED) and funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA). Its goal is to work with Michigan's most economically vulnerable communities, turning them into economically vibrant places that encourage high-growth entrepreneurial development and create well-paid, sustainable new-economy jobs. Focusing on four pillars for more equitable communities, the REI facilitates projects that support resiliency planning, financial resiliency, 21st century communications and circular economies. 

Through this university-government partnership, several project types are funding including: Co-Learning Projects, researched and written by professionals; Co-Implementation Plans, led by Innovation Fellows; and Student-Led, Faculty-Guided Technical Assistance projects, researched and written by student teams at Michigan universities and colleges. For the 2022 project year, REI has selected projects with the support of its Consultative Panel – a group of nearly 40 industry experts located throughout Michigan. All projects are expected to support finding, cultivating, and disseminating innovative ideas that create jobs, drive economic growth, and discover new development tools. Faculty at REI are excited to announce two new Co-Learning Plan (CLP) authors, two Innovation Fellowships (IF) , and two Student-Led, Faculty-Guided (SLFG) projects heading up this project series. 

In a CLP, innovative economic development tools, models, strategies, policies, and practices are researched, and findings and recommendations serve as key resources for economic development practitioners and policymakers in Michigan. Authors are expected to conduct research, engage in Co-Learning with peers, write a paper, develop a dissemination plan, identify potential Innovation Fellows, and present at the Innovate Michigan! Summit. REI’s Co-Learning Plan awardees for 2022 include Sean Kammer and Ashley Bellant. Sean Kammer is the executive director of the City of Birmingham’s Principal Shopping District. However, as a resident of and nonprofit director within Pontiac, his project will focus on resiliency planning, emphasizing the creation of a marketing plan and an outline of proposed steps to foster a more inclusive economy in downtown Pontiac. Ashley Bellant, staff at “Safe & Just Michigan,” will focus on both resiliency planning and financial resiliency in her project. This work examines the history of Michigan’s shrinking urban cores, as well as diving into two case studies from Minneapolis-St. Paul and the Meadowlands of New Jersey for transferable lessons in regional tax base sharing. 

The Innovation Fellowship Program (IF) seeks to incorporate the tools, models, and policies identified in CLPs for implementation and practice in communities around Michigan. Fellows, recruited by REI, its partners, Economic Development Districts (EDDs), and past Co-Learning Project leaders identify recommendations from past CLPs (as well as creating new) while championing these practices for local and state economic development practitioners and policymakers’ decision making. REI If awardees this year are Tony Willis and David Palmer. Tony Willis is a previous CLP author and current Chief Equity Development Officer for the Lansing Economic Area Partnership. His fellowship explores communal and cooperative investment/business models, specifically worker-owner cooperatives and community investment trust. David Palmer, who is a licensed Michigan Real Estate Associate Broker and principal of DC Palmer LLC, will address a specific mortgage market systems failure in the City of Detroit. He will leverage tools and build upon the work of previous IFs, Angela Barbash and Chris Miller, to develop solutions not currently available. 

Student-Led, Faculty-Guided (SLFG) work is completed by students at colleges and universities throughout the state, under the supervision of experienced faculty. Through these projects, students gain firsthand, practical experience in the application of previously studied theory, and economic development professionals receive technical assistance that might not otherwise be available. REI’s 2022 SLFG projects have been awarded to the Vanguard Community Development Corporation Commercial Campus Study, headed by MSU’s Dr. Kotval and Ms. Monica Edmonds, and the Wayne County Land Bank Practicum Project, led again by Dr. Kotval and Mr. Jake Parcell. The Vanguard project will include a feasibility study to determine the market for potential uses/tenants for the Vanguard space, as well as a development plan for the use of this commercial property should they acquire it. The Wayne County Land Bank project, on the other hand, will work with research partners to identify opportunities to expand the WCLB programs and strengthen the positive presence of the organization in key neighborhoods throughout Wayne County. 

Stay tuned for more information about our annual Innovate Michigan! Summit, happening on August 18th, 2022 showcasing these projects. To learn more about the 2022 Project Series and authors, head to the “Current Projects” available at To register for the Summit, please see For questions, please email or call (517) 353-9555. 


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