Approaching the Close of the Comprehensive Economic Recovery Initiative (CERI)

By: Emma Gilbert, Senior Research Assistant

The Comprehensive Economic Recovery Initiative (CERI) project is designed to rebuild and strengthen Michigan’s economy and resiliency in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. The project was awarded by the Economic Development Administration in late 2020 as a non-competitive CARES Act award. The initiative includes providing technical assistance to communities and regions under four thematic pillars of community and economic development: resiliency planning, 21st century communication infrastructure, circular economies, and financial resiliency.

  1. Resiliency Planning - Planning comprehensively to speed recovery after natural or manmade shocks.
  2. 21st Century Communication Infrastructure – Support activities that will increase access and use of digital and online platforms in rural and low-income urban communities for civic engagement, commerce, healthcare and education.
  3. Circular Economies - Support the development of products and services that maximize the reuse of local or regional supply chains aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of non-renewable resources.
  4. Financial Resilience - Increase and expand the capacity of community financial institutions and individuals to invest in local businesses to mitigate the vicissitudes that result from less accessible and viable capital markets for small businesses.

Through on-line/distance learning modules and student led-faculty guided projects, CERI is focused on helping communities recover from economic challenges in the most distressed communities and regions of Michigan. Please see the following: These four pillars' foci help increase the number of small businesses; create access to job skill development; improve public infrastructure; advance high-growth entrepreneurship, and; encourage underserved communities and historically excluded citizens. The CERI team worked with Economic Development Districts (EDDs), higher education institutions, local public and private leaders, workforce development boards, nonprofits, state agencies, commercial lenders, tribes, and others concerned with sustainability, equity, and resiliency in critical topics of concern in disadvantaged communities and regions during the COVID-19 crisis.

To date, the CERI team has commissioned 16 projects, totaling $60,000 in funding. An executive summary of each of the projects within each pillar follows below. The CERI project will be closing at the end of the calendar year and impact reporting to the EDA will ensue immediately thereafter.

Resiliency Planning

A ‘Resiliency Planning’ Thought Leader Series Hosted by MSU Extension Land Use Educators and MSU faculty with support from Student Research Assistants and agency partners:

  • This six-session live webinar ‘thought leader’ series ran from March through April 2021. It was intended to open discussion on the role of regional economic planning and local master planning to prepare for a more resilient and sustainable post COVID environment. The series not only addressed the steps for current planning but allowed for considerations for future resiliency.

Michigan Healthy Urban Environments Led by Ann Erhardt, in collaboration with Public Sector Consultants of Michigan:

  • COVID-19 highlighted many disparities and instabilities in both the health care systems and the economy. This project aimed to address those issues, while also discussing how those negative impacts will be mirrored and even exacerbated by climate change events. The project further investigated how the impacts of climate change are integrated with extractive systems and policies based in capitalism and white supremacist culture, and how this can be connected to complex solutions of racial equity.

Creating a Community of Practice: 21st Century Economic Development Planning Led by Dr. Rex LaMore, Emma Gilbert, Sr. RA, and a coalition of University Centers across the country:

  • This project has resulted in an application to EDA to support comprehensive economic development strategies (CEDS+) planning initiative to be conducted with partners in Michigan, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon, and Kansas. If funded, the five UC (University Center) partners would have worked with multiple EDDs (as identified by each UC partner) to conduct additional economic planning processes incorporating additional resiliency factors (social and environmental) into their CEDS development process.

Market-end Feasibility Studies & Economic Impact Surveys for Lansing’s Hyper-Local Food Systems Led by Lansing Urban Farm Project:

  • The purpose of this study was to utilize findings to generate more successful business models for the hyper-local food system in Lansing, MI and beyond. Increasing the efficiency of local supply chains will create opportunities for long-term growth and living wages for urban/small farms. Additionally, it would increase localized food sovereignty and, therefore, resiliency of local markets to periodic economic shock and supply chain disruptions. The findings of this study were compiled into a report and shared broadly with local stakeholders.

