CEDAM Blog

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4 Opportunities to Increase Economic Stability

Financial instability is the root of many of the challenges that community economic development organizations work with on a daily basis when serving clients. You can help your community address economic instability in four ways.

1. Call attention to economic disparity in your community by showcasing data from the CFED scorecard

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Excerpt from the CFED Scorecard. Click to view the full report.

We all understand our communities and their unique dynamics, needs and opportunities. CFED provides data that allow us to confirm what we know, highlight economic disparity and prove the need for more financial capability services. It also provides a consistent metric for comparison with other communities across the country. Data is always a useful tool to leverage additional funding or adaptations in programs, and CFED provides this scorecard and a host of other information for free.

Explore the CFED Scorecard for Michigan and the rest of the country and explore some of the other resources available to help you navigate your work. scorecard.assetsandopportunity.org/latest/state/mi

2. Bring attention to predatory lending practices and help your community understand that there are alternatives

shark-soloPredatory loans are intended by design to take advantage of vulnerable populations who feel trapped and without options. The best way you can help your clients protect themselves is to understand the situation yourself, talking to your legislators (and telling them to vote no on predatory product expansion legislation) and sharing alternative products with your clients. While predatory lenders had a prior advantage, many credit unions, organizations and others are fighting against them and offering alternatives that can actually empower people rather than harm them.

A good place to learn more about the subject and alternative products is with Predatory Lending Toolkit available for free on CEDAM’s website: cedam.info/policy/payday

3. Market and attend a Show Me the Money Day event

ShowMeTheMoney-Logo-2016Show Me the Money Day is a community resource fair filled with opportunities to help your clients access financial education and resources. Whether your organization is hosting an event this year or not, it’s a great idea for you to both market and attend the event in your community. Doing so will provide opportunities to network with peers, discover new resources and provide year-round support to your clients. If there is not an event in your community this year, consider joining forces with new potential partners and hosting an event in 2017!

Learn more at ShowMeTheMoneyDay.org

4. Market free tax preparation sites and educate taxpayers of their rights

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 2.43.15 PMWith free tax preparation sites across Michigan and free online resources, every eligible person should be able to access services that help them claim all they should when filing their taxes. However, more than simply sharing information about these sites with your clients, help them to understand their rights as taxpayers and identify practices that are predatory should they seek alternative resources. Understanding what resources are available, what fees are reasonable and when to say no will position a person to be well-informed and make good decisions.

MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org is a great place to gain more information about free tax assistance, important tax credits and free tax preparation sites. A Taxpayer Bill of Rights is also available and updated through the IRS: irs.gov/Taxpayer-Bill-of-Rights

Using these free and accessible tools is a great place to start to resolve local challenges and empower your clients. If you already have programs in place, these resources can enhance and leverage their success even further. CEDAM has a host of additional resources beyond these, which you can view at anytime at cedam.info.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Brian Rakovitis

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Brian Rakovitis is serving with the United Way of Washtenaw County

In early December I attended an after-school program at a local Elementary in Washtenaw County. Every Thursday the after school program has its club sessions, which are designed to expose youth to a wide and diverse range of topics, including music, art, dance, reading, math, languages, business and more. On this particular night I was observing the business club with the goal of understanding how financial literacy and the FDIC Money Smart program could be included in the club’s content.

I entered the elementary school through one of the side doors. Children were excitedly hurrying in and out of the school building; many were bolting for their parents cars, looking to leave the school day behind. The school was a standard, rectangular, tan brick building. Inside the hallways were narrow, and the chairs were child size. Papers, hats, coats and school supplies were strewn about and art projects dressed the walls. Uncertain as to where I needed to go, I asked the first adult I could find. Luckily, the first person I asked, Mr. A, was part of the program. Mr. A is a taller gentleman in his late twenties. He wore his hair in dreads and a Jamaican inspired green, red and black striped knitted cap. In a friendly manner, he shook my hand and told me I was in the right place when I asked where the after-school program was. We located my contact Ms. K.

Ms. K was the site coordinator and was already hard at work trying to wrangle the children who were running to and from the small classroom. Ms. K is a blonde woman in her mid-twenties. She stood barely taller than many of the children she cared for, yet you could tell she was the boss and all the children knew it. She persuaded the students to sit down at the short tables and have an after school snack. Many of the kids were less than pleased about the meal situation. They groaned at the thought of eating raw vegetables and many only ate the chips and salsa. I found out later that the salsa was sometimes replaced with pizza sauce when the school’s money was running low. I felt a slight nauseous feeling at the thought of eating chips and pizza sauce. Ms. K invited me to sit and chat with the students until they were finished with snack time and club started.

Chatting with the students was a bit awkward initially. They were noticeably cautious about interacting with a random adult. However, after a few minutes of talking and asking questions, as well as the realization that I was not going to leave, the students seemed to ease up and speak more freely with me.

I began to have a conversation with a 3rd grader name Timmy. Timmy happened to be in business club last semester and was excited for another semester of the club. He described how they created a business, made goods and sold them to other students in a market at the end of the semester in order to earn after-school bucks!

Mr. A and Ms. K called attention to the front of the room. The children were less than attentive until Mr. A. called out, “Ok everyone, if you can hear my voice raise your hand.” Very few did. He called out again, “Ok everyone, if you can hear my voice and your butts are in your seats, raise your hand.” More students took notice this time and raised their hand. Once more Mr. A called out, “Ok everyone, if you can hear my voice and your butts are in your seats, and you are quiet, raise your hand.” By then most students had heard his calls and finally settled down.

Ms. K took over calling out the club assignments, and shuttling kids to different rooms for their club activities. Business club, however, stayed in the room and Ms C. began with a get to know you exercise. Ms. C was an undergrad with the local University. She was patient and persistent as many of the children were still focusing. We said our names and some food we didn’t like to eat. Timmy stood next to me, showing me the ropes of different games and activities. Occasionally he would lose focus and act out, like some of the other kids. These moments were typically brief, but more frequent with some students.

