Michigan Cities Resilient During State’s Transformation

April 30, 2012
by James Brooks

Several states and thousands of cities face the multiple and overlapping challenges of economic transformation, population out-migration, housing price devaluation, mortgage foreclosures and tax base erosion. Michigan is among those states hit hardest by all of these forces. Nonetheless, local government leaders are demonstrating resilience and working to shape the emerging transformations that will put their cities on the path to long-term sustainable growth and prosperity.

As part of an ongoing series of reports on resilient cities, the National League of Cities' Center for Research & Innovation presents Resilient Cities in a Transforming State: A Snapshot of Local Action in Michigan. The study identifies the ways in which local leaders respond to economic collapse and home mortgage foreclosures by shifting organizational routines, collaborating across sectors and levels, identifying and redirecting resources and leveraging new resources from public and private sources. Insights into city leaders' actions were gathered during a Leadership Forum on Neighborhoods and Local Economies, which brought together federal, state and local decision makers in Lansing, Mich., to define place-making and create a framework to support economic growth and prosperity statewide.

At a time of shrinking professional staff capacity in city governments nationwide, municipal officials are exercising leadership, taking risks, fixing problems and changing systems that will serve their localities long after the present crisis is over.

One Michigan city leader described the circumstances thus: "Our political reality today is that the status quo is failure. If we just keep doing what we have been doing, we are going to fail. If you are ever to take a risk, you have to do things differently. I don't think we have got a choice. If we are going to succeed as cities, if you want to leave a legacy, you have to take some risks."

This report was conducted in partnership with the Michigan Municipal League (MML) and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). NLC's work on this topic flows from participation in the Building Resilient Regions Network (BRR) organized by the University of California at Berkeley and funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. This network of scholars and practitioners is tasked with identifying and explaining the activities being carried out by local and regional governments and their partners to address a variety of challenges.

Details: The report can be accessed by visiting the Housing & Community Development  page of the NLC website. To learn more about NLC's Center for Research and Innovation's work on housing and neighborhoods, e-mail brooks@nlc.org.