Investing in Place to Grow Our Economy

Posted by on October 23, 2023

In October, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation approved $99.2 million in grant funding through the Revitalization and Placemaking Program (RAP). RAP is an incentive program in Michigan that provides state funding to address COVID-19 impacts and support community revitalization. The program invests in projects promoting population and tax revenue growth, such as rehabilitating vacant and blighted buildings and historic structures, and the development of permanent place-based infrastructure associated with social zones and traditional downtowns, outdoor dining, and place-based public spaces. 

This was the second round of RAP and the second time the grant award list included a project(s) from the Marquette County area. In 2021, Ore Dock Brewing Company received $3.9 million to support the project we see happening on Front Street (among other aspects of the project), and the City of Negaunee received $885,000 to support upgrades to Iron Street, a project which is quickly coming to completion. The Negaunee project was featured during the recent Michigan Economic Developers Association (MEDA) meeting in August. The City of Houghton also secured $1 million in RAP funds during round one, bringing our U.P. total to approximately $5.7 million out of $83.8 million awarded.  

In this newest round of awards, four U.P. projects were awarded: $588,000 in Marquette to support the redevelopment of a building into a cultural trailhead and arts space, $4.5 million to support the Vault project in downtown Marquette, $330,000 to support improvements in downtown Escanaba and $1 million for a project in Sault Ste Marie. Overall, the U.P. flexed its muscles again, bringing in over $7 million in state funding. 

Investments in “place” have become a pillar of economic development. And it only takes a few conversations with business owners and policymakers to understand why: people now choose where to live and then find or create a job there. Efforts to revitalize communities and create thriving places have been ongoing for over a decade now, and most of us know someone who has chosen to accept or turn down a job based on the vibrancy of its location. Because of this, we must continue to make such investments and remain prepared to take advantage of opportunities like RAP when they become available. This type of investment is often called community development, but really, it’s just good economic development. 

In recent years, the LSCP has increased its community development efforts through partnerships like our professional services contract in Ishpeming, our long-standing economic services agreement in Negaunee, meetings with many township partners, and more. We were honored to write letters of support for several RAP-related projects and provide economic impact data for one of the successful applications. Our work in housing, air service, childcare, and more also ties into efforts toward vibrant, investment-ready communities.  

The focus on creating places that naturally attract and retain people and investment is a more complex equation than many strategies historically employed in economic development efforts. It requires more partners, creative thinking, more resources, and the ability to maintain a long-term vision.  

Congratulations to those who poured significant time into their RAP 2.0 applications – we’re thrilled to welcome more investment to Marquette County. We’re honored to be a part of these current efforts and excited for what the future holds not only for these projects but also the countless others which are ideas now, but with collaboration and hard work can become reality in the years to come.