Finally, we got to the main activity of business club; the students, alone or in pairs, were to develop a business plan. Timmy asked if I would like to be part of his business and I accepted. I also accepted two or three more offers. I think perhaps the students wanted help with understanding the instructions.

We found ourselves brainstorming company names and products we would make and sell. Timmy and I thought about what we could make in this classroom. Timmy was only interested in one thing. Ice Cream! I said, “Ok Timmy, what will be our name?” Timmy was stumped, I said Timmy, “What is a super cool name?” Timmy looked up and excitedly said “Super Cool Ice Cream Store! And we will sell strawberry flavored ice cream.” I asked Timmy if he wanted any other flavors he responded “Only strawberry, and maybe honey.”

Then I was asked by the club leader Ms. C to lecture the students on banks. I froze for a moment, I wasn’t prepared to lecture that day. I had not even given my first workshop. Sure I had made notes, but I didn’t have any of them. Ms. C thankfully threw me a lifeline, and said that I would be the bank. Each company had to ask the bank for a loan using their business plan. Bingo I thought! I would work the “bank on it.”

I sat with several students discussing what a bank does, what a loan is, and how banks can help you protect and save your money. Then it was Timmy’s turn to sell his business idea to the bank for a loan. I asked Timmy, “Do you know what a bank does?” He said, “It keeps your money safe.” I told him he was correct, but I then told him banks do other things. He asked what? I asked him if he knew how banks made money? He said he didn’t know. I told him banks give out loans and collect interest on the loans. I told him banks will pay you money in the form of interest for keeping your money in the bank and not spending it. Timmy was so surprised and excited by the thought of having his money make more money. He wanted to know more about banks and how to open bank account; he wanted to know how much money he could make from interest. However, before we could answer all these questions club time ended.

After the club session I chatted with Ms. K. We discussed how we might be able to work personal financial literacy in the business club. I turned to leave, but before I could go, Timmy came up and asked “Mr. Brian?” I said “Yes, Timmy?” Timmy asked, “Will you be here next week?” I said, “I don’t know Timmy. We have to ask Ms. K.” Ms. K said, “I don’t know Timmy, should Mr. Brian come back next week?” Timmy smiled and nodded his head yes. And I told Timmy that I would see him next week.

I of course did return next week to see Timmy and work on the Super Cool Ice Cream Store. But it was amazing to see the spark in Timmy’s eyes as he learned about something he really had not had much exposure to. Timmy was excited to get a bank account and start to save money. He wondered how he could make more money using his business model. And while the FDIC Money Smart program may not have been developed for this kind of use, its information and content may have just sparked a young boy in Ypsilanti to become an entrepreneur.

Brian Rakovitis is an AmeriCorps member at United Way of Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor.

This post is part of a blog series highlighting the viewpoints of Michigan AmeriCorps Foreclosure Prevention Corps members serving at different foreclosure host sites around Michigan. View information about the program or see more stories in this series.

FY16 Omnibus Spending Bill Released

Written by Linda Couch, Senior Vice President for Policy at the National Low Income Housing Coalition

Congressional leaders released the text of the omnibus spending bill at about 1:30 am on December 16. The omnibus bill funds all 12 appropriations bills, including the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill, for FY16. The text of a tax extender package was also released just after midnight.

Congress is currently operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR), which will keep the government funded until midnight December 16. Sometime on December 16 Congress will pass another CR to avoid shutdown until December 22. It is possible that both the House and Senate could take up the omnibus and be done by December 18.

The omnibus spending bill is not perfect, but we know that it could have been a lot worse if we were not successful in raising the sequester spending caps and then convincing Congress to put some of these increased resources into key programs.

Highlights of the omnibus spending bill related to homeless and housing programs:

  • National Housing Trust Fund – No NHTF funds were raided!!
  • HOME – $950M for FY16; $50M increase from FY15 level
  • Vouchers – Appears short on renewals by about $369 million; only new vouchers are VASH vouchers.
  • Homeless Assistance Grants – Increase over FY15’s $2.135B to $2.250B.
  • Project-Based Rental Assistance – Appears short on renewal funding by about $200 million.
  • Public Housing Operating and Capital Funds – Small increases for both
  • Fair housing policy riders – None!
  • Moving to Work – Reduces the Senate’s proposed expansion from 300 to 100 agencies and adds research protocols, as well as some modest reforms.

The omnibus spending bill would not raid any funds from the National Housing Trust Fund, which is set to deliver its first resources to states in 2016 for the production, preservation, and operation of predominantly affordable rental housing for extremely low income households.

The omnibus bill would provide a $50 million increase relative to FY15 for the HOME program, bringing HOME funding to $950 million, a major victory for HOME program advocates. The House bill would have cut HOME to $767 million in FY16; the Senate bill would have effectively eliminated funding for the HOME program by cutting it to $66 million in FY16.

The omnibus bill would fund the overall Housing Choice Voucher program at $19.629 billion, providing $17.681 for voucher renewals and $65 million for new vouchers (all of the new vouchers are Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers). This renewal amount is expected to be sufficient if the voucher program continues to be administered in a bare-bones way, with very little rent increases / tenant income decreases, but further analysis is necessary. Renewal numbers are very mercurial things to pin down.

The omnibus bill would fund HUD’s Homeless Assistance Grant programs at $2.25 billion. The President’s budget request would have increased funding to $2.48 billion in FY16 to support efforts to end veteran homelessness in 2015, end chronic homelessness in 2017, and end homelessness for families, youth, and children in 2020.

