Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for Southwest Michigan
Left to right: Agritourism cherry picking; New Age/Landmark, South Haven; Niles Amtrak Station; Mosaic Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony, Benton Harbor; Pokégnek Édawat Groundbreaking, Hartford; Twin Cities Harbor; and K&M Machine Fabricating, Cassopolis.
As the Economic Development District (EDD) for Southwest Michigan, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission (SWMPC) prepares a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) as a means to move toward a cohesive regional economic development strategy.
Our region's vision: "To cultivate a resilient and competitive economy that supports an excellent quality of life and builds pathways to prosperity for all residents."
This CEDS document was prepared under a financial assistance award from the Economic Development Administration.
Left to right: Benton Harbor BL-94 Charrette, Benton Harbor Arts District mural, Kee-Boon-Mein-Kaa Pow Wow, South Haven Lighthouse, Bangor Amtrak Station, and Dowagiac Under the Harvest Moon Festival.
The 2018-2022 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Southwest Michigan is the product of a team of local experts from a range of institutions both public and private. The team was lead through a facilitated process to engage them in meaningful discussion about where we currently are, where we have been historically, and the range of opportunities that lie ahead. The CEDS places a high priority on integrating and complementing the goals and objectives already in place among many of the institutions represented. It embodies the rare opportunity to take a regional, collective approach in establishing economic development priorities.
The Southwest Michigan economic identity has historically been found predominantly within manufacturing and agriculture. Manufacturing has seen the kind of downturn that is reflective of the change seen nationwide. But, since a low in 2009, the manufacturing sector has rebounded in terms of its share of employment and earnings to pre-2009 levels. The region is particularly well suited to produce an exceptional variety of produce at a very high quality. Nearly 49 percent of land in the region is devoted to agriculture. Cass County ranks second statewide in hog and pig production and second in snap beans. Berrien County is ranked number one in grapes, number four in apples, and number five in asparagus. Van Buren County is ranked number three in asparagus, number two in grapes, and number five in apples (based on 2012 US Census of Agriculture).
Over the last decade, the service sector has represented an increasingly strong portion of employment in the regional economy. However, the jobs in this sector do not represent high wage opportunity.
The region is challenged by its net loss in population. Driving a large portion of that net loss are the cohort of young and talented individuals between ages 20 and 39. A survey of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the region reveals that components within the region are beginning to build a case for retaining population. Particular strengths in agritourism, wineries and breweries, natural resources, hospitality and tourism, water recreation, and some K-12 schools all show promise as areas of the region to grow and promote.
Through a collaborative process in goal-setting, five comprehensive goals were established for building a more competitive and resilient economy for Southwest Michigan.
- Livability for Talent Attraction — Promote a diverse environment that creates an excellent quality of life for talent.
- Education & Training — Attract, retain, and develop a high-quality workforce.
- Infrastructure — Create, improve, and maintain services and infrastructure.
- Support Business — Support and meet the needs of current, new, and emerging businesses.
- Coordination — Promote better coordination among different economic development groups.
The 2018 CEDS marks the beginning of a new cycle in the EDA's Partnership Planning grant for Economic Development Districts. The last two full iterations of this document may be accessed below:
SWMPC welcomes comments and questions about this document, and is interested to hear how this economic development strategy affects you. For inquiries, or to find out about how you can become more involved in future iterations of this document, please contact:
Jerrid Burdue, Associate Planner
(269) 925-1137 ex.1517