A true collaborative effort between local government and the business community has revitalized the historic downtown at the heart of West Branch. Like CreateHere co-founder Helen Johnson's placemaking presentation at Convention, West Branch's Fabulous Fridays program shows how grassroots community-based efforts can fuel economic growth and reenergize the historic downtowns that were once at the heart of every city, village and town. This CEA finalist demonstrates how business and government working together can help our downtowns to once again become the "place" that helps define a community.
West Branch's Fabulous Fridays started a few years ago and has cranked up the city's historic downtown economy with themed Fridays, including a very popular Gong Show and Classic Chassis car show. More than 14,000 people attended over the last three summers and business is up 10-15 percent annually in the small town. The Fabulous Fridays increase the exposure to the downtown business district in the city and has generated a lot of interest in West Branch overall. It also brings back that clasic small town feel of a true community gathering.
A media-savvy placemaking campaign called "Uncork Paw Paw" earned top honors as the Region 2 Community Excellence Award winner back in May 2011, and was one of the seven outstanding presentations at the League Convention in October. It's an outstanding example of placemaking, and of how a community can partner with business and foster entrepreneurship in a mutually beneficial relationship. (To learn more about fostering entrepreneurship, click here to watch Dr. Ernesto Sirolli's presentation.)
According to Paw Paw Village Manager Larry Nielsen, the community built its sense of place as a wine country destination. They first launched a market and cluster analysis to identify a target audience and devise an effective strategy for promoting the region. At the same time, they created a proactive support system for new entrepreneurship and existing businesses, giving out more than $400,000 in grants in the past three years for everything from education and training to building facade and interior improvements.
The marketing analysis determined there are about 54,000 homes within 20 minutes of Paw Paw, and 114,000 within 30 minutes. They used that data to build an effective marketing strategy that reached 79 percent of 2010 festival attendees in the target region outside the Paw Paw zip code. Paw Paw's annual schedule of lakeside concerts and blockbuster events include an annual Wine & Harvest Festival, Harvest Moon Exgtravaganza, Art Hop and a vintage ball club. It has all added up to create a unique sense of place in Paw Paw as a wine country destination. The result: Paw Paw has added 27 new businesses, with another 43 renovated or expanded.
"Uncork Paw Paw" is a do-able example for other communities seeking to build a sense of place based on their own unique assets.
Clare Cops & Doughnuts Wins Michigan Municipal League 2011 Community Excellence Award
The Cops & Doughnuts Bakery owned and operated by nine Clare police officers won the Michigan Municipal League’s Community Excellence Award on October 7, 2011 at the League’s Annual Convention in Grand Rapids, where finalists from the state’s seven regions competed for the coveted title. The CEA program, also called "The Race for the Cup," was started by the League in 2007 to recognize innovative solutions taking place in Michigan’s cities, villages and urban townships.
Clare's entry was a great example of the vital role that entrepreneurship can play not only in a city's economic development, but in helping to create a community image and a true sense of place.
The historic Clare City Bakery in downtown Clare was going to close and virtually in the 11th hour, the nine Clare police officers decided to pool their own funds to purchase it. Not only did they save the bakery, but they turned it into a tourist destination that has benefitted the entire community.
Clare Police Officer Al White said the Cops & Doughnuts bakery has received nationwide media coverage and accolades since the group of police officers took ownership nearly two years ago. The business helps promotes the entire city and its business district, and also supports the community as a whole through charitable donations and sponsorship of many local events. White also praised city officials for allowing the bakery owners' to make the most of their dual identity as city police officers as an integral part of their marketing campaign. What could have been seen by some as a risky move has turned out to be a benefit to both the bakery and the city as a whole.
It's a whole new way for a city to partner with the business community, showing how sometimes the best way to help new entrepreneurs is to just let it happen. The whole concept of fostering entrepreneurship needs to be reimagined, according to Dr. Ernesto Sirolli, a world-renowned expert in nurturing the creative spark of entreneurship. Click here to watch the video of Sirolli's presentation at the League Convention.
Congratulations again, Clare!
This year's seven Regional finalists for the 2011 Community Excellence Award have set a whole new bar for accomplishment, creativity, hard work and ingenuity, and the presentations themselves were extraordinary.
REGION 1Southfield's Field Zone Youth Center won the Community Excellence Award for Region 1 during the meeting in Hamtramck on May 6. They brought an inspiring music video to Convention and delivered it with passion, showing how an entire community rallied and worked for more than six years to build a safe and nurturing environment for their young people.
REGION 2Paw Paw's "Uncork Paw Paw" campaign won the Community Excellence Award for Region 2 during the meeting in East Lansing, and Village Manager Larry Nielsen used humor and hard data to show how a community can develop a multi-level strategy to create a sense of place, market it to the public, and encourage local entrepreneurship.
REGION 3A wintertime event that has given an economic boost to the waterfront community of Ludington won the Community Excellence Award for Region 3 during the meeting in Ludington, and the New Year's Eve Ball Drop truly sparkled in their presentation which featured a wide array of community members describing what the event has meant to them and the community at large.
REGION 4The Cops & Doughnuts bakery, owned and operated by nine Clare police officers, won the Community Excellence Award for Region 4 during the meeting in Saginaw, and one of the retired officers used humor and good-natured wisecracking to show how one small idea can grow and blossom into something that can put small town America on the radar screen for millions around the nation and world.
REGION 5Vassar's “Chill on the Hill” won the Community Excellence Award for Region 5 during the meeting in Marine City, and the video was a great hands-on trip through the community's yearlong effort to build upon a local asset to create a unique celebration that is sure to become a treasured annual event for the entire region.
REGION 6West Branch's “Fabulous Fridays” program won the Community Excellence Award in Region 6 in Kalkaska, and their presentation showed how a unified vision can inspire and engage an entire community to embrace its downtown - one of the keys to building truly sustainable cities for the future.
REGION 7A comprehensive waterfront safety initiative from Marquette won the Michigan Municipal League’s Region 7 Community Excellence Award during the meeting in Marquette, and their powerful presentation was able to convey the depth of commitment, research and application that went into tackling a community problem and turning it into a community asset.
BRAVO to each and every CEA finalist! Regardless of which entry ultimately wins in the voting, there is no doubt that each and every one of these projects is an outstanding example of what our communities can accomplish. We applaud you all!
Did you know the Annual Convention is taking place smack dab in the middle of Grand Rapid’s famed ArtPrize®? ArtPrize® is an open art competition with installations from artists around the world, which takes place over the entire city of Grand Rapids. Join the Cities of the Urban Metro Mayors and Managers (Grand Rapids, Wyoming, Kentwood, Walker, Grandville, and East Grand Rapids) for a party in the middle of the ArtPrize® District at the Host City Reception on Wednesday, October 5, and experience ArtPrize® yourself.While at the Annual Convention, make sure to look for the League’s own art installation. The League has donated chairs to various artists around the state to create their own individual works of art. The one-of-a-kind chairs will be displayed throughout the Convention space. Each chair will be a part of the Foundation auction and you can bid to take one home!In support of the arts and education, the League has partnered with the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation (GRSAF) to donate art supplies to students in the Grand Rapids district. Due to recent budget cuts, the GRSAF has taken over the responsibility for raising 100% of the funds for art and music supplies for the school district and the 19,000 youth that it serves. We see this as a great opportunity to support budding artists and to express the importance of the arts to community. Click here to learn more about what you can donate.
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