For the renewal of Project-Based Rental Assistance contracts, the bill would provide $10.62 billion, which appears to be about $200 million less than the latest renewal need numbers. The renewal costs for FY16 increased significantly over FY15 levels because of a shift implemented in FY15 to calendar-year funding for the contract renewals. The shift resulted in savings for FY15 but meant appropriators would need to increase funding for FY16, a big challenge in a year of constrained resources. The FY15 appropriation for PBRA renewals was $9.73 billion.

Funding for Public Housing operating and capital funds remains insufficient overall, but the omnibus did increase the two public housing funding accounts compared to FY15 levels. In FY15, the operating fund received $4.44 billion and the capital fund received $1.875 billion. For FY16, the omnibus would provide $4.5 billion for the operating fund and $1.9 billion for the capital fund.

The House version of the THUD spending bill included three dangerous anti-fair housing provisions that are not included in the omnibus spending bill. The House bill would have prohibited HUD from implementing, enforcing, or administering the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule or its related Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Assessment Tool; prohibited HUD from implementing or enforcing the disparate impact standard of the Fair Housing Act; and prohibited any Fair Housing Initiative Program (FHIP) funds be used for the Private Enforcement Initiative (PEI). PEI grants support local, private fair housing groups’ testing, complaint intake, and investigation efforts. These are agencies that are critical to enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. The provision in the original House bill did not cut total fair housing funds but transferred the FHIP funds to the public agencies that engage in fair housing activities.

The Senate Committee bill would have required the HUD Secretary to expand of the number of Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) that can participate in HUD’s Moving to Work (MTW) demonstration by 300 agencies; the omnibus authorizes 100 new MTW agencies over seven years. The omnibus includes some significant research protocols, a big improvement over the Senate Committee’s bill. But key reforms remain missing such as retaining income targeting standards and protecting voucher funds from being emptied by MTW agencies.

Within Rural Development, the omnibus would provide $1.38 billion for Section 521 Rental Assistance, a significant increase compared to FY15’s $1.167 billion, which proved significantly insufficient to meet FY15’s renewal needs. The omnibus bill would also increase funds for the rural housing voucher program. 

Other notes regarding the omnibus:

  • HOPWA is increased slightly from $330 million to $335 million.
  • HUD’s Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control is level-funded at $110 million (the House bill would have cut it to $75 million).
  • The Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities program is funded at $151 million, an increase compared to FY15’s $135 million.

The tax extenders package would make the 9% minimum Low Income Housing Tax Credit floor permanent, and make it retroactive to January 1, 2015. The House is expected to consider the tax extender package separately from the omnibus. Both will be merged into one vehicle prior to subsequent Senate action.

Background and Resources:

The House passed its THUD bill on June 9 but the Senate never took up its version of the bill after the Senate Committee on Appropriations approved it on June 25 (see two NLIHC articles on the House bill, Bill Raiding NHTF Passes House, Defense Moves to Senate and House Narrowly Passes THUD Bill with Anti-Fair Housing Provisions and two articles on the Senate Committee bill, Senate Committee Passes Sequester-Constrained THUD Bill and NHTF Spared in Senate THUD Bill).

You can find an updated budget chart here.

Food Forward MI: Food Hubs Expanding Local Food Access

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Written by Mary ZumBrunnen, Director of Talent & New Market Initiatives at Prima Civitas

Typically triple bottom line businesses, food hubs are an increasingly economically viable piece of the supply chain puzzle as size-appropriate connections in local food systems.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 3.11.39 PMCo-chair of the Michigan Food Hub Network and Senior Associate Director of the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems (CRFS), Rich Pirog can often be heard repeating, “Once you’ve seen one food hub, you’ve seen one food hub”. The topic of this month’s blog post, food hubs may take the form of a physical space, such as a warehouse or even a virtual site – no one size fits all – and act as aggregation, distribution and marketing platforms for source-identified food. Over the last ten years, these unique operating models encompassing non-profit, business, cooperative and publicly owned ventures are gaining a lot of press as integral access points for regional populations’ local food procurement. Often compared to farmers markets, hubs are unique and separate in that they offer the opportunity to aggregate local food at wholesale volumes.

While a patron may buy a specific item at a grocery store or farm market, food hubs stand out by making it efficient for institutional purchase and distributor pick-up of larger volumes of local food.

potatoes-356131_640Across the country there are about 350 food hubs with a conservative estimate of total revenues of half a billion dollars. This estimate is extrapolated from data available in the 2015 National Food Hub Survey conducted by the MSU CRFS in partnership with the Wallace Center at Winrock International. Of the hubs surveyed, 98% are expected to increase demand for local food products in the next two years. With the rise of local food sales, this consumer trend has grown from $9 billion in sales in 2013 to $12 billion in 2014 (AT Kearney). In many cases, food hubs act as the gateway that allows small and mid-sized farmers to access institutional markets and turn their side business into a full-time job. While keeping the local dollar circulating and reducing the carbon foot print of non-seasonal procurement, food hubs help connect traditional “good food” and “good business” between community and the for-profit sector.

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Allen Market Place Food Nub

Spurring food hub development across the country, the Wallace Center at Winrock International launched the National Good Food Network to help move “good food” or food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable, into larger scale markets so that more producers, local economies and local communities would benefit in late 2007. With a goal of building connection, knowledge and community, the Wallace Center also launched its “Food Hub Collaboration”, a national partnership to ensure that “good food” is accessible where community typically shops and eats. Through these partnerships resource sharing, education and communication are nurtured and, in Michigan for example, influenced development of the statewide MI Food Hub Network with leadership from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, MSU CRFS, Morse Marketing Connections, LLC and several food hubs in 2011.

