Plan turns to students for economic innovation
Students and recent graduates might have more of a reason to stay in the Lansing area if a comprehensive plan introduced Wednesday is successful.
In economic times when Michigan cities are forced to find new ways to innovate and create jobs, Greater Lansing is looking toward regionalism and entrepreneurship to attract young talent and emerging businesses, according to the plan, Greater Lansing Next.
The Lansing Economic Area Partnership Inc. introduced the comprehensive plan Wednesday at Wharton Center. It includes seven different strategies for regional prosperity. Businesses, municipalities and institutions hope the plan will encourage more business opportunities and make the region a place where people want to live and work.
To attract more businesses, the region needs to focus on essential services, research facilities and knowledge-based industries, such as information technology, according to the plan.
And part of that effort is getting students and recent graduates to invest in the region. Gordon Ferguson, senior business consultant with Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center, said creating an entrepreneurial epicenter in Lansing will take a younger mind-set.
“(Students) are so incredibly bright,” he said.
“They’ve seen what’s out there and they’ve adapted. I think that is our crown jewel for entrepreneurs and it’s going to start at MSU.”
The plan was created by regional leaders, including members from the city of East Lansing and MSU, who came together and discussed the future of the region. Joseph Reid, chairman and CEO of Capitol Bancorp Limited, said the plan was to create more regional prosperity.
Fisheries and wildlife sophomore Emily Westbrook said if the region was built up more, she would be more likely to take a job in Greater Lansing.
“Right now, all I think Lansing has to offer is that it’s the Capitol and the fact that there is MSU,” she said.
“Aside from that, I have no interest in this city.”
But other students, such as music performance senior Lauren McMurry, said Lansing’s efforts are overshadowed by Michigan’s bleak economy as a whole.
“It’s not just about the city, it’s also about the state,” she said. “For me, I want to go where I feel like there was more opportunity.”
Michael Langley, CEO of Langley Group, a consulting firm that contributed to the comprehensive plan, said regional planning is essential to growth and innovation in a community.
His company helped the city of Pittsburgh become more aggressive in the competitive region as a vibrant city. He said Greater Lansing has the tools to transform like Pittsburgh did.
“Lansing has so many parallels here, with the university, with technology companies and entrepreneurs that are flourishing,” Langley said.
“What we’re seeing is a trend around the country of more and more civic organizations to come together around a single strategy.”