In Economic Development, Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork

Matt Vanisacker, our Vice President of Business Development, was a guest columnist in the Monroe News. The column he wrote is below. We hope that you take a few minutes to read it if you haven’t done so already!


Copyright 2022 Monroe Media Group 5/24/2022
Matt Vanisacker, Guest Columnist

Each year, during the second week of May, the International Economic Development Corporation and economic development organizations (EDO) across the world celebrate ‘Economic Development Week.’

This year’s festivities made me question, ‘How many people know what Economic Development means?’ Do I know what Economic Development means? In theory if someone asked me that question, I should at least have an answer prepared.

I work for the Monroe County Business Development Corporation (BDC), a non-profit that serves as the lead economic development agency for the county. The BDC is also the local partner for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

In 1982, a group of community leaders established the BDC in response to the economic challenges our nation was facing during the early 1980’s. At the time, the organization focused on marketing the county for manufacturing, industrial and warehousing opportunities but today it has evolved into several other areas.

For 40 years, we have experienced a number of triumphs and an equal or greater number of losses. You see, imperfection comes with the territory in economic development. Monroe County cannot be everything for everyone and that is okay. There are always things we cannot control, but there are some things we can control; one of which is partnership.

American author, John C. Maxwell is credited with the phrase, ‘Teamwork makes the dreamwork.’ Economic development is truly a team sport. When it comes to economic development who makes up the team? The BDC works in business attraction, retention and growth and the Link Plan, a comprehensive economic development strategy for the county. Beyond that, there are regional EDOs, the Detroit Regional Partnership (DRP), and the Regional Growth Partnership (RGP) out of Toledo which recruit national and international companies to our region. Statewide, the MEDC provides incentives for companies to make investment in our state.

Locally, municipalities play a crucial role in economic development. Our communities are vital to the economy and are interacted with at each step in the development process. Often, leads on business growth or formation come directly from the municipalities and then are carried through the building, planning, and zoning processes.

Talent is another area that heavily contributes to our economy. The Michigan Works! Monroe AJC which, our local workforce development agency, provides training and job placement services to those seeking employment. We partner with the AJC, local school districts and the Monroe County Community College to upskill our current and build our future workforce.

Building new businesses locally is another pillar. Last week, a program called Launch 734 started here locally to assist entrepreneurs with questions they may have when starting a business. The program has brought together resources from the SBA, SBDC, Monroe County Chamber of Commerce, Library System, BBA, Milan Area Chamber, Community College’s Makerspace, Elm Ave. Co-Working and many others.

Tourism plays a role in this ecosystem as well. Hotel stays, gas station visits, stopping for a meal, visits to Cabela’s, the River Raisin National Battlefield, just to name a few, are contributions. A county-wide initiative branding Monroe County as Michigan’s Cornerstone has come out of the Monroe County Link Plan creating social media pages, and even an online store that is being used to promote the County.

As you can see, there are many people working in economic development. There is, however, one person I want to highlight: You. You play the most significant role in the success of our county’s economy. Where you work, shop, eat, and play all play a role in telling our story. As we look to our next 40 years, I hope you will partner with us on promoting the benefits of investment within our communities. Check out our website, follow the initiatives on all forms of social media and interact with the posts. Participate in master planning workshops and focus groups that require community input. Together, we can achieve some remarkable things.

There are infinite pieces to the puzzle of economic development which is the reason my original question is difficult to answer. By definition, economic development is ‘the development of wealth and resources in a certain area’ but that does not tell the whole story. To me, economic development, in its purest form, is… teamwork.