Western Upper Peninsula Regional Prosperity Initiative

For years, the State of Michigan seldom considered how state agency regions and service areas could interact and geographically coincide most efficiently and effectively. Collaboration on mutual goals was lacking or nonexistent. Agencies came to work at cross-purposes, sometimes without even realizing it. The consequences of this state of affairs have been exacerbated in recent years by sharply reduced public funds.

The State of Michigan, led by Governor Rick Snyder, created the Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI) to develop and encourage regional collaboration among agencies to resolve these issues. RPI in the Western U.P. began in early 2014 when WUPPDR received funding through a voluntary competitive grant process that was open only to designated planning regions and metropolitan planning organizations.

Key objectives of RPI are:

  • Clean up the disparate service areas of multiple agencies and organizations
  • Reduce overlapping responsibilities, conflicting goals, and duplication of services
  • Dedicate public funding and effort for similar functions to be delivered by the same entity
  • Enhance private-public-nonprofit cooperation and align activities for greatest impact

Collaboration improves awareness of what different agencies are doing, making it possible to eliminate duplicate and overlapping services. Over the long term, more difficult problems can be resolved in a small group or one-on-one environment. Agreements can be developed to address differences and similarities, ultimately creating a coordinated service delivery system.

The Regional Prosperity Initiative’s last year of funding was state fiscal year 2018-19.

For WUPPDR’s final year of RPI in 2019, 10 projects were funded. Several are still being completed as of April 2020.

  1. Community Energy Planning: Many Western U.P. rate payers, particularly residential and small commercial customers, often pay more than 50% the state average for electricity. Combined with the region’s severe winter climate, antiquated housing stock, and high proportion of low-to-moderate income household status, affordable energy has become a concern. Modeling after a project piloted by the Houghton Energy Efficiency Team (HEET) in Houghton County, WUPPDR plans to establish Community Energy Waste Reduction Teams in three Western U.P. communities and assist communities to develop community energy plans.
  2. Up North Trails Facilitation: In 2018, WUPPDR partnered several U.P. and northern Michigan planning regions, and trail organizations to map and host GIS trail data on the website UpNorthTrails.org. During this time frame, WUPPDR successfully collected trail data in a standardized format and transferred it to the website host in order to promote the region’s recreation trail resources and attract tourist to our communities. In 2019, WUPPDR will use RPI funds to continue providing technical assistance to maintain an updated trail inventory and promote the website.
  3. Talent Attraction Amenities Inventory: The Western U.P. and U.P. overall have long faced population decline due in part to out-migration of young and/or skilled workers and recent college graduates. WUPPDR will lead a study to identify the amenities gap, or missing desirable community features (e.g. service businesses, recreation and entertainment, child care, housing, shopping, etc.) which make places more attractive to this target audience. The project will include outreach to young professionals and students groups in order to identify desirable community amenities with an inventory of these amenities in the region’s population centers.
  4. Community Marketing Mini-Grants: WUPPDR will renew the 2018 project to provide technical assistance and mini-grants to support marketing efforts for community-based initiatives. Eligible initiatives include, but are not limited to, community festivals and celebrations, community outreach initiatives, job fairs, tourism campaigns, and more.  Click here for more information on the program.
  5. Skilled Trades Promotional Support: WUPPDR will provide funding to Western U.P. intermediate school districts (ISD) for videos showcasing CTE courses within the region, including testimonials from current or recent students about their experiences. Additional funding is proposed for the ISDs to support travel of students from local school districts to visit CTE program classes. This would better expose students to CTE as an option for future education and career plans. Lastly, WUPPDR will provide technical assistance to support a survey of regional businesses to identify STEM talent needs.
  6. Western U.P. Food Systems Initiative: Our local and regional food systems are viewed in isolation and maintained by a fragmented array of government and non-governmental agencies. The Western U.P. Food System Initiative will address the food system as a whole, by bringing together local, county and state government efforts behind grassroots initiatives. The initiative applies a community-based planning approach to reduce barriers to healthy food and encourage local food production and collaboration. Several directives fall under the initiative: the creation of a food systems council, community food assessment(s), and a food hub feasibility study.
  7. U.P Brew Trail Tourism and Economic Development Initiative: In 2018, WUPPDR conducted a feasibility study to 1) establish a branding and marketing plan to promote the U.P.’s brewery and winery industry to regional tourists; 2) identify promotion partners; 3) identify and secure funding to support program and 4) develop an implementation plan for 2019. For 2019, WUPPDR is building on this study to launch the “U.P. Brew Trail”. This stage of the project will develop a program website, marketing materials, videos, social media content, and establish long-term funding partnerships.
  8. Regional Pure Michigan Campaign: In 2018, the third year of a partnership with the U.P. regions and other private and public entities, WUPPDR contributed $8,000 in matching funds to support a regional Pure Michigan marketing campaign, totaling just over $100,000, for the U.P. The 2018 campaign was primarily delivered via digital media. Besides attracting visitors to the U.P., the campaign had the spin-off benefit of exposing people to the region who may consider becoming permanent residents: the talent we strive to attract. WUPPDR will continue to support this annual initiative in collaboration with the U.P.’s two other planning regions.
  9. Trail Town Certification: In 2018, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and Pure Michigan developed a certification program to highlight and promote communities which follow best practices to promote local outdoor recreation trails. The program, referred to as “Pure Michigan Trail and Trail Town Designation”, helps to incorporate certified communities into Pure Michigan maps and promotional campaigns. WUPPDR proposes to assist communities achieve this designation by providing technical assistance to implement required best practices.
  10. Western U.P. Arts & Culture Trail: Across the Midwest, communities are using cultural and arts assets to drive tourism and pump millions of dollars into local economies. In many of our region’s communities, cultural amenities (e.g. museums, historical sites, arts galleries) can be leveraged to attract tourists, but are often left out of promotion and planning efforts. WUPPDR will collect information (e.g. imagery, locations, descriptions, etc.) to pilot an arts and culture asset inventory for use in regional marketing campaigns.