CEDAM Blog

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Partners for Rural America Conference Recap

By Jessica AcMoody, Policy & Program Specialist

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Wyoming for the Partners for Rural America (PRA) annual summer conference. The conference highlights rural economic development around the country, and gives members of PRA an opportunity to share exciting rural development going on in their state as well as learn what is happening regionally and federally with government programs aimed at rural communities.

Partners for Rural America was formed to support the efforts of State Rural Development Councils (SRDCs) which are positioned to expand economic and social opportunities for America’s rural communities and their residents, promote equal treatment of rural America by government agencies and the private sector, and to provide a collective voice for rural America. (More information on SRDCs can be found here).

Along with members of SRDCs in numerous states, attendees included representatives from HUD, USDA Rural Development, Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, the State of Nevada’s Governor’s Office, Clemson University, Southern Utah University, chambers of commerce and extension offices. Sessions included a presentation on the Sustainable Communities Initiative, the Regional Center Area Sector Analysis & Process, and a panel on funding of SRDCs. One of the most interesting sessions was on rural philanthropy and the transfer of rural wealth (featuring stories from our two communities in our state – the Barry Community Foundation and the Fremont Area Community Foundation). This session highlighted the issues that the Michigan Rural Council’s Rural Philanthropy workgroup focused on and talked about ways community groups and foundations in rural areas could tap into wealth in the community. I was also able to give a brief presentation highlighting rural placemaking in Michigan, and the activities going on throughout Michigan surrounding MIplace and the placemaking initiative.

The second day of the conference was a tour entitled “Economic Drivers of Wyoming: Energy, Tourism and Agriculture”. The tour highlighted the various ways rural development is advancing the economy of Wyoming. It included a visit to a coal mine where surface mining takes place, a visit to a Wyoming Main Street program participant, a stop at a cattle ranch that included four generations of ranchers, a drive through a wind turbine field and a visit to Ft. Bridger State Park which first served as an emigrant stop along the Oregon Trail, then as an important stop on the Mormon trail in the 1850s, and finally as a military outpost in 1858.

It was inspiring to see the innovative ways that rural areas across the nation are finding to drive economies, increase wealth of rural areas and improve the lives of rural residents. I hope to lead the Michigan Rural Council in building on the ideas and innovations that I brought back to Michigan from the conference to help revitalize and enhance our rural communities.

How to Overcome Sudden Obstacles When Planning a Conference

By Liv Hagerman, Events & Membership Associate

When planning events there is bound to be obstacles. They can either be manageable or cause you a decent amount of stress. The following will help in dealing with the difficulties that are to follow an obstacle.

1) Stay Calm

It seems pretty simple and obvious, but surprisingly the most forgotten step. When you let your anxiety take over, you begin to think unclearly and make sudden rash decisions. If you don’t stay calm you cause yourself unnecessary stress, as well as make the people around you stressed. Remember where there is a will, there is a way.

2) Back to the Drawing Board

Before the problem appeared, you chose this specific option. Go back to your other options. Reassess which one is the best with the new information, and roll with it. You can either choose one of your original options or create something new. Until a contract is in place, you can always start over.

3) Be Quick

When an obstacle happens, it takes time away from the final product. It’s always better to encounter an obstacle earlier rather than later. When you have been working on something for a while when the obstacle occurs you have suddenly wasted a grand amount of time. When starting over you have to move more swiftly in the decision making and the final details. Time suddenly flies, don’t let it trip you up; you must move quickly as well but you want the same kind of quality and effort you originally exerted.

4) Organization is Your Savior

From the start of your planning keep everything. Notes from the initial planning stage are important for when you need to revisit them to come up with option B. Also, read through all contracts line by line and make sure you understand all the language used. For more important details, such as deadlines, prices and contact information; it is best to highlight. It is more efficient to find such information if it already was found and sticks out. Being organized won’t only save you time but also decrease your stress level.

5) Put a Smile On

Don’t lose you’re charismatic self in the mix of it all. It’s much easier to get what you need if you’re friendly. People want to work harder for someone they like. Smiling makes you friendly and likable. If you let the stress change you persona, people will move slower and not make what you need a priority. Plus, a smile looks good on everyone! =)

6) It Will Work Out

There is always a solution to a problem. There is nothing you can’t overcome. There are other options that deserve to be explored, it may not be your first choice but it’s still a choice. Things are never perfect but you can put in the extra effort to make it the best you can do. If you do your best, people are still going to think the end result is awesome. Keep pushing on, things will fall into place.

 

Voices of AmeriCorps – Shannon Farmer

americorps-banner
Shannon-farmer

Shannon Farmer

I lost my husband five years ago to a brief illness. Shortly after, unable to meet the demands of being mother and father as well as the sole provider for my family, my three children and I became homeless. I felt ashamed, and everywhere I went, I felt like people thought I was looking for a hand out. I will never forget the feelings that I experienced during my stay in the homeless shelter. I felt like I had failed my family.

