People Put First Through Economic Development
Since joining Leap, Inc. in late 2011, Trezise has worked without pause to transform the five-year-old marketing organization into a hardcore economic development agency. He retained staff, brought in new contributors, and began rolling out work groups to encourage growth.
“Leap’s time has finally arrived because Lansing’s time has finally arrived,” says Trezise. “My goal is to build the top economic development agency in the state. I have the top talent to do that.”
All points lead here
Located in Downtown Lansing’s Stadium District, LEAP’s half-dozen staff members serve the economic development needs of Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties through partnerships with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and seven economic development groups comprised of corporate CEOs, college and university presidents, small business owners, nonprofit leaders and elected public representatives.
“Whether you’re a township official, a professor or a retiree from GM, everyone is fired up about LEAP and our region,” says Trezise. “We’re taking off.”
Staff and work groups apply their talents to two core areas: retaining, recruiting and growing businesses, and creating an environment for entrepreneurs and start-ups to thrive. Underpinning it all, Trezise says, is the commitment to helping businesses support communities and residents.
“Most people presume economic development is simply about helping business,” says Trezise. “But really, it’s about helping business so they can help people through employment, health benefits, philanthropic work and other things that improve people’s lives.”
Trezise’s philosophy was fostered by personal and professional experience that began as he grew up in Lansing. Both his parents were deeply engaged with public policy and education, his father working for the State Department of Education and his mother for the Lansing School District.
“I grew up believing we can have a better society, a better community, and that we can all have equal opportunity,” says Trezise. “I knew our region could be better, I knew it could be done, and I learned how it could be done.”
Trezise’s portfolio spans economic development organizations from township to state levels, including the Lansing Economic Development Corporation, the Tax Increment Finance Authority and the Lansing Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. He reorganized the Principal Shopping District into a Main Street organization, and also led efforts through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and Delta Township.
“I’ve seen things from all angles,” he says. “Those experiences provided me insight on how to bring things together. And here I am doing that, with the help of a tremendous staff.”
If you were to go up in the air and look down over Lansing, Trezise says, you would see borders blur and a few areas standing tall and clear.
Those pinnacles, he says, would be places like Michigan State University, Cooley Law School and Lansing Community College; state government; manufacturing and automotive strongholds like General Motors; national insurance headquarters; and healthcare facilities and networks.
“There are cities in the Midwest who would kill to have some of these assets,” he says. “And we have them all. We’re ready to put them together and to become the economic powerhouse everyone wants.”
To do that, Trezise says, the region needs an excellent economic development agency similar to those in Saginaw, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids.
“LEAP is critically important because it serves to ensure that the tri-county region has a coordinated approach to economic development,” seconds Steve Alexander, executive vice president – corporate banking, PNC Bank, who is among business leaders providing direction for LEAP. “The most successful communities involved in economic development have a significant commitment from the private sector. LEAP was founded on that principle and today is significantly led by the private sector.”
Innovation in action
LEAP has created several new initiatives to benefit the economies of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties. One major project involves creating incubator spaces for high-tech and innovative start-ups; another involves regrowing manufacturing. Still a third focuses on improving the corridor that runs from the Capitol to East Lansing.
“We want Michigan Avenue to be the most gorgeous and eclectic corridor in the state,” Trezise says.
Through staff and an exceptional network of regional leaders, LEAP can provide the mix of services needed to attract, retain and build business including cost and tax comparison and analysis, site selection, training assistance, infrastructure studies, funding and financial resources and technology transfer.
“We need to look at ourselves as a global, metropolitan region with tremendous assets,” says Trezise. “If we do that, there’s no telling how far our potential can take us in economic development. That’s what LEAP is all about.”