In 2012, Michigan’s governor created the Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI), a statewide effort to bring local leaders together across ten designated “prosperity regions” to create a shared vision for economic growth. The eight-county East Central Michigan Prosperity Region, which encompasses Saginaw, has numerous assets: top-tier higher education institutions; major corporations (Dow Chemical, Dow Corning, Hemlock Semiconductor, and others); and a range of affordable living options in rural, urban, and suburban settings. Despite its strengths, the region faced significant challenges to prosperity including stagnant population growth, state and local budget issues (resulting in a lack of funding for infrastructure maintenance), and negative perceptions of the region (internal and external).
In 2014, TIP Strategies was engaged to create a Regional Prosperity Strategy to accelerate the area’s economic success. Guided by a 34-member Strategic Management Team comprised of a cross-section of public- and private-sector leaders, the plan outlined a vision of the region as a leading destination in the state for new jobs, investment, and innovation. The plan provided recommendations in five areas: 1) economic development and marketing; 2) entrepreneurship and innovation; 3) workforce development; 4) transportation and infrastructure; and 5) place-making and talent attraction. Since the plan’s adoption, several organizations have reorganized their programs and geographic scope to serve the entire eight-county region. As part of the implementation phase, TIP explored the potential to establish a center of excellence in the region in one of the following focus areas: advanced materials/plastics; agriculture/craft breweries; health sciences; and international workforce. The Centers of Excellence Action Strategy provided detailed steps for establishing a center that would facilitate new partnerships among higher education institutions and businesses to grow and diversify the region’s economy. TIP has also been engaged to provide annual updates to the region’s data dashboard.