Co-Learning Plans focus on spurring economic growth and development in economically challenged communities. Funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce - Economic Development Administration (EDA), REI has been a pivotal force since 2011. The MSU EDA University Center for Regional Economic Innovation, with the counsel of the Consultative Panelist, is excited to announce awardees for the 2024 Co-Learning Plans:
Analysis & Mapping of Michigan Licensed Appraisers 1980-2022, Co-Learning Plan awardee, David Palmer states that, even though state licensed appraisers play a critical role in Michigan’s residential real estate market, there appears to be very little known about those individuals who are licensed. National fair housing organizations paint the occupation with a broad brush stating over 95% are older white males and there appears to be no initiative to recruit and develop diverse talent into the occupation. Acknowledging decades of consistent appraisal valuation challenges in the City of Detroit for residential homes, and a long history of racial discrimination in housing, this Co-Learning Plan (CLP) will use public data to detail what is publicly known about licensed appraisers in Michigan in the period from 1980 to 2022. With information available and in the open, this important regulated occupation can be better studied and analyzed to determine if appraisers reflect the communities served or determine if what national fair housing organizations claim is true for the US is also true, specifically in Michigan. 
Led by Adil Mohammed and Phyllis Sykes, The International Center of Greater Flint (ICGF) CLP proposes to develop a community grassroots outreach process to create a strategic vision and implementation plan for a Global Flint Initiative (GFI). GFI is an economic and community revitalization strategy that focuses on attracting and retaining international talent by becoming a Welcoming Community. The proposed needs assessment will involve an extensive immigrant groups outreach to conduct focus groups, interviews and surveys throughout the region over several months. The goal is to collect data to document the true assessment of this population. In addition to reaching out to the immigrant population, the same method will be implemented with Flint’s native population. This initiative plans to foster a welcoming environment for international talent in Flint, engaging immigrant groups and native residents to build a cohesive and economically resilient community.
The third CLP award, A Regional Model for Small Business Prosperity, will be authored by Robert Carson and Zachary Vega. This CLP explores the effectiveness of Michigan Works! program services in supporting small business development in Northwest Lower Michigan. This study will provide a comprehensive review of the program’s small business development services and their impact in statistically underserved communities through descriptive statistical analyses and stakeholder interviews. The researchers will identify the regional referral methods that client small businesses have found most effective in their development, develop a survey instrument that identifies program strengths, areas for improvement, and financial impact, and how these methods could be replicated throughout Michigan. While Michigan Works! has been around since 1996, there are very few analyses of its overall effect on small business referrals from a regional perspective. Research into the programs would help to identify strengths and weaknesses and could help other regional entities such as chambers of commerce, county governments, and industry leaders to potentially replicate the programs’ referral methods. These best practices would be influential in helping distressed local communities build their economic bases. 
Randy A. Yagiela, Development Director of Lenawee Now, has been awarded REI's 2024 Innovation Fellowship. The Align Center for Workforce Development aims to offer financial empowerment and training programs in a shared space for various organizations, but also fosters a collaborative culture focused on unified client pathways and employer-centric workforce certification. The project's goals are to create a unified resource center that addresses the gap in workforce training and local career development, especially for nontraditional clients overlooked by existing resources like MI Works. The leadership team, with a deep understanding of the intertwining of housing, transportation, and community needs, brings a holistic approach to workforce development. The project's economic impact is expected to be significant, with plans for a specialized campus catering to employer-specific skill needs, thereby generating living-wage jobs and attracting public/private investments. In summary, the Align Center project represents a comprehensive effort to revitalize a struggling community by integrating education, training, and economic development, with a focus on creating sustainable and equitable opportunities for the residents of Adrian and Lenawee County.
Congratulations to the 2024 Cohort of Co-Learning Plan authors and Innovation Fellowship!
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