Michigan Rural Development Office Can Make a Difference for 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 – particularly here in the Upper Peninsula – can sometimes seem to be overlooked by Lansing lawmakers.

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

InvestUP, a private sector-led economic development organization focused on economic growth in UP, welcomed the creation of the Michigan Office of Rural Development, which the organization says will “help strengthen and build prosperity among rural communities across 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 UP after years of strategizing and advocating with dozens of stakeholders across the state, it’s gratifying to see this new executive-level office come to fruition.” , Marty Fittante, CEO of InvestUP, 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 the hard work of (State) Senator (Ed) McBroom and members of the legislative delegation of the UP who helped to defend the creation. of this new office.

InvestUP helped launch this effort to align state actions with many of InvestUP’s priorities, including addressing population loss and related issues.

This is critical to address, as 14 of UP’s 15 counties experienced population loss between 2010 and 2020, according to 2020 census data.

The impacts of population decline are enormous, as a regional study conducted by InvestUP identified housing, rural healthcare delivery, education delivery, broadband and child care as problems directly related to population decline in the Upper Peninsula.

However, the new office plans to address these challenges, including the region’s difficulty in attracting and retaining young workers.

“Obviously, workforce development is driven by population growth,” said Fittante. “This is a win for small businesses who will benefit from investments in affordable housing, infrastructure and other key elements that attract and retain workers.”

Anecdotally, it’s safe to say that most people in UP know young locals and recent graduates who would like to stay in the area, but have moved away from UP to find housing. affordable or well-paying job in their field. We believe addressing these issues is key 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, it will make Michigan a leader in dealing with rural development issues,” said Fittante. “We look forward to working with the administration and the new congressman to support this effort and ensure the prosperity of UP and rural Michigan.”

We agree with Fittante. The success of the office — and of 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 closely monitor 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 beautiful UP just like previous generations.

— The Journal of Mines, Marquette

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