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Michigan Municipal League CEO Dan Gilmartin Writes About Education Being Key for Communities

By Daniel P. Gilmartin

As the year winds down, it’s a great time to reflect on what we’ve harvested thus far here in Michigan. We all know a garden is only as good as the seeds we plant and the soil in which we plant them. We’ve got the right seeds: a diverse population of bright young people and a solid cadre of hard-working citizens who weathered the worst the economy could throw at them, and still came up standing.

But are we giving them everything they need to thrive in the 21st century? Quality education is the key to growing a new knowledge-based economy. It’s one of the vital assets required for making our communities vibrant and prosperous in the years to come.

It’s not just the League that’s saying it. Back in June, Ann Arbor-based think tank Michigan Futures Inc. released its third annual progress report on Michigan’s transition to a knowledge-based economy. It showed how many of Michigan’s high-wage manufacturing jobs with low educational requirements are gone forever—proof positive that we need to act now before we lose an entire generation of future stakeholders to greener economic pastures elsewhere.

Our legislative team has been working hard to keep education a top priority for Michigan’s future. In July, the state House of Representatives passed HB 6243. The so-called "town gown" bill was a key piece of legislation advocated by the League as part of our Prosperity Agenda. The bill helps foster economic development partnerships through the creation of Educational Opportunity Districts in communities with colleges or universities. The districts will operate much like the Downtown Development Districts that have proven so successful over the years, capturing funds for all kinds of innovative, knowledge-based uses.

The League is also pushing for legislation that would establish a new state commission to move Michigan toward a revitalized economy, based on innovation, knowledge, and entrepreneurship. This centralized think tank would be charged with developing the strategies needed to reinvent the state’s economy through such means as research, legislative reform, and departmental changes.

The League’s Center for 21st Century Communities (21c3) is also working to provide technical services and solutions to communities seeking to collaborate with educational institutions on making these goals a reality.

A pilot program launched in late fall of 2009 is working with six communities to develop a program of technical services that can assist all our member communities in implementing projects and programs related to the 21c3 assets, including education. As a result, our members are accomplishing everything from shared ballparks and community gardens to neighborhood art centers.

There’s always something we can learn from each other, too. Inside this issue of The Review, you’ll find amazing examples of how our member communities are putting a new focus on education. Community-based education, youth councils, afterschool programming, and a program that brings voting to the schools are some of the stories we are featuring.

The eight assets of 21c3 are so integral to our mission that we focused our 112th Annual Convention around them. Held in Dearborn, it was probably our most exciting and successful Convention to date. Please see Convention photos and news on pages 28-33.
We hope the new year brings even more promising developments on the local, state, and federal level—but the League won’t sit on its hands, waiting for someone else to make it happen. It’s up to all of us to be part of the solution.
When the future arrives, we hope to see you there.

Prosperity Agenda Radio Show on News/Talk 760 WJR

The Michigan Municipal League is taking its message to one of the largest radio stations in the Midwest—News/Talk 760 WJR. Throughout this year, League Director & CEO Dan Gilmartin will host the “Michigan Prosperity Agenda” radio show that challenges listeners to help make Michigan a better place to live, work, and play by creating vibrant and prosperous local communities.

The show is sponsored by the League and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and is scheduled to air at 7 pm on the fourth Wednesday of every month in 2010. We encourage all our members and friends to tune in for each show. For
those outside of the WJR listening audience, you can hear segments of the show by
clicking here.


Daniel P. Gilmartin is executive director and CEO of the League. You may contact him at 734-669-6302 or



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