People want to live in communities that are walkable with open and green space, a variety of housing options, commercial space and things to do. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation Community Development team is contributing to projects across the state to make Michigan communities an attractive place to live.

Here are six projects that are turning old or abandoned spaces into vibrant community places.

Vogue Theater
Manistee, Mich.

The Vogue Theater was built in 1938 in the Art Deco style of architecture. The building has been unoccupied since 2005, but recent efforts to bring it back to its original grandeur have been successful through a variety of private donations from community members, foundation dollars and grants awarded from the Downtown Development Authority.

MEDC Investment: $503,000 (Community Revitalization Program Grant)

Private Investment: $2,354,000

Local Contribution: $233,000

REACH Studio Art Center
Lansing, Mich.

Before and After

The REACH Studio Art Center used the crowdfunding platform Patronicity to raise more than $48,000 to support the center’s expansion. The project will quadruple the size of the non-profit that has been providing free and low-cost art programming to Lansing residents for more than 10 years.  MEDC provided a$48,000 matching grant.

The Delft Theatre
Marquette, Mich.

The Delft Theatre in downtown Marquette was built in 1920 and featured 10,000 square feet of space and held nearly 1,500 patrons. The MEDC is involved in helping develop this unique, 100-year-old building in downtown Marquette, which will turn the old, abandoned theatre into a dinner restaurant and theatre combination.

David Whitney Building
Detroit, Mich.

The David Whitney Building was completed in 1915 and was designed by noted Chicago architect Daniel H. Burnham. Without the MEDC, the development would not have been possible. The MEDC saw the vision from the beginning of a greater west district and the concept of repurposing an entire neighborhood of historic buildings to a 24-hour, residential, mixed-use neighborhood.

East End
Midland, Mich.

The East End development is a 226,000 square foot mixed use development that was constructed by Midland downtown partners. The projected needed a partner like the MEDC to establish the right vision.

Arena Place
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Arena Place is a $45 million project that will put new offices, housing and retail development across the street from Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids. The project will include 101 market-rate apartments and 250 parking spaces, 17,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, which will include a restaurant with outdoor seating.

Take a look at the MEDC Project Map, which allows you to see data about a particular region or on any project to get a specific project details.

Learn more about how your community can benefit from the MEDC Community Development team.

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How four Venture for America Fellows are turning a once-abandoned Detroit house into an entrepreneurial hub of their own.

What’s the logical next step for four members of the inaugural class of Venture for America (VFA) fellows in Detroit? Many would expect these young innovators to move out to the coasts and nurture their entrepreneurial dreams in a modernized office building with a skyline view. These four friends, however, like so many other Detroit transplants, felt a greater desire to become part of the community and contribute to the revival of one of America’s greatest cities.

Tim Dingman, Sean Jackson, Scott Lowe, and Max Nussenbaum decided to convert an abandoned 7-bedroom house in New Center into a group home and co-working space that can become their own personal hub for entrepreneurship. Using the entrepreneurial skills they acquired through VFA, the group launched a $10,000 crowdfunding campaign to buy the house, and soon their reclamation project, termed “Rebirth Realty,” was a reality.

While Rebirth’s fascinating tale of entrepreneurial ingenuity has earned national notoriety – you can read their story in publications such as TIME and Fast Company – the value of their experience resides in the example it sets for all of Detroit.

The Rebirth project is a perfect microcosm of the commitment to community building and grit that has led the Detroit’s resurgence. In restoring their house, these four VFA graduates are not only helping to rebuild the community in New Center, but also building a micro-community for future VFA fellows for years to come. Even after the original tenants have moved on from the house, new classes of VFA fellows will arrive in Detroit with a place to live, socialize and innovate.

Just as public and private institutions alike are now rushing to invest in Detroit’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, innovators like Tim, Sean, Scott and Max are doubling down and betting on themselves too. That attitude is permeating throughout Detroit’s entrepreneurial community, and it is what makes Detroit such an exciting place to be.

Even while the foundation for the Rebirth house is progressing towards livable (their heat isn’t working yet!), their plan to build a community for VFA fellows in Detroit is taking shape. From a chickpea pasta business (Banza), to a house management startup called Castle, the Rebirth house is already home to an eclectic group of entrepreneurs, each with their own vision on how to impact their new hometown.


Paula Sorrell is the vice president of entrepreneurship, innovation, & venture capital at the MEDC.

Looking to start your own business? Visit for more information.

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In an effort to double Michigan’s recycling rate, which currently stands at 14.5 percent, Governor Snyder has mandated a statewide plan to improve recycling in the state.

To many people, recycling means returning cans and bottles to local grocery stores for a few extra dollars. But to Kerrin O’Brien, the executive director at the Michigan Recycling Coalition, it’s so much more than that.