Building a Foundation for Micropolitan Collaboration: Data Discovery in Wexford and Missaukee Counties Led by Lisa Miller in collaboration with the Alliance for Economic Success:

  • This project undertook a CEDS discovery and area data analysis that sets a foundation to further analyze the Northwest Lower Michigan Region (#10) Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) through the lens of community and economic data in Wexford and Missaukee Counties supporting informed, collaborative prioritization at the local level. Deliverables included local data collection that can be utilized to develop meaningful dashboards and a report highlighting methods, analysis, and recommendations for next steps.

CEDAM Fellows Training Partnership Led by Sarah Teater of the Community and Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM):

  • This project leveraged the CEDAM fellows program – a community and economic development fellowship that places fellows in residence in a community for a period of 15 months to work on building solutions in response to challenges identified by community members. This project is the first of many future collaborations between the fellows and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), in which the Michigan economic development representative (Lee Shirey) will train fellows to become ‘EDA advocates embedded in community’. This partnership is expected to generate additional EDA applications through their year-long residency and is the first of many steps in a newly forming collaboration between MSU CCED, CEDAM, and EDA.

Rural Innovation Policy Research led by Jean Hardy, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Media & Information at MSU, Director, Rural Computing Research Consortium, with support from Student Research Assistant:

  • This study sought to answer the following: First, how do state and federal governments support innovation in rural America through policy? Second, what are the downstream impacts of this legislation? In other words, how is the money actually used? To do this, the authors conducted a pilot study analyzing policy and budget documents for state and federal support of rural innovation. The team began by defining and delineating what activities typically support rural innovation. To answer the first question, the team then selected four pieces of legislation, two federal and two focusing on the State of Michigan, to analyze for their support of rural innovation activities. To answer the second question, the authors systematically followed the legislation and its budget downstream to the entities who were on the receiving end of the funding to evaluate how the funds were used to support innovation activities. The pilot study produced two key deliverables: 1) a preliminary suite of research tools for evaluating policy supporting rural innovation and its downstream impacts; 2) a report documenting preliminary findings written for key stakeholder groups, such as policy makers and economic development officials, who are interested in how to support rural innovation.

21st Century Communications Infrastructure 

Building & Planning Broadband Better Led by REI Innovation Fellow, Mitchell Shapiro, and partners, Merit Network and the Michigan Broadband Cooperative:

  • Whether it is education, outreach, work, etc., many day-to-day activities have transferred to a virtual platform. Because of this, the need to address the longstanding digital divide in Michigan has become even more urgent. This project helped bridge this divide by developing a proposal to engage in an in-depth study on the feasibility and benefits of Automated Open Access networks in the broadband space.

Digitally Connected Community Farms Led by Partridge Creek Farms in collaboration with MSU Rural Computing Consortium & Jean Hardy, Ph.D.:

  • This project generated a best practices guide for adoption and utilization of sensors and data collection protocol on small scale farms in food insecure and hard to farm areas. The best practices guide addressed pressing challenges faced by many communities looking to build more resilient local food systems in light of the ongoing supply chain- related challenges of COVID. With Partridge Creek Farms as a primary partner, the best practices guide has been widely distributed to relevant stakeholders across the state.

Building Regional Broadband Planning Capacity in Michigan: Addressing Equity in the Development of Broadband-Focused Public-Private Partnerships Led by REI Innovation Fellow, Mitch Shapiro, in collaboration with Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and Southcentral Michigan Planning Council:

  • This project sought to understand the broadband-related ecosystem and its key factors—different individuals, types, motivations, and resources of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and different communities’ needs, planning capacities, and broadband development strategies—between the seven counties contained in Michigan Regional Prosperity Region #8. The Prosperity Region is comprised of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission and Southcentral Michigan Planning Council. The project also sought to understand whether and how effectively the issues of equity and inclusion are being addressed by these various combinations of factors and forms of private-public partnerships. The result of this project was a collaborative grant proposal to the Economic Development Administration’s Local Technical Assistance program.

Financial Resilience

Michigan Inventors Coalition Led by John Hopkins of the Michigan Inventors Coalition

This project generated a successful synchronous online crowdfunding/market research event that allowed multiple inventors to begin moving their products towards the market. The inventors were connected to investment crowdfunding technical assistance provided by Crowdfund Better, a national crowdfunding technical assistance organization. The project team captured the learnings from conducting this event and constructed a guide other groups across the state can utilize to conduct similar events.

