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MLUI Brings Governor, State Officials to Traverse City

Snyder finds much to praise with local food, transportation, and energy projects

March 8, 2012 | By Glenn Puit
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

  With MLUI Board Chair Craig Sharp looking on, Executive Director Hans Voss talks about the Institute‚Äôs mission during a reception at its Traverse City office for Governor Rick Snyder (left).

TRAVERSE CITY—Michigan Governor Rick Snyder brought an inspiring message to the Grand Traverse region Friday about the importance of developing a sustainable, regionally based economy.

Speaking at the Hagerty Center, Governor Snyder said the Grand Traverse area is a statewide leader in working for that goal, and he praised the citizen-based Grand Vision process as the movement that is helping to make it happen. 

“The Grand Vision leading to grand action is great stuff,” the governor said. “You need to keep it up. One of the things we are going to do at the state level is to encourage a real grouping of our state into micro-economies. You are doing that here…. and you can be a role model. You are further ahead than many other regions.”

Snyder’s Traverse City visit was initiated by MLUI Executive Director Hans Voss in reaction to several of the governor’s special messages to Michiganders and the Legislature. The governor highlighted issues that are key elements of the regional Grand Vision, including transportation, placemaking, and healthy food for children. The governor also specifically recognized the Grand Vision as a statewide model for regional collaboration in his first message.

“MLUI has had a longstanding relationship with Bill Rustem, now the governor’s strategy director, so I called him to suggest that we share some of the stories of success from our region directly with the governor,” Mr. Voss said. “He was quick to help us set this up.”

Governor Snyder had a full day of events, most of them coordinated by the Michigan Land Use Institute, in partnership with the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments.

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His schedule included:

  • An address to a joint economic summit sponsored by the Chamber and NWMCOG. The governor outlined his views on state government’s role in economic development and regionalism.

    “It is about reinventing Michigan and it is about more and better jobs,” Governor Snyder said. “It’s about setting up the foundation for job creation and recognizing that government’s role is not to create jobs. Its role is to create an environment for free enterprise so the private sector can succeed.” 

    In addition to the address, there was a panel discussion, moderated by Hans Voss, with Bill Rustem, Director of Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle, and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Keith Creagh.
  • A tour of Traverse City Heights Elementary School, where the governor and MDARD Director Creagh heard from MLUI staff about regional Farm to School efforts and a new initiative, called “10 Cents a Meal,” that would increase funding for school lunches. It calls for a public-private partnership that sends 10 cents a meal more to schools for locally grown fruits and vegetables. It would significantly help tight school budgets, which typically provide just 20 to 30 cents a meal for fruit and vegetable purchases.

    The governor praised the local Farm to School movement, which MLUI is leading.

    “It’s about the health of our kids….(and with childhood obesity) there are so many pieces of this where fresh fruits and vegetables can make a huge difference,” he observed. “And we don’t need to go around the world for our solution. Our solution is right here with our neighbors.”
  • A visit with a Traverse City couple enrolled in an MLUI-driven program called TC Saves, which helps families cut their energy bills by implementing energy efficiency measures. Governor Snyder met with Chris and Elizabeth Kushman, who told the governor their ability to get a low-cost energy audit and zero-percent financing of energy efficiency improvements help them save significantly on their energy bills.

    “It will encourage other people to say, ‘I want to sign up,’ and when it comes to our energy challenges in this country, energy efficiency is the best place to start,” Governor Snyder said. “It creates jobs and new opportunities. Hopefully it can spread across Michigan. Let’s get this everywhere so we can all benefit.”
  • Complementing Mr. Snyder’s visit was a Grand Vision Transportation Network meeting, where transportation director Steudle met with local leaders about a regional strategy for transportation. Steudle outline the financial challenges facing his department, and the need for both new funding sources and continued efficiencies in transportation maintenance. He also heard about several collaborative transportation projects that have resulted from the regional Grand Vision process, including an inter-county bus transfer facility and streetscape improvement project in the Village of Buckley, pedestrian enhancements to the Village of Suttons Bay’s main thoroughfare, and the new Silver Drive access road into the Grand Traverse Commons.
  • Mr. Snyder’s visit included a stop at MLUI’s downtown office, where he was welcomed by MLUI Board Chairman Craig Sharp and Hans Voss. The governor then addressed a small group of the organization’s board, staff, supporters, and friends. The governor indicated he was impressed with MLUI’s program work. 

“It’s not about credit and it’s not about blame. It’s about results,” Mr. Snyder said, adding, “You can hear about these programs, but by coming here, you see real examples, and how they impact real people. This isn’t just something you read about. This is something you can see.”

“It’s about helping all Michiganders be successful,” he continued. “(Today) is a chance to celebrate successes and use them as role models to carry them to the next level.”

“Environmental sustainability, quality of life, and economic development—they are not separate silos,” he concluded. “It’s all a symbiotic relationship. It’s all how we win together, and how it all comes together.”

Glenn Puit is a policy specialist for the Michigan Land Use Institute. Reach him at glenn@mlui.org.

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