MARQUETTE, MI (January 5, 2022) InvestUP lauded the creation of the Michigan Office of Rural Development to help strengthen and build prosperity among the state’s rural communities. Executive Order 2022-1 calls for the new office to coordinate departments and agencies to advance opportunity and provide guidance on economic development, affordable housing, environmental preservation, green energy development, population and demographic trends, education, high-speed internet, and other pressing issues that affect the region’s communities and businesses.
InvestUP CEO Marty Fittante noted that the organization helped initiate this effort to align the State’s actions with several of InvestUP’s priorities for the region. He explained, “Chief among them is addressing population loss and its underlying issues. Unlike the more metropolitan areas of Michigan, rural parts of the state are losing population and the people who remain in those communities are aging.” According to the 2020 Census, 14 of the U.P.’s 15 counties experienced population loss between 2010 and 2020. In response to the new census data, InvestUP led a regional study and identified the issues directly related to those population changes, including housing, rural healthcare delivery, and education delivery. Broadband and childcare are also foundational pieces.
“Frankly, if the office focuses on actionable results, it will make Michigan a leader in the management of rural development issues.”Marty Fittante
Michigan’s new Office of Rural Development will work toward solving these unique challenges head on. Across the region, business owners are struggling to attract and retain young workers to feed the aging talent pipeline. “Obviously, workforce development is driven by population growth,” continued Fittante. “This is a win for small businesses that will benefit from investments in affordable housing, infrastructure, and other key elements that attract and keep workers.”
Executive Order 2022-1 builds on the partnership that worked together on this opportunity, including InvestUP, Governor Whitmer and her senior staff, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Upper Peninsula legislative delegation led by Senator Ed McBroom, and local economic and community development organizations from the U.P. and the state. The new office will be housed under the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. A Deputy for Rural Development will be appointed to coordinate activities and serve as point of contact on rural issues.
“After starting the conversation here in the U.P. following years of strategizing and advocacy on the part of dozens of stakeholders across the state, it’s gratifying to see this new executive-level office come to fruition,” said Fittante. “We’re grateful for Governor Whitmer’s leadership and the commitment of Ag Director Gary McDowell, as well as for the hard work of Senator McBroom and members of the U.P. legislative delegation who helped championed the creation of this new office.”
Fittante continued, “Frankly, if the office focuses on actionable results, it will make Michigan a leader in the management of rural development issues. We look forward to working with the administration and the new deputy to support this effort and to ensure opportunities for the U.P. and rural Michigan to prosper.”
InvestUP is a private sector-led economic development organization keenly focused on driving economic growth across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Founded by the region’s leading private sector businesses and the region’s universities, its mission is to deliver business and job growth across the peninsula.