  • Innovative Pre-College Initiative: Investing in Michigan, Majority-Minority, and Low-Income Communities  Led by Rex LaMore, Ph.D., Director, MSU Center for Community and Economic Development and Stephen Gasteyer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, MSU Department of Sociology, College of Social Science, with support from Student Research Assistants:

Through funding from the Creating Inclusive Excellence Grant provided by the MSU Office for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, this project sought to investigate the feasibility of MSU strategically investing its financial resources (“Common Investment Fund”/Endowment) in the creation of a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), with the purpose of supporting community and economic revitalization in disadvantaged communities in Michigan. Supporting Community Capital initiatives, Community Investment Funds, and/or the creation of a CDFI will bring opportunities to MSU to create an inclusive and diverse community and improve the chances of providing world-class education to historically disadvantaged Michigan students through supporting the economic resilience of their communities with equitable and sustainable investment practices, while addressing the long-term structural inequities that underpin uneven access to higher education.

Circular Economies

Catalyzing Waste Reduction Opportunities for Small and Rural Communities  Led by Terry Link, Starting Now, LLC and Bill Stough, Sustainability Research Group:

  • This research project looked at viable options for addressing waste reduction in small and rural communities, while strengthening the markets for profit, nonprofit and community-owned enterprises within the community. The project included a plan to develop potential models that can be adopted by communities across the state to reduce landfill waste, while spurring partnerships across local regional entities.

Laying a Foundation for Sustainable Building Materials Management in Detroit Led by Madi Kraus, Detroit Green Living Science:

  • This project was conducted with support from Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) and resulted in an executive summary report detailing the gaps in relevant data sets identified by Green Living Science as essential to building a robust and sustainable building material reuse, recycling, and reprocessing economy in Detroit. With the cost of materials and new building still exorbitantly high as a result of the pandemic, there is hardly a better time to examine new models that help build resilience within and break dependence on global supply chains within the construction sector.

Connecting Discards, Reuse, and STEM: A Regional Approach Led by Eastern Michigan Council of Governments and partner Iris Waste Management:

  • The Eastern Michigan Council of Governments, on behalf of the Great Lakes Bay Zero Waste Consortium (GLBZWC), is seeking to determine the potential for the development of a collaborative program in support of circular economies that will connect material discards, such as construction and demolition (C&D) materials and manufacturing scraps, with regional Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs, artisans, entrepreneurs, workforce development programs, and community members.

As such, this project conducted research to determine opportunities for diversion of discarded materials used in the built environment and in the manufacturing process in the region, including current disposal and diversion data and practices of generators of C&D materials, current disposal and diversion data and practices during historical building renovation and demolition, existing end-markets for C&D materials and architectural building salvage, identification of potential sources of manufacturing scrap suitable for adaptive reuse, entrepreneurial opportunities, and STEM education and maker space opportunities. Research will consist of surveys and interviews with generators in the region regarding their interest in pursuing the initiative and identification of potential stakeholders/partners in addition to identifying and interviewing current C&D recovery/architectural salvage operations in Michigan to learn best practices.

Circular Economy Faculty Forums Led by Rex LaMore, Ph.D., Director, MSU Center for Community and Economic Development with support from faculty from various MSU departments and Student Research Assistants

  • The Circular Economy Institute team at the Center for Community and Economic Development organized a virtual forum series focusing on how circular economies have impacted the research, outreach, and instruction of faculty at Michigan State University. The series welcomed faculty presenters from across twelve schools and colleges who presented on a variety of important topics relating to circular economies. The webinar series was organized by a team of faculty members passionate about promoting circular economies, including Vedat Verter, Ph.D., MSU Broad College of Business, Rafael Auras, Ph.D., MSU School of Packaging, Gemma Reguera, Ph.D., MSU College of Natural Sciences, Lawrence Drzal, Ph.D., MSU College of Engineering, and Janet Ireland, Ph.D., MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The series consisted of five panels throughout the fall and spring of 2021 to 2022, which were shared live over zoom and recorded. The webinars are available on CCED’s YouTube page.

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