MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) — Sarah Lucas was named deputy director of the new Office of Rural Development on April 18. On Tuesday, Lucas was at the Northern Center on the NMU campus to meet with UP stakeholders and economic development and community leaders to share their vision for the office.
In January, Governor Gretchen Whitmer created the Office of Rural Development within the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) via Executive Directive 2022-01 to focus on the strategic needs of rural Michigan, including including economic and labor development, infrastructure, public health. , and environmental sustainability.
Sarah Lucas was previously CEO of the Lake Superior Community Partnership.
“I learned a lot from my time working with communities and organizations like the Lake Superior Community Partnership. Lucas said. “I’m just building these relationships with partners here and I’m really grateful for everything I’ve learned from these partners. There is so much knowledge and passion within the UP network here to address the challenges we face and the opportunities that are available to us. So I think that’s really been key for me in terms of how we’ve gone through the organization and the priorities of this office, just knowing what these partners are doing on the ground locally and what solutions they’ve identified.”
Lucas said the idea of the office was to ensure that there are opportunities for participation from different stakeholders.
“We want to make sure there’s good two-way communication. So we hear feedback and feedback from stakeholders on the office’s vision and the office’s priorities. But really, just to have kind of an open conversation with stakeholders throughout the new office and what the opportunities are,” Lucas said.
Lucas said she was impressed with the thoughtfulness and passion of the stakeholders. She said it was possible to address issues such as labor shortages, housing, connectivity and childcare.
“One of the things I love most about my job and my profession and have always loved is getting to know the communities, what their priorities are, what they are working on and what their opportunities are. Getting to know the people who live and work locally. I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with communities so far and just understanding the commonalities that rural areas have across the state whether you’re in UP or southern Michigan, you really face a lot of the same issues if you’re in a rural area. And I think that’s something that we know intellectually is that rural areas have really had a lot of the same challenges. But it really came to me in a new light that you can have the same conversation at each end of Michigan about, you know, what they’re working on and what they’re dealing with. The other thing, I guess, I would say is almost on the other end of the spectrum, is just the unique strengths that different parts of the state really bring to these challenges. Although we have many common challenges, the partners and strengths in different locations are very unique. So while UP has this incredible outdoor recreation infrastructure and it has the university and the mine and other natural resources and the hospital, other parts of the state have different types of resources they can bring to meet some of these challenges. So they may have larger philanthropies or larger health systems, larger business partners, but they’re all tied to finding ways to be creative and leverage those partners and assets to address those challenges collaboratively. .
Learn more about the Rural Development Office here.