517 Magazine Days of Giveaways

What Makes Lansing Great?

We’re used to seeing lists like Ten Great Places to Live or Best Cities for Families. We’re not used to seeing Lansing front and center. Now that oversight has been remedied as…

Kiplinger’s choice was based on factors such as:

•                  Opportunities in highly skilled (and highly paid) jobs in bio-tech and IT

•                  A solid social network

•                  Colleges and universities available

•                  Rent cost below the national average

•                  An average commute of 20 minutes

•                  A “respectable bar and club scene” as well as cultural and entertainment options

Bottom line? Kiplingers.com says, “Lansing’s youthful population, downtown renewal projects and emerging technology sector make Lansing a stand-out in mid-sized cities.”

Several organizations have worked with imagination and enthusiasm to make Lansing an ideal place for young professionals.

Technology Innovation Center (TIC)

The City of East Lansing, in partnership with the Lansing Regional SmartZone, the East Lansing Downtown Development Authority and the Local Development Finance Authority, has created the Technology Innovation Center (TIC) to foster the development of the region’s technology-based economy and strengthen the region’s professional workforce. Their mission is to identify and support high-tech businesses, promote sustainable economic development and support the business community by making office space and services, training, funding sources, mentoring and networking available.

According to Jeff Smith, project manager, “We are seeing a new economy emerge, transforming from manufacturing to a knowledge-based model. The TIC strives to help this new economy grow by being innovative, encouraging new ideas, working to leverage local assets and adding to the sense of place for the Lansing area. We have one staff person and two interns, and we share the space with various other entities, all working toward some of the same basic goals.”

The TIC serves as an incubator for new business ideas. And an exciting new program, The Hatch, is offering a business incubator for student entrepreneurs. The Hatch will provide office space and resources, networking opportunities, conference room use and referrals and contacts with businesses as well as training and mentoring. It will be fully operational January 1.

According to Smith, “MSU has 47,000 students; we estimate that 10 percent of them have ideas for businesses. We create an environment where they can succeed and grow or, just as important, where they can learn if they fail. We will help them find businesses to sponsor them, and, if their idea succeeds, they can become part of the sponsoring company or sell their idea or product to the company.”

In response to the Kiplinger rating, Smith says, “There is a sense of opportunity growing here, a mentality that says, ‘We’ll find a way to get it done.’”

Smith mentions that the magazine Next American City partnered with IBM and its SmarterCities initiative to look at how cities are dealing with both the challenges and opportunities of the economic landscape. The magazine reports, “Lansing, Michigan, blew the competition away.” The magazine cites the “developments, innovation and intellectual capital transforming the Greater Lansing region.”

As the magazine says, “The sheer volume of talent in the Greater Lansing region is overwhelming. MSU, Cooley and LCC churn a lot of talent. The challenge is keeping that talent in the region by engaging them in the community and exposing them to ideas.” More information about this competition is available at americancity.org/buzz/entry/2644/.

Lansing Economic Development Corporation (LEDC)

The LEDC is a quasi-government agency functioning as a corporation and run by an independent board of directors. Its mission is to conduct all economic development services for the city of Lansing, including business development, recruitment and retention and the management of the Lansing Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, the Tax Increment Finance Authority, tax zones, the Lansing Regional SmartZone and the management of all city incentives. The agency has a staff of five including President and CEO Bob Trezise and has nine board members nominated by the mayor and approved by the Lansing City Council.

In short, the LEDC helps provide the kind of economic climate that can help businesses grow, both those already here and those ready to launch.

According to Ken Szymusiak, director of Downtown Development, Manufacturing and Legislative Affairs, “There’s a new business culture in Lansing. We are no longer smokestack chasing. While manufacturing is important, and Lansing will always be a great manufacturing town, we are moving to a more localized, entrepreneurial model. We are looking at smaller companies and more homegrown talent.”

The LEDC offers many innovative programs for local businesses; detailed at www.edc.lansingmi.gov.

One program is Linking Lansing & U, an initiative developed by Mayor Bernero as a way to link local institutions of higher learning with the City of Lansing.

Szymusiak says, “Our charge with Linking Lansing & U is to get the student population, particularly at MSU but also at Cooley Law and LCC, more involved in Lansing and in our business community. Andrea Reagan is director of that program. We’ve done things like organizing job shadow days with MSU.  We’ve partnered with LEAP to establish internships. We run buses between campus and downtown for special events, showing students that Lansing is a great place to have fun and a great place to live.”

According to Szymusiak, “Students have had the mindset that they need to leave Michigan to get a good job. I think that attitude is changing. Many of them want to stay and work here and be part of an economic renaissance.”

With other groups, organizations and agencies in town, LEDC is working on developing a business incubator similar to the one at TIC. Plans are to establish that within the old Knapp’s building as redevelopment on that site progresses.

He adds, “Lansing’s downtown has come to life. There are more businesses, more nightlife, downtown lofts for urban living, the new City Market, the river trail, Accident Fund headquarters; the city has been transformed. “

Greater Lasing Convention & Visitors Bureau (GLCVB)

The mission of the Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau is simply stated—market the tri-county region as a tourist destination. But when the area’s myriad of attractions are considered along with the bureau’s mandate to reach out to everybody, it gets a little more complicated.

The bureau’s 25 employees are getting the job done. Julie Pingston, senior vice president, recalls a recent letter from an Ottawa, Canada family. Pington says, “The family came here last summer for one day of Common Ground. They told me in the letter that they expected a good concert, but that’s all. But their perception changed when they got here. They wrote about the vibrancy of the city, the walkability and all the things to do. They closed by saying that they were already planning next summer’s vacation—a week in Lansing.”

According to Pingston, “Over the past five years, the city has developed a new energy. And that’s not just Lansing, but the whole region. People want to engage and be part of their community; there is a spirit of activism that says, ‘We’re going to make this a better place to live and work. We’re going to get involved.’ There’s less a feeling that each community is a separate entity. We’re all connected, one community.”

A new effort the GLCVB is sponsoring is the Certified Tourism Ambassador program, which has alr
eady certified over 125 frontline personnel to help visitors and make their visits to Lansing positive.

As Pingston says, “Everybody who moves here starts with a first visit. And we aim to make it great.”

Author: Jane Whittington
Photography: Terri Shaver

Information Box:

East Lansing Technology Innovation Center

Jeffrey Smith, Project Manager

325 E. Grand River Ave.

East Lansing

517-708-3801

www.cityofeastlansing.com/tic

Lansing Economic Development Corporation

Ken Szymusiak, Director of Downtown Development, Manufacturing and Legislative Affairs

401 S. Washington Sq., Ste. 100

Lansing

517-483-4140

edc.lansingmi.gov

Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau

Julie Pingston, Senior Vice President

500 E. Michigan Ave.,

Ste. 180

Lansing

517-377-1412

www.lansing.org

 

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