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On the Road Communities Revitalizing with Regionalism

In August, I had the opportunity to join leaders from around the country at the Mayor’s Innovation Project (MIP) Conference in Chapel Hill, NC. The MIP is a learning network amo…

Many of the Mayors who attended the conference discussed regionalism. Some have successfully joined with the towns and cities around them, others are interested in such a feat and some are actively working toward this goal.

One great example of this partnership is the merger between the government of the City of Louisville and that of Jefferson County. Now known as “Louisville Metro,” the regional government shares resources such emergency services, sanitation services and political personnel. It has also helped to streamline bus, snow, transportation and other routes for residents and government.

Cities like Indianapolis, IN; Nashville, Tenn; Jacksonville, Fla; Kansas City, KA and Louisville, KY understand the importance of collaboration, cooperation and consolidation. When neighboring communities can put aside their competitive differences and focus on a larger scale, great partnerships can emerge. The thing that sets these cities apart is that they set their sights on competing on a national and global scale, and not just a local level. This goal is much harder, almost unattainable as individual townships, counties, cities or towns. As said by Benjamin Franklin, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall hang separately.”

Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh have a unique partnership with the Research Triangle. Their region is known nationally because they have differentiated themselves with one core strength, and yet they each have much more to offer on a smaller scale. Although this region has the three defined cities, it actually includes eight counties.

In our region’s case, Lansing would be the anchor of the tri-county area. Yes, it would include East Lansing, Delta Township, Charlotte, Okemos, Dewitt, St. Johns — but we need a brand to get behind. The regional efforts have begun in the city, and we see the fire departments of Lansing and East Lansing sharing a Chief and central personnel. To take our region to the next level, we are going to have to continue these kinds of mergers and cooperation.

As a region, instead of segregation by city and township lines, we become a community more open to natural segments. Sub-communities based on culture, industry, political ideology and more could start to emerge. It is not just the financial resources, but the resource of individuals that is unlocked with breaking our municipal barriers down.

The process of regionalism is tough. There must be warriors to head this fight, and many people to cheer them on. The complex multistep progression to merge and share our resources within an area is long, tiring and controversial. Really the decision comes down to our goals. Are we happy just being the star on the map of Michigan, or are we ready to take it to the next level? It is my hope that as the next generation to potentially lead this region, that we enter an era of further teamwork and collaboration to become the next great state capital of the nation.


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