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ANC Executive Director Joan Nelson, along with Governor Snyder and Lansing Mayor Bernero

Within Michigan, there are about nine food hubs in operation and several more in development and start-up phases ranging from the Upper Peninsula to Grand Rapids and Saginaw over to Ann Arbor and Detroit. Each is unique in its operating model and many are offering additional services such as incubator kitchens, cooking classes and health screenings. Some of these organizations have gone from community assets to anchors that empower community ownership, food democracy and participatory engagement while affecting economic impact. They not only facilitate local dollar circulation, but support fair wage jobs creation whether hub associated, on-farm or indirectly.

In Lansing, Michigan, Allen Market Place Manager, Rita O’Brien says, “In addition to aggregation and distribution, we offer farmers and food producers access to incubator kitchens, dry and cold storage, vending at our year-round farmers market, cross-promotional materials, farmer networking opportunities, as well as educational resources such as workshops and mentoring services to help them sell to commercial buyers.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 3.23.19 PMIn the upper peninsula the U.P. Food Exchange (UPFE), a nontraditional food hub collaborative effort led by the Marquette Food Co-op and MSU Extension in conjunction with the Western U.P. Health Department to support local food activities, has formed a food policy committee to encourage local food as a priority for municipal government. Neal Curran, UPFE Local Food Projects Coordinator, says:

“The Policy Committee advocates for language that is inclusive of local food systems development in local municipal ordinances and provides guidance on best practices. Members of the UP Food Exchange supported the County of Marquette’s successful application for a Strategic Growth Initiative grant through Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. The funding will be used to conduct a feasibility study for a new multi-species meat processing facility in the UP.”

While there is not yet Michigan-specific economic data, the Wallace Center and MSU CRFS have tabulated hub numbers nationally three times since 2011. The number of hubs are growing and of those survey respondents nationally, about 2,100 directly related food hub jobs are supported. Within the north central region of the U.S. (including Michigan) about 27 hubs are represented. These entities supply fresh produce, meat and poultry, value-added products, milk/dairy, grains and starches, baked goods and more. The majority are operating on foundation grants or federal, state and local government funding and working to diversify into sustainable revenue streams. While building their business components, many are also assisting producers and suppliers to develop or review food safety plans and incorporating social missions such as promoting animal welfare and improving human health. Many also prioritize non-revenue generating charitable activities such as food donations to local food pantries/banks.

“One of things we are realizing is that while each food hub might be locally unique, our real strength lies in understanding the collaborative advantage that is provided as we begin to think more regionally about our foodshed. The impact of a late frost can be mitigated when there is a connected network of hubs across a region where products and information can freely flow between like-minded neighbors.” Evan Smith, CEO, Cherry Capital

Food hubs are increasingly demonstrating viable social and economic impact with strong opportunity for growth in scalability and support of new farmers entering the market. As their track records continue to be developed, food hubs will still benefit from investment and more effective deployment of capital, but are well positioned in Michigan by regional support infrastructures. As this is further explored – in particular expansion into K-12 and college purchasing supply chains, trust and quality is of top priority. Food safety policy and procedure are front and center on many producers and consumers minds. Check back next month to learn more about how small and mid-sized farmers are accessing markets through cost saving measures and sharing risk to get food on your plate.

*For more information on Michigan food hubs please visit the Michigan Food Hub Network website at: http://foodsystems.msu.edu/activity/info/michigan_food_hub_learning_and_innovation_network.

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mary-zumbrunnenAbout the author: Mary ZumBrunnen is the Director of Talent & New Market Initiatives at Prima Civitas, a statewide economic development non-profit catalyzing Michigan. She holds a BS in agriculture and natural resource communications from Michigan State University (MSU) and a MS in community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies, also from MSU. Currently she is pursuing a master of business administration. A small business owner and backyard farmer, Mary works to facilitate sustainable development through citizen engagement. 

 

Does Training Help Retain Employees?

Written by Lisa Assenmacher, Communications & Training Specialist

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CEDAM’s Lisa Assenmacher leading a training on communication planning at Destination: Vibrant Communities in November 2015.

Training is an investment by both management and the participant. If done effectively, everybody wins, including the organization and the broader mission. The nonprofit world certainly understands that resources for programing, much less training, can be difficult to secure. Moreover, this investment quickly adds up when you add up the time and resources required to travel, along with the lost hours in the office, on top of the training fees.

Further, who is to say that the return on the investment is worth it? Was the participant fully engaged, or constantly thinking about other projects and checking email? Was the training high-quality? Was it a requirement or was there also an interest in the topic? Merely attending a training doesn’t guarantee that it will benefit the employee or the organization.

It is estimated that only about 10% of all training experiences are transferred from the training environment to the job. (Baldwin & Ford, 1988)

What Drives Training Engagement and Does it Foster Organizational Commitment?

research-390297_640Last winter, I took a Business Research Methodology class for my M.B.A. curriculum at Eastern Michigan University. With a group, we used the scientific research method to try and understand an identified organization problem and determine potential conclusions using data, thereby helping us become better decision-makers. My group wanted to understand the drivers of training engagement, and in turn, whether engagement fostered organizational citizenship behavior (or a committed employee willing to go above and beyond). We each had different professional experiences related to that question, and I wanted to understand how to best serve CEDAM’s membership and encourage participation.

Contributing Factors

We analyzed many factors that were assumed to contribute to training engagement and organizational citizenship behavior.

Research on leader-member exchange has shown that positive leader-follower work  relationships are predictive of  work-related outcomes such as job performance, satisfaction with supervisor, commitment, and turnover intentions (Gerstner and Day, 1997).

We assumed that managerial support is an important consideration, with questions related to whether or not they make offerings available along with the level of encouragement or incentives. This goes hand in hand with qualities managers seek in an employee during the hiring process, among the highest, includes commitment and dedication to their job. Beyond the obvious preferences of wanting high-quality performers, turnover is expensive and time-consuming for an organization.