As a result of my experiences, I decided that I wanted to prevent others in my community from becoming homeless. When I first started my position with the Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps (MFPC), I was unsure that foreclosure intervention was my calling. After all, these people already had homes, and although they were fighting against circumstances usually beyond their control, they are not what I considered to be the vulnerable, homeless population that I felt I had a calling to work for. Despite my reservations, I decided to go for it and jumped in head first.

My experience as an AmeriCorps member has been challenging. I was like a fish out of water in the foreclosure prevention program because of my lack of experience with foreclosures. I have never even owned my own home. I have, however, been through many trying times and am able to empathize with clients. A person does not truly understand how it feels to be homeless unless they have felt that pain personally, and I use that personal experience to relate on a deeper level with clients. Some days I feel inadequate to the others working in my site office because I lack basic knowledge of some parts of the home ownership arena. Being able to put aside my insecurities and dive into the program was tough for me. With only a few months left, I am so glad I did. I feel a sense of accomplishment for serving my country while at the same time, learning new things and figuring out what I want to be “when I grow up.” I know I want to work with others in need and honestly, I don’t care in what aspect I do that.

I feel pride in myself that I have never felt before whenever I help a new client understand their DHS benefits or when I answer the phone and realize that I have the answers to the questions they have regarding their home in foreclosure. The other employees at my site come to me with questions about how to help clients because my experiences in life have taught me many things about the government system and community resources. My past is no longer a dark spot in my mind filled with tears, embarrassment and frustration. Those experiences have now transformed into tools that only I have to be able to assist and empower clients. I hope to continue this work after my year with AmeriCorps is over because I found new purpose in my life and want to continue to have an impact on lives one family at a time.

Shannon Farmer is an AmeriCorps member at City of Grand Haven Neighborhood Services in Grand Haven.

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.

The Bright Side: Food & Farm

Get a sample of fresh food scenes in Michigan that are solving challenges like food access, health and nutrition, and food and farm business success.


1-freshFresh Michigan Food

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What do you do when you don’t have a car and the nearest produce section is 10 miles away? When your kids have never seen certain fruits or vegetables? When you are up against all odds?

2-rootsLansing Roots, Lansing

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This farm incubator in Lansing is teaching new, diverse farmers how to grow and succeed in Mid-Michigan. The Greater Lansing Food Bank coordinates the program.


3-fishCDC Farm and Fishery, Detroit

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Detroit’s first licensed aquaponics farm grows basil and tilapia in a former liquor store. Go on a tour of the farm and see how Central Detroit Christian is using the business to create jobs, job skills and fresh food in Detroit.


4-campSummer Garden Camp, Lansing

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Kids in northwest Lansing attend this two-week NorthWest Initiative garden program to see their summer school garden in action, learn to grow food, and harvest and cook fresh food.


5-arabYalla Eat! Walking Tour, Dearborn

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Dearborn has the most dense population of Arab Americans in the United States, as well as an amazing array of family-owned food businesses! Go on a food tour of Warren Avenue with the Arab American National Museum.


6-ampAllen Market Place, Lansing

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A new food hub in Mid-Michigan connects local farmers to local businesses that need fresh food. The Allen Market Place, operated by Allen Neighborhood Center, also hosts food workshops, commercial kitchen space, and a year-round farmers market.


7-edenEden Gardens’ Garden

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Not your typical community garden, the Eden Gardens community garden is bridging a rift that split the African American and Jewish communities in Detroit during the 60′s. The garden is a partnership between Eden Gardens Block Club and the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue.

8-eatingEating Healthy

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Food access, nutrition and education are key to healthy lifestyles, and it is so easy to bring people together around food.

MHPN Intervention Loan Program

This is a guest post written by Nancy Finegood with the MHPN

bannerLogo1The Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN) announces the launch of its Intervention Loan Program.  A part of the overall MHPN Preservation Fund, the Intervention Loan Program provides small loans of up to $15,000 for repairs to historic buildings located in Michigan.  Eligible applicants include non‐profit organizations, municipalities, Downtown Development Authorities (DDA), landbanks and religious organizations who are the owners or operators of a historic property. Loan proceeds can be used to pay for emergency repairs or rehabilitation of major buildings, such as roofing, windows, structural repairs and HVAC systems. The loan can also be used for stabilization or mothballing of the building, if it is part of an overall rehabilitation plan.

Selection criteria for the award of an Intervention Loan include items such as: historic significance, long term viability, repayment capacity and project location.  Funds are limited and MHPN is currently accepting applications.  Loan approvals will be made on an ongoing, rolling basis.

