Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI)?

The Regional Prosperity Initiative is a voluntary competitive grant process included in the FY2014 and 2015 budgets, as well as the recommended 2016 budget, to encourage local private, public, and non-profit partners to create vibrant regional economies.

Why do we need a formal mechanism for regional collaboration? Why is it important?

Many of Michigan’s regions and their various public planning and service delivery entities have overlapping responsibilities yet competing visions for economic priorities. The absence of a broad based regional vision and coordination of services creates both redundancies and gaps. This creates confusion for local, state, federal, private and non-profit partners seeking to invest in a region’s success. Formalizing a collaborative relationship among regional partners will allow the state, as well as private and non-profit stakeholders, to recognize local efforts and work in closer collaboration with regional decision makers throughout the state to support their efforts for economic prosperity.

What is WUPPDR's role?

WUPPDR is the facilitator and organizer of the collaborative process in the Western Upper Peninsula. In 2014, in accordance with state law, WUPPDR worked with regional stakeholders, including a “Collaborative” of 23 representatives of various economic and public/nonprofit sectors, to develop a five-year Regional Prosperity Plan. In 2015, WUPPDR continues as a Collaborative, which is the first of three stages of a progressively more formal regional organizational structure. The second stage is development of a Regional Prosperity “Council,” which has formal agreements for shared services and a governing entity, and the third stage is formation of a “Board” consolidated from various existing boards.

How much money has WUPPDR been awarded?

In 2014, WUPPDR was granted its full request of $250,000 from a total of $2.5 million statewide. In 2015, WUPPDR was granted $228,750.

Why has WUPPDR, rather than another entity in the region, been awarded these funds?

The state is made up of fourteen state-designated planning regions as well as one independent metropolitan planning organization. In 2014 and 2015, these were the only entities eligible to apply for funds. For purposes of the Regional Prosperity Initiative, WUPPDR is one of three service delivery sub-regions within the Upper Peninsula Prosperity Alliance.

The planning regions are best equipped to undertake this project because they were created specifically to take on a variety of tasks with a broad regional outlook. “Region” is in their names, whereas for most organizations, regional thinking is just one component of operations or even, in some cases, an afterthought.

WUPPDR has considerable visibility and name recognition in the Western Upper Peninsula. WUPPDR is well known to be involved and experienced in many different projects and activities in the Region; has close relations with many agencies and organizations, including State Government; and is a central information source and service provider for local governments.

WUPPDR is also an Economic Development District of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). In that capacity, WUPPDR prepares a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) that examines the region’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and identifies planned projects to expand and improve the regional economy. Many of WUPPDR’s activities are conducted in furtherance of this broad strategy.

WUPPDR has the foundation to bring together and coordinate resources more efficiently and with less duplication than any other organization. WUPPDR can thus rise above the segmented categories of service providers that may otherwise communicate and search for opportunities only with others in their areas of interest.

How is WUPPDR bringing together partners from such a large geographic area?

With an area of 6,026 square miles, a widely dispersed population of 82,668, and a sparse transportation network, travel throughout the WUPPDR region for business purposes is exceedingly difficult. In 2010, WUPPDR proposed U.P. Link – a high-definition videoconferencing network with public access sites in communities throughout the Upper Peninsula and with a link to Lansing. RPI is helping to facilitate implementation of U.P. Link, with technology upgrades and greater accessibility spreading across the Upper Peninsula. For some time, WUPPDR has had advanced videoconferencing technology in its own office, and one or more U.P. Link satellite sites exist in each of the region’s six counties.

Videoconferencing was used extensively to facilitate RPI in the Western U.P. in 2014. Large meetings of invited stakeholders were held quarterly, each of which had a videoconferencing option for every outlying county in the region. In other months, meetings of the smaller Collaborative offered videoconferencing and teleconferencing options as well. This enabled WUPPDR to uniformly reach stakeholders in all geographic areas. Fewer large meetings will occur during 2015, as much of the work will be shifted to project-specific committees, but meetings will remain accessible by videoconference.

How are local governments benefiting?

The Regional Prosperity Initiative empowers local governments within a region to better determine and affect the factors that drive economic prosperity. This initiative recognizes that local partners who are well-informed and well-resourced within regions are in a better position to make those decisions and creates the opportunity for them to do so. This formal regional collaboration always provides opportunity for shared service delivery and technical assistance for local communities from their regions. In addition, by creating a strong regional strategy for economic prosperity, local partners will be better able to compete locally in an increasingly global economy.

The needs of local units of government were carefully considered in planning the 2015 Western U.P. RPI projects, particularly in the areas of housing and transportation.

How is the State of Michigan benefiting?

The Regional Prosperity Initiative shows that the State of Michigan is investing in the success of regions and the economy in ways that are meaningful to the people who are working, playing, and doing business there every day. This ensures the state’s finite resources are being used wisely. As a result of collaborative efforts for regional prosperity, the state is becoming better equipped to attract and retain talent that is so essential to remaining globally competitive. Finally, strong regions are giving the state a potential new avenue by which to deliver state services that is more efficient and responsive to the needs of the regional economy.

How is the Federal government benefiting?

As federal dollars become scarcer, our federal partners are looking for innovative states that can demonstrate collaborative efforts which are producing positive outcomes. Partners in this Initiative are at the forefront nationally, demonstrating the ability to leverage various resources for a comprehensive economic strategy.

How are nonprofit organizations benefiting?

Collaboration is improving understanding between organizations of what services each offers. This will help providers meet the needs of their consumers by reducing overlaps – separating services and filling niches instead of trying to provide a broad but less specialized spectrum of services. Organizations are becoming better able to direct consumers to whichever other organizations can most effectively provide targeted services to fill consumer needs.

How are private businesses benefiting?

During 2014 RPI, a new system for delivery of economic development services was planned, whereby a private business would have access to several organizations providing business assistance via a single point of contact in each of five counties. This system is moving toward implementation in 2015. This will streamline access to those services and make it easier for businesses to get the help they need, benefiting the larger economy in the process.

RPI is also improving access to local governments so they can be made better aware of issues with the costs of doing business (taxes, regulatory burdens, etc.) so these factors can be made less burdensome to businesses.

How are the regions ensuring transparency and accountability?

Meeting information and documents are available on this website. All major meetings are open to the public (advance notice of participation is requested). In addition, the governing body of each public sector participant is subject to applicable transparency and accountability requirements including the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act. Finally, many participating organizations are governed by persons who are appointed by elected officials.

Participating regions are required to track progress through a dashboard (on this website) that displays measurable annual goals. Grants awarded as part of the Regional Prosperity Initiative are evaluated annually, contingent with the budget process. Metrics that are collaboratively developed will be available to ensure accountability and document progress.

Is the Regional Prosperity Initiative a state mandate?

No. Though participation is strongly encouraged, the Regional Prosperity Initiative is entirely voluntary. Regions benefit when they work in close collaboration with their partners toward a shared vision of economic prosperity. RPI is intended to provide resources to regions to empower and encourage them to do just that.