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We also assumed employee perception to be an important consideration, a factor that goes beyond whether or not they find the training valuable. Primarily, while it can be a person’s nature to be driven or one who simply gets by, there are motivating factors that can influence their perception of their workplace. In part related to manager support, the mere nature of the nonprofit industry which can include high rates of burnout, lack of capacity, inadequate initial training, unavailability for increased compensation and lack of mobility can, frankly, disincentivize and discourage engagement.

Further, depending on position or funding allocation, some employees are left out or overlooked when determining who is sent to training and for what purposes. These policies or procedures may turn an employee off from feeling committed to an organization or driven to find alternative opportunities because they don’t feel invested in or valued.

It is found that education and training have a positive influence on employees’ work attitudes, which can prompt them to actively exhibit in their work what they have learned. (Liang, Kao, Tu, Chin & Chung, 2013)

We also studied the the drivers of participation and engagement, including the availability of a range of formats, self-efficacy (the feeling of confidence and ability to do their job) and the relevance of their own personal need to advance and develop their human capital.

online-trainingManagement Support + Range + Satisfaction 

We surveyed more than 100 participants from different backgrounds. Of the responses, 87% were female, with an average age of 37 and median annual income of $25,000-50,000.

Several conclusions were made with important implications. Primarily, management seeks to hire people who are confident and are motivated self-starters, however, even those who fit that description are less likely to participate in a training unless an accessible range of opportunities is made available and supported by management. With technology growing so quickly, there are exceptional platforms that have diversified accessibility, requiring less resource investment. A range provides accessibility and accommodation to different learning styles and schedules.

classroom-trainingBeyond this, satisfaction of the training experience is the key complement to that employee who, by nature, is committed and driven, irrespective of their confidence level. The investment and support of high-quality, diversified training is more likely to encourage this employee to not only stay with the organization, but truly invest and care in its success because they will feel valued and motivated to grow further.

Basically, when an employee is in a supportive environment and has several options that can be customized to fit their schedule, they are more likely to engage, find it satisfying and transfer that knowledge to their workplace.

Learning Comes in Many Forms

Education and learning can take place in a variety of formats that venture beyond the traditional classroom setting. Each has purpose and, if appropriately used, can be effective. Reading (blogs, articles and other information sources) are easy ways to learn industry trends and discover new methods and best practices. Webinars, online classes, tutorials and toolkits are on-demand ways to engage with others and learn by doing. Traditional classroom settings offer networking opportunities and is still a preferred method by many. Peer groups and other associations offer a network of people with similar workplace functions and can be a supportive environment for new ideas and growth.

Invest in Your Employees, Your Future

As organizations plan their budgets for the next year and beyond, I encourage you to find ways to invest in staff. Moreover, identify ways to articulate the potential value and share your findings.  Thoughtfully and strategically assess the organization needs with respect to resources, goals and the potential of the people doing the work, and support it by pairing different formats. Thinking creatively and articulating policies and prioritizing can remove questions of doubt faced by employees and provide a system for accountability.

These efforts will save money and resources in the long-run, but more importantly, you may find a happier workplace with a committed staff working together to effectively serve the mission of the organization.

Nonprofit work is honorable, and we should do our best to recall our personal reasons for why we are in it to begin with. We need to devise solutions for our human capital to develop and thrive. Investing in training, for all employees, is one possibility and a great start.

Opportunities Available at CEDAM

CEDAM offers a range of training opportunities, with significant discounts for members. Coming in the Fall of 2016, we will host our fourth Destination: Vibrant Communities professional development day, and Real Estate Development Boot Camp. We have a few online classes available in Real Estate Development and Organizational Development, and from there, link to our partner Occupancy Solutions, L.L.C., who provides a range of on-demand online classes. You can participate for free in Connect & Share, CEDAM’s monthly lunchtime webinar series, and access past recordings. There is a wide variety of toolkits, videos and reports available on our resource library. We also share other partner resources through social media and e-newsletters. Finally, we always want to hear from you about topics that you would find useful.

Additional Reading:

Drivers of Training Engagement and the Implications For Organizational Commitment (full paper)

Food Forward MI: Where Food Access and Community Development Merge

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A community food system isn’t just about connecting local growers to a farm market or boosting seasonal tourism.

fruit-1022519_640Everyone has a stake in community. Not only do we all eat, which affects our health and well-being, but we must purchase that food thereby contributing to our local economy. Food also transcends our culture and brings us together through social networks. Yet, in most areas there is a disconnect between farmer and consumer – a critical linkage – ultimately short changing both physical and economic health as well as missing cultural opportunity to come together. This is where food access and community development merge to ultimately inform community food systems. We can keep dollars circulating in local economies, reduce our carbon foot print and allow for more opportunity within community-level decision making.

The Triple Bottom Line: local profit staying in our local economy, overlaid with environmental integrity supporting the planet, building health and social vibrancy for all residents.

dishes-938747_640The idea of food access, where all residents are able to procure fresh, healthy and affordable food is taken for granted by many people. However, for almost 20% of Michigan residents living at or below the poverty line (U.S. Census Data), this is a challenge rather than a given. For those nearly 20%, food security – the availability and access to food – can be an episodic or recurring challenge. For those residing in more affluent areas, food sovereignty is also on the table because as basic needs are addressed, attention is tuned to determining who makes decisions about agricultural policy and how it will ultimately affect health and economy while emphasizing local control.

In particular, regions with high poverty also tend to experience higher levels of obesity due to lack of healthy food options. In 2010 across Michigan, about 66% of our population was considered overweight, and 30% obese, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Together, that’s 96% of our population weighing in as unhealthy. Not coincidentally, only 32% of adults in Michigan reported consuming recommended levels of fruits (two or more servings per day), and only about 24% of adults reported consuming recommended amounts of vegetables per day (or three servings). This is at least in part due to a lack of healthy food choices.