Michigan has nearly 1,800 historic properties, buildings, structures and districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are thousands of additional historic buildings in the State that are not listed, and many—registered or not—are in need of significant repair and rehabilitation. Preserving historic homes, buildings and places provides significant economic, community, and environmental benefits.

The MHPN is the only statewide, nonprofit organization dedicated to recognizing and preserving Michigan’s rich cultural and architectural heritage. Its mission is to advocate for Michigan’s historic places to contribute to our economic vitality, sense of place and connection to the past.

For more information about the Intervention Loan Program or to receive an application, please contact MHPN at 517.371.8080 or email at info@mhpn.org.

Entrepreneurs Finding a Home in Michigan

By Marcy Kates, Coordinator of the Microenterprice Network of Michigan

A few weeks ago, the CEDAM blog was titled “Starting a Business in Michigan.” It highlighted not only a few of the unique and exciting businesses that have been developed, but also some great resources to assist in the process.

In June, Michipreneur (a very active blog/social media entity) covered the Mackinac Policy Conference, and simultaneously polled Michigan entrepreneurs across the state to measure their thoughts about the culture awaiting Michigan start-ups in our great state.

It is a pleasant surprise to see that the results aren’t all about the need for start-up capital. Yes, its importance was clear throughout the results. However, the #1 answer to the question “Why did you choose the Michigan city you are in to locate your company?” was “It’s my home.” The two most popular answers to a question asking about most valuable resources were affordable workspace and mentorship.

Opportunities to provide narrative feedback yielded similarly interested thoughts; individuals expressed a desire to locate businesses in walkable, inclusive communities. They appreciate the opportunity for networking and collaboration. One respondent even stated that s/he still wants Michigan communities to be “cooler.

Yes, those who took the survey often stated they wished more investment funding and seed capital was available, but that didn’t take precedence in the comments or the final statistical response. Clearly, emphasis needs to continue on the “community” aspect of “community development” to keep entrepreneurs at home, and to make Michigan a home for new residents.

Starting a Business in Michigan

LINC

LINC began a business incubator in 2011. Today they also have coworking space. (Grand Rapids, MI)

Over the past few years, many CEDAM members have added new services to support small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs. Last month CEDAM connected with the I-69 Trade Corridor Michigan SBDC to film a Starting a Business class that covers everything entrepreneurs should consider to ensure that the business they start will be successful. We bundled the three hour workshop into an hour long video. Copies of the class materials are available below, as well as in the video description on YouTube.

The video is especially useful for those who are unable to make it to one of the many physical locations SBDCs host trainings in.

To attend a Starting a Business workshop in person or register for other business-related trainings from Michigan SBDCs, visit this page.

 


Download All Class Materials (ZIP)

View Individual Class Materials (PDF)
Slides
Guide to Start a Business
Business Plan Worksheet
Michigan eLibrary
Venture Plan Online
Next Steps Homework

Conferences: More than Content

By Liv Hagerman, Events & Membership Associate

Should you attend the conference?

The key attractive point of a conference is the material. Is it supplemental to your job? Are you learning something new? These things make a conference appealing but there is a lot more to a conference than its contents. What if the material is beneficial and interesting but not necessarily new? An important aspect that should urge you to want to go to the conference is the simple chance to network.

Valuable Resources

It’s amazing how much we can learn from each other, without even realizing it. When talking to someone in a similar but different position you are able to see how they handle certain situations. You can consider their technique and process and whether or not their results were successful to help figure out your own process when faced with a similar situation. Everyone has their own technique on how they go about their day to day activities, when you discover one that works better than what you were previously doing you can tweak your way to make it better.

Networking Should Be Both Natural and Planned

From a facilitating point of view, networking is a large part of the conference. Make sure to plan in break times (with snacks – people love snacks) and social events for your attendees to mingle. People consistently value and rate highly the networking opportunities on their conference evaluation.  Sometimes people attend conferences and never even attend a single session because they value the opportunity to interact with their peers. While I don’t recommend that, it proves the value of these interpersonal experiences.

Up Close and Personal

Human beings are social beings! Networking is the chance to relax and share information. It’s a casual way of learning that doesn’t have the pressure of the presentation room. A lot of the time, attendees will learn more from their peers than the presentations. Why? The conversations that happen are extra engaging! Generally, these conversations are more intimate since they’re one-on-one or in small groups of three or four. When given the time to get to know each other, you gain a different  perspective in your industry and build authentic relationships.

Happy Attendees = Success

I’m not saying that content isn’t important; the content is your biggest seller! However, a conference shouldn’t rely solely only on its content for it to be a success. Some of the most important information can be the driest presentation but still necessary and a large selling point. Networking makes a conference fun, and can help elevate moods to keep attention sharp.

