(Note: The following blog by the Michigan Municipal League’s Lisa Donovan is about the opening general session presentation by League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin during the League’s first-ever virtual conference, Sept. 30. This article will also appear in the November-December issue of the League’s Review magazine.)
For the past decade, the Michigan Municipal League has promoted placemaking as a means to develop a communities’ assets and make it a vibrant place to live. Communities across the state have had great success with this approach, but there are still troubling trends—municipal budgets are strained, and social and economic progress is uneven.
As we’ve thought about a post-COVID world and how we build communities moving forward, we’ve decided to move to the next level with Community Wealth Building. CWB occurs when community leaders, partners, and residents collaborate to develop equitable, resilient adaptable, sustainable places that improve the human experience. It is essentially placemaking with an equity lens.
Examples of the CWP approach are already occurring in Michigan. In Niles, the owner of UltraCamp could have located his company anywhere but chose Niles because of the city’s assets—historic downtown, affordable housing, and ability to attract talent—and the city’s willingness to work with him. His success has helped the community bring in other companies.
CWB was applied a little differently in L’Anse. After years of complaints about the Upper Peninsula’s inconsistent power grid and high cost of power, the city decided to solve their problems locally. Community leaders collaborated with Michigan Technological University on a solar panel project, which now provides great service to residents and generates revenue.
The League is excited about the potential of CWB for our communities and plans to focus on it in our advocacy efforts, educational initiatives, and program development. For more information, visit mml.org.