Is there opportunity for economic development utilizing our regional bounty to support health?

food-960070_640Agriculture contributes more than $101 billion to Michigan’s annual state economy and makes up about 22% of the state’s employment according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Capitalizing on our natural bounty, many regions are addressing those challenges discussed above and leveraging them as opportunity to bridge health and economic wellness. This is done by creatively harnessing momentum around not only stereotypical foodie culture and artisanal agri-tourism “experience”, but also for example, the development of food innovation districts and institutional purchasing. In a 2008 study authored by David S. Conner, PhD. et al. entitled The Food System as an Economic Driver: Strategic Applications for Michigan, the questions were asked: “How much more (fruits and vegetables) should we eat?, How much is available seasonally?, How much money would farmers make?, and How many jobs and dollars would that create?”

vegetable-777473_640The answers were surprising. Michiganders were found to require about 2.15 more servings of daily fruits and 1.79 times more servings of vegetables. If these nutritional goals were met based on current average size of fruit farms at 56 acres and vegetable farms at 44 acres, that’s another 182 fruit and 619 vegetable farms (respectively) of average size required. Meeting those USDA dietary requirements utilizing Michigan products was estimated to increase the net total of Michigan jobs by 1,780 and $211 million in net income to the state – or 529 fruit-related jobs with $42.4 million income and 1,251 vegetable-related jobs generating $169.1 million. Unfortunately, we’ll still have to buy our bananas and coffee elsewhere, but we do have the technology to extend our growing season to meet this need.

How can participatory engagement within community development help build food security (and sovereignty) while harnessing health and economic opportunity that ultimately reduces our carbon footprint?

playmobil-451203_640Some define community development as community benefit organizations, aka non-profits or individuals, building ongoing relationships for the purpose of applying and implementing collective vision for the benefit of residents. Others define community development as a planned process with the specific intention of working with stakeholder groups to address issues affecting their well-being. To take this proactive approach to regional community food systems development, people are buying local when possible (thereby reducing the amount of resources used and emissions expelled), and also have the opportunity to get involved with the way food interfaces within their community. But there’s more…

We have the capacity to meet local need. Can you help connect the dots?

This blog will take a tour of those cutting edge programs, regions, policy-making and partnerships driving the frontline of community development and local food access in Michigan. We’ll hear from stakeholders including omnivores of all ages, farmers, business owners, educators and non-profit programmers about how they’re influencing their community food systems and what it means for the health of residents and the economy. Last month we attempted to provide context and backdrop against which to offset local food system development and with this blog discussed what that means with emphasis on opportunity for impacting regional triple bottom line. Next month, we will begin to discuss participatory strategy and development necessary to do this. Starting with “food hubs” – a physical or virtual model for aggregating, distributing and marketing locally grown food – we’ll look at highlights from businesses and non-profits ranging from the Upper Peninsula and West Michigan to the Capital City and Detroit. This blog poses the questions, “What must be in place so that larger populations may purchase local food at necessary volume?” and follow-up with “How can I get involved?”

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mary-zumbrunnenAbout the author: Mary ZumBrunnen is the Director of Talent & New Market Initiatives at Prima Civitas, a statewide economic development non-profit catalyzing Michigan. She holds a BS in agriculture and natural resource communications from Michigan State University (MSU) and a MS in community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies, also from MSU. Currently she is pursuing a master of business administration. A small business owner and backyard farmer, Mary works to facilitate sustainable development through citizen engagement. 

 

The End to Step Forward Michigan

Written by Chad Coffman, Project Lead Michigan Hardest Hit Fund

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The Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s (MSHDA) foreclosure prevention program “Step Forward Michigan” is closing its website to new applications December 31, 2015.  

  • December 31, 2015 – Last day to register a new Step Forward Michigan loan application.
  • January 31, 2016 – Last day to submit applications to Step Forward Michigan staff.
  • March 31, 2016 – Last day for homeowners to return executed loan closing documents.

A Look Back at Michigan’s Hardest Hit Fund Program, Step Forward Michigan by Project Lead Chad Coffman.

Michigan was the first state to provide homeowner assistance through its Hardest Hit Fund program, initially called “Help For Hardest Hit (H4HH)”. The H4HH program included mortgage assistance for unemployed homeowners and homeowners that had fallen behind on their mortgage.

  • In 2011, Michigan’s program was redesigned and rebranded as “Step Forward Michigan” in order to reach a greater number of households and broaden the lender participation in the program.

Participation by mortgage lenders grew from 24 to over 320. Now, the program also includes over 50 condo associations and 80 county treasurers. See the Participating Partner List posted on the program website.

  • In 2012, the Step Forward Michigan program significantly increased the per household program assistance to $30,000 and expanded the program to assist homeowners with negative equity.

In one year the program more than tripled the number of households assisted to date through a statewide Step Forward Michigan billboard campaign and increased effort to assist those with larger delinquency balances. Michigan’s Hardest Hit Fund quarterly reports are available on MSHDA’s website.

  • In 2013, with the help of statewide County Treasurers, Michigan was the first state to use Hardest Hit Funds to address property tax delinquencies.

By expanding its marketing efforts to include television and web advertisements starring HGTV’s Nicole Curtis and adding property tax assistance, the program reached its highest annual production in 2013 by providing over $70 million in interest free loans.

  • In 2014, the Step Forward Michigan program surpassed the milestone of 24,000 unique households assisted and began addressing another issue of the housing crisis by working with several communities to demolish abandoned homes with its Blight Elimination Program.

As the first state to address blight with Hardest Hit Funds, Michigan’s program has helped focus blight elimination efforts to specific neighborhoods within 16 Michigan cities. According to the Genesee County Treasurer, the use of Hardest hit Funds helps “stabilize neighborhoods, reduce crime and create opportunities for new investment”.

