Michigan Office of Rural Development Should Help UP | News, Sports, Jobs

With much of the state’s population, resources, and industry concentrated in the urban centers of the Lower Peninsula, the strengths and needs of rural communities – especially here in the Upper Peninsula – can at times seem to be overwhelming. neglected by Lansing lawmakers.

However, some welcome news has been recently for rural communities: the establishment of the Michigan Office of Rural Development was established by an executive directive signed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The office plans to focus on all rural matters, provide advice on pressing issues in rural Michigan and provide insight into how the administration can invest in thriving rural communities, according to Whitmer’s office.

InvestUP, a private sector-led economic development organization focused on economic growth in the UP, welcomed the establishment of the Michigan Office of Rural Development, which the organization says, “Contribute to the strengthening and prosperity of rural communities in the state”.

The office is the result of the combined efforts of many local, regional and state leaders, whom we commend for working together to address a set of critical issues facing rural communities across the state.

“Having started the conversation here at the UP after years of strategy development and advocacy by dozens of stakeholders across the state, it is gratifying to see this new executive-level office come to fruition.” , InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante said in a statement. “We are grateful for the leadership of Governor Whitmer and the commitment of (State) Director of Agriculture Gary McDowell, as well as for the hard work of (State) Senator (Ed) McBroom and members. of the UP legislative delegation who helped defend the creation of this new office.

InvestUP had helped launch this effort to align state actions with several of InvestUP’s priorities, which include addressing population loss and related issues.

Addressing this issue is critical, as 14 of the 15 counties in the UP experienced population loss between 2010 and 2020, according to 2020 census data.

The impacts of the population decline are huge, as a regional study conducted by InvestUP identified housing, rural health care delivery, education delivery, broadband, and child care as key issues. problems directly linked to declining populations in the upper peninsula.

However, the new office plans to address these challenges, including the difficulty for businesses in the region to attract and retain young workers.

“Obviously, the development of the workforce is driven by population growth”, Fittante says. “This is a victory for small businesses that will benefit from investments in affordable housing, infrastructure and other key things that attract and retain workers. “

For the anecdote, it is safe to say that most of the inhabitants of the UP know local young people and young graduates who would like to stay in the region, but have left the UP to find affordable housing or a good job. paid in their field. We believe that addressing these issues is critical to attracting and retaining younger populations, as it is clear that people want to live here, but face a set of challenges that can make it unaffordable.

“Frankly, if the office is focused on actionable results, that will make Michigan a leader in managing rural development issues,” Fittante says. “We look forward to working with the administration and the new MP to support this effort and ensure opportunities for the UP and rural Michigan to thrive.”

We agree with Fittante. The success of the office – and the region as a whole – will depend on achieving concrete results and implementing evidence-based strategies to address the challenges facing rural communities.

We will be closely monitoring the regional results associated with this office and hope to see positive changes that will allow our children and grandchildren to live, work and thrive in the beautiful UP, just as previous generations have done. .

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