Voices of AmeriCorps: Community Partnerships

“Before starting this project, I did not understand the importance of community partnerships and involvement when trying to organize workshops likes this one and other similar functions. I’ve learned that, sometimes, to be able to help is to know somebody who is able to help. This idea demonstrates why community partners are so important, for as we continue to forge relationships with each other we, at the same time, strengthen each other’s ability to help those that we serve.”

-Andre Crotte, WMU graduate and co-developer of the Spanish-language Financial Education & Foreclosure Prevention Workshop

Crystal Elissetche

Crystal Elissetche, MFPC member serving at Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services

By Crystal Elissetche, Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps Member

From Southern Texas to Michigan
I am the daughter of Mexican-migrant parents. Currently, I am serving my second AmeriCorps term with the Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps at Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. (KNHS) helping to lessen the impact of foreclosure.  But before arriving at AmeriCorps, I grew up on the Texas border in the 4th poorest county in Texas and where the dominant language is Spanglish. My formative years were spent traversing the United States following ‘the crops’ all the way from Texas to Michigan onto Washington and back to Texas. These experiences forced upon me an awareness of the inequalities and poverty that plague the United States. Having borne witness to the exploitation of people during my young life is what fuels my passion for helping underserved groups, especially migrant and immigrant communities. It is this passion that has led me to AmeriCorps, and which motivates me every day during my service year. Fueled by this passion, I have dedicated my second term to expanding foreclosure prevention services to Kalamazoo’s Spanish-speaking community. A task that is too big to tackle alone.

Growing Hispanic Community
According to the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau, Kalamazoo, MI has experienced a double digit increase of Hispanic residents from 2000 to 2010. Kalamazoo’s Hispanic population increased 43% to 4, 736, “…making efforts to increase educational and economic opportunities to the Hispanic community vital to the region’s future…” (2011, Growth in Population of Hispanic People in Kalamazoo Points to need for Better Education, MLive.com). After critically considering and analyzing the needs of Kalamazoo’s Hispanic community, I realized there is a gap in services for monolingual residents, leading me to the idea of a Spanish-language Financial Education & Foreclosure Prevention Workshop. Thankfully, I had the full support of KNHS and due to connections formed at a previous service project, I had a strong network of local partners also willing to help. One of these partners happened to be Western Michigan University Professor Michael Millar.

Connecting Households to Foreclosure Assistance
Working with Professor Millar and his service-learning class, I recruited and directed two WMU students to structure and execute the workshop. Modeled after KNHS’ early programming, the workshop became a tool to assess community need and to begin mapping out how services are currently accessed by Kalamazoo’s Spanish speaking community. Three service agencies, including Telamon, Inc., Community Federal Credit Union, and The Kalamazoo People’s Coop, along with six volunteers, assisted in launching the workshop. New connections were formed and existing connections have been strengthened as a result. Our collective effort has resulted in a substantial increase in the number of Spanish speaking households seeking KNHS foreclosure assistance.

Professor Millar is committed to continuing a partnership with KNHS and the future MFPC member. Beginning in the fall of 2014, WMU students will be tasked with launching mobile-workshops that address financial literacy and foreclosure prevention. KNHS and I believe this service project is the start of something big in Kalamazoo.

Crystal Elissetche is an AmeriCorps member at Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. in Kalamazoo.

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.

 

The Bright Side: Michigan Housing & Community Development Fund

If Michigan is going to be a comeback state, we need to find a way to create communities people want to live in. One of CEDAM’s policy goals is to fund the Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund. We traveled the state to visit completed and in-progress projects made possible by the fund to see what difference it has made for homeowners, business owners and residents.


MiPlace


1 mhcdfMichigan Housing and Community Development Fund

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This video introduces the MHCDF, its purpose, history, and projects made possible by the fund.

2 habitatGrand Traverse Neighborhood, Flint

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Habitat for Humanity of Genesee County has revitalized 30+ homes in Flint’s Grand Traverse Neighborhood.


3 GatewayThe Gateway, Fremont

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Visit a historic 1926 high school in downtown Fremont that Home Renewal Systems is renovating into senior apartments.


4 west villageWest Village Manor, Detroit

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The retail space in West Village Manor was vacant and barely habitable before LAND, Inc. purchased the building and renovated the spaces, which are now home to local businesses and organizations.


5 willow havenWillow Haven, Linden

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Venture, Inc. acquired these apartments and completely transformed them.


6 herkimerHerkimer Apartments, Grand Rapids

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Dwelling Place revitalized an entire block in Grand Rapids, including the historic 1985 Herkimer Hotel and a new development behind it.


7 conclusionWhy MHCDF?

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Final thoughts on the Michigan Housing and Community Development Fund and what happens without community improvements.