  • In 2015, the Michigan’s Hardest Hit Fund Program is quickly approaching over 30,000 families assisted. For several years now, Michigan has retained the second highest number of households assisted among the 18 Hardest Hit Fund states. The program has disbursed over $179 million for mortgage assistance, paid over $74 million toward property taxes and funded $93 million to help blight elimination projects.

More than 170 internal staff and perhaps hundreds of staff from housing counseling agencies, legal aid offices, mortgage lenders, taxing authorities, and others have been involved in responding to the housing crisis through the use of Hardest Hit Funds. Looking back at the impact of the Step Forward Michigan program, this group has created a network of connections and partnerships that is more prepared to respond to future housing issues.

Step Forward Michigan is closing its website to new homeowner applications December 31, 2015.  

Funding Michigan’s Roads

Written by Christian Gray, Policy Intern at CEDAM

highway-925881_1920Finally, a road funding plan has escaped the wrath of legislative gridlock and has been sent to the governor’s office for approval. Late on Tuesday night, November 3, the House was able to garner the votes necessary to concur changes made earlier that afternoon in the Senate.

The package of bills is forecasted to eventually create $1.2 billion in funding for the Michigan Transportation Fund by fiscal year 2021-2022. The plan calls for an increase in the gas tax from 19 cents to 26.3 cents (HB 4738) and an increase in the diesel tax from 15 cents to 26.3 cents (HB 4616) beginning on January 1, 2017. Thereafter inflationary increases, based on the Consumer Price Index, would begin on January 1, 2022. Whereas the original Senate plan had a gas/diesel fuel sunset, the final proposal has no sunset. The increase in fuel taxes is expected to generate $400 million in new revenue.

car-527817_640Also included in the plan is a 20% increase in vehicle registration fees (HB 4736), which is expected to generate $200 million in new revenue for the Michigan Transportation Fund. These increases in the fuel taxes and in registration fees reflect a compromise between the House and the Senate as the plan previously submitted by the House relied on $200 million to come from fuel tax increases and $400 million coming from a 40% increase in vehicle registration fees.

The other $600 million of what has been coined as a “600/600” plan will eventually come from the General Fund. However, the money being appropriated from General Fund dollars will be phased in as only $150 million will be removed in fiscal year 2019, increasing to $325 million in FY 2020, finally reaching $600 million in FY 2021 and subsequent years (HB 4370). Governor Snyder believes that the General Famerican-963191_640und will increase in the coming years to accommodate for the reallocation of funds. Initially, the governor had stated that he would not support any more than $400 million from the General Fund, but has now claimed that the bill package will fix the roads in a “fiscally responsible” way.

Other elements of the plan include an income tax rollback, which is scheduled to take place after January 1, 2023 and only when General Fund growth is 1.425 times the rate of inflation (SB 414). Additionally, the House and the Senate agreed to increase registration fees for hybrid electric vehicles and non-hybrid electric vehicles (HB 4614). Lastly, there will be an expansion to the Homestead Property Tax Credit (HB 4370), which would increase the amount of gross rent/mortgage paid that can be utilized to calculate the credit and increase the household income phase-out range by $10,000.

Food Forward MI: An Introduction

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Daily we hear that demand for fresh water, energy and food are rising. This causes many great concern and at times a sense of hopelessness, as media digestion can leave us reaching for antacids.

A Growing Crisis: Food and Energy Shortages

farm-500658_1920According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, across the globe, agriculture accounts for about 70% of our fresh water draw. The FAO estimates that about 60% more food than currently produced will be required to feed the world population by 2050 and total agricultural water withdrawals will increase by 10%.

Many states within the US are already facing a shortage. Energy consumption is also increasing at an even faster rate and projected to double by 2035. While this allows us to be more connected than ever before, we are currently facing a widening health and income gap within the US and Michigan. It is here that our communities are poised and have significant opportunity to be healthier, smarter, faster and more self-reliant by tuning in to our own local food systems within the mitten state.

Food Deserts in Michigan: A Growing Problem

As the second most agriculturally diverse state (California being the first) and with abundant fresh water, Michigan has the potential to lead the way into the new millennium as the agricultural powerhouse. However, with this wealth of produce and increasing number of farm market operations, about 30% of our population is still found to be obese by the National Center for Chronic Disease Preventionmcdonalds-904054_640 and Health Promotion. This indicates a lack of healthy food access – and the USDA reports that many Michigan cities are home to overlapping census track designated “food deserts.”

A food desert is defined as an urban or rural community where residents who do not own a car or have access to public transportation and there is no place one may walk to buy groceries.

Therefore, shopping is typically done at a convenience store with limited offerings of fresh, healthy foods. Not coincidentally, Michigan also ranks higher than the national average in population living below the poverty line. Within Lansing’s north region alone, about 24 food desert tracks overlap, and all children within the Lansing School District are on the free and reduced lunch program.

Quality of Life, Employment and Food Access Are Inextricably Linked. 

As we find ourselves in the middle of this predicament, one blog can’t address it all. However, we do have some influence over how our communities and households react, or proactively act, to address this situation. In fact with small changes, individuals and organizations seemingly unrelated to one another can affect the greater web of sustainable development within their community and our state.

Opportunities to Educate and Engage

education-662458_640Taking a look at these opportunities through the rest of 2015 and 2016, the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan and Prima Civitas will be sharing regional, state and federal level opportunities and “food for thought” about how individuals and communities can make change within their own regions through the lens of food access and education for K-12.

Some may filter food and K-12, determining this discussion does not impact them or their work. However, there is opportunity for all to learn about our food systems, including our talent, innovations, natural resources and policy impacting each and every one in this myriad of challenges and growth.  Many conversations are taking place around governance, purchasing, production, people and our great state’s potential to step forth as a global leader in agriculture.

Actions Creating Impact

Do you eat? The answer is yes. Do the young people in your life eat? The answer is yes. How can we collectively set forth at the institutional and neighborhood levels to better meet our health, environment, educational and economic needs?  Your actions impact the entire supply chain though most reading this are likely on the consumer end – and that is the true beginning. All readers effect the supply and value chains of this state’s sustainability and economic growth – a finely balanced scale that you are able to help keep at level growth.

Avenues for Change and ConsiderationANC Food Hub2

Therefore, in partnership, it is our hope to deliver this Michigan update and opportunity blog to offer avenues for change and consideration, that members may be more empowered to impact their community, clientele, constituents and/or household. Through 2016, we’ll take a look at innovative ideas like food hubs as economic drivers for the physical and economic health of our state, food innovation districts, educational and talent pipelines, food policy councils and urban farming. We’ll also offer a snap shot into the interconnection between farm to fork and much in between. How does local food access really affect our state, our health and our children? Let’s go on a tour and find out….

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mary-zumbrunnenAbout the author: Mary ZumBrunnen is the director of Talent Initiatives at Prima Civitas, a statewide economic development non-profit catalyzing Michigan. She holds a BS in agriculture and natural resource communications from Michigan State University (MSU) and a MS in community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies, also from MSU. Currently she is pursuing a master of business administration. A small business owner and backyard farmer, Mary works to facilitate sustainable development through citizen engagement. 

Detroit Community Benefits Ordinance Update

By LaToya Morgan, Public Policy Manager for the Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD)

“Agreements reached through good faith negotiation with the legal weight of an ordinance will provide assurances that promises made are promises kept.”

Proposing the Detroit Community Benefits Ordinance

Grass roots community leaders are calling for an up or down vote from City Council on the proposed Detroit Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO). Speaking for the Northwest Neighborhood Community Benefits Consortium, Bill Hickey urged Council to vote on the ordinance at the September 29 regular session.

On June 30 this year, the Michigan State Legislature voted House Bill 4052 into law. The resulting legislation, Public Act 105 of 2015 targets the ability of local governments to pass laws “regarding the regulation of terms and conditions of employment within local government boundaries for employees of nonpublic employers.”

PA 105 does nothing to stop local municipalities from passing CBOs. It does, however, seek to limit what goes into those CBOs with respect to the employee/employer relationship. Following the passage of the bill, the city’s Legislative Policy Division (LPD) forwarded a memo to Council outlining recommended changes to the current draft CBO. While it is not in the public’s interest for council to pass a local ordinance that would be vulnerable to court challenges, just how much editing of the current draft is necessary to remain compliant with state law is subject to interpretation. LPD has made its recommendations and the community awaits action.

Navigating Development with CBOs

Some have questioned the value of a Community Benefits Ordinance when it is certainly possible for developers to reach agreements without an ordinance. But, without an ordinance to set specific permanent legal parameters, developers can choose to not engage the community whatsoever. Another very important note is that the CBO does not absolutely require that an agreement be signed. Written into the law are exceptions in cases where an agreement cannot be reached due to impasse. Under the ordinance, developments of a certain size (those worth $15 million or more) that ask for a certain amount of public subsidies such as tax abatements and public to private land transfers, require developers to engage the community. Those agreements can contain any number of community benefits. Common examples of community benefits agreed to by developers across the country have been environmental mitigation and agreements to hire a certain percentage of local workers. However, agreements can contain any number of benefits that fit the needs of the particular community. Across the U.S. there are many examples such as transportation opportunities for local residents, community centers, social services and even new grocery stores.

The CBO also contains provisions that would serve to legally hold developers accountable for honoring benefits agreed to. The importance of legal accountability for promises made has become obvious in light of incentive packages granted to developers in Detroit over the years. A prime example is the Marathon Oil Refinery expansion project in southwest Detroit. Marathon received a $175-million property tax break for the project in 2007 and pledged to recruit Detroiters for new jobs at the refinery. Since then, Marathon has hired few city residents. Read the Detroit Free Press Article here.

Varying Perspectives of CBOs

In Detroit, there has been both opposition and support for a CBO from business and economic leaders. Rodrick Miller, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), has stated that a CBO could create additional barriers and discourage new investment. http://michiganradio.org/post/debate-heats-over-community-benefits-ordinance-detroit#stream/0

The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) publicly supports the adoption of the Detroit CBO while the Southeast Michigan Chamber Alliance remains opposed. President and CEO of the MBCC Kenneth Harris says that he and his organization support the ordinance because it would help build relationships between developers and local small businesses. Read the article here.

Many laws exist to create a predictable process such as private property rights laws, building and zoning ordinances and laws that regulate banking and investment. It is widely recognized by economic development professional world-wide that all markets and bargaining processes need sufficient structure to function.

Understanding Local Economies

Local residents bring to the table a deep understanding of the unique needs and economies of their communities. Agreements reached in cities across the nation and the world demonstrate that community inclusion in development decisions does not hinder economic growth at all but actually promotes more equitable people-centered growth and development.

The community believes the proposed Detroit CBO has been on the table long enough. It’s time for Council to vote and let Detroit residents know if their elected representatives support a predictable process that ensures an equal voice for the community in development decisions. Community benefits agreements reached through good faith negotiation with the legal weight of an ordinance will provide assurances that promises made are promises kept.  

Read the current proposed Detroit Community Benefits Ordinance here.

Learn More at Destination: Vibrant Communities

Join LaToya Morgan, Former State Representative Rashida Tlaib and other community leaders in a workshop that will explain community benefits agreements and lead conversations that will help participants identify potential solutions and models for their own communities. This workshop is one of several to choose from at Destination: Vibrant Communities in the areas of real estate development, capacity building and community engagement. Learn more about the upcoming training and register here.