According to the Department of Environmental Equality (DEQ), Michigan residents return more than 90 percent of bottles and cans, but these recyclables only make up two percent of all waste produce. The market value of all the recyclable metal, glass and plastic found in Michigan landfills every year equals $435 million, and that number continues to grow.

Read below for four things you need to know about how O’Brien and her staff at the MRC are working toward a more environmentally sustainable Michigan.

Purpose of the Michigan Recycling Coalition.

The Michigan Recycling Coalition began as informal meeting group of recycling coordinators just beginning to address recycling interests in communities in progressive pockets of Michigan.  For more than 32 years, the Coalition has united public and private stakeholders in the recycling industry by providing educational opportunities through an annual conference, workshops and training to build consensus around and lead critical issues in the growing industry.

The MRC working with the Department of Environmental Quality

The MRC has a close working relationship with the DEQ and has developed that relationship over time.  In our 2011 State of Recycling: A Way Forward,  the MRC sought to identify the value of recycling to the state’s economy and environment and also the leadership role the DEQ needs to take to allow the state’s residents and businesses to take advantage of the opportunities.

How local businesses can get involved with Recycle, Michigan

Our real challenge is making sure that everyone has access to convenient recycling opportunities and then motivating them to actually participate in those programs…making it a habit.We need to start to align recycling programs to make it easy for all of us to participate in programs where we live.  Any community can be a recycling community, there is no city limit.  The campaign is a reminder and a proclamation. We recycle here.

What Michigan businesses can do

Michigan businesses stand to benefit from recycling in a number of ways. They can decrease their disposal costs by diverting materials to recycling programs, if they produce high volumes of recyclables they can make money on the sale of those recyclable commodities. By providing opportunities to recycle, they are they are communicating to employees and customers that they care, it’s good for company perception, and in turn, good for the bottom line.

Perhaps most importantly they are contributing to a recycled commodity stream that more manufacturers are turning to for inclusion in new products with less impact on the environment.

Investing in recycling not only represents opportunity for Michigan’s economy, but can help sustain a healthy environment for years to come.

Want to know more about how recycling positively impacts the state? Visit for more information.


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Last week marked the 5th annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, where Michigan’s top entrepreneurs and startups compete for $1 million in prizes. Every year I’m blown away by the startups’ innovative technologies and the level of competition, but what impressed me most this year was the outstanding diversity present throughout the competition.

This year’s Accelerate Michigan competitors hailed from all across the state and presented technologies that spanned all industries, from energy to consumer to defense. Neuvokas Corporation, for example, is an advanced manufacturing company from Calumet in the Upper Peninsula that developed a high-speed process to produce reinforced rebar – an essential material for construction. As Neuvokas made its pitch to the judges, presenting just down the hall was Sisu Global Health, a Grand Rapids startup that connects modern medical technology to developing nations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

SkySpecs, the Ann Arbor-based startup that develops sensory technology for drones to avoid collisions, took home the grand prize of $500,000 in seed capital. With the ability to make drones safer and easier to use, SkySpecs’ technology has applications in markets ranging from consumer to infrastructure inspection., the competition’s runner-up, is an online housing marketplace the helps college students find and manage off-campus homes.

The wide collection of startups competing in Accelerate Michigan proves exactly why Michigan’s ecosystem is the perfect destination for any entrepreneur to start a business. Anyone with great ideas and a strong work ethic is capable of doing great things in Michigan.

As successful as this year’s competition was, it was only get better and better. See below for the startups that joined SkySpecs and as finalists. The full list of competitors can be found here.

Akervall Technologies Inc. (Saline) –  Akervall Technologies invented, developed and manufactures ultra-thin, comfortable low weight mouth guards – SISU™ — for sports, dentistry, military and hospitals with superior protection against dental injuries.

TurtleCell (Ann Arbor) – TurtleCell developed the world’s first smartphone case with retractable headphones offering premium audio.

Ornicept (Ann Arbor) – Ornicept’s flagship product, SPECTEO®, is an end-to-end fieldwork collaboration platform that is reinventing the way that field data is collected.

Surclean Inc. (Wixom) – SurClean’s laser technology selectively removes paint, debris, oxides and other surface coatings from various surfaces.

AMACS (Ann Arbor) – AMACS supplies environmental monitoring and control solutions for specialty applications.

Levanto Financial (Troy) – Levanto is a software and service platform that provides easy access to dedicated personal finance experts through.

Movellus Circuits, Inc. (Ann Arbor) – Movellus developed technology to make clock generators for electronics smaller, cheaper, more powerful and more energy efficient.

FreeStride Therapeutics (Ann Arbor) – FreeStride Therapeutics is a veterinary pharmaceutical company with a novel and safe therapy for a broad spectrum of veterinary bone and joint diseases in multiple species.


Paula Sorrell is the vice president of entrepreneurship, innovation, & venture capital at the MEDC.

Looking to start your own business? Visit for more information.

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Why Hiring Veterans Starts with Understanding Military Skills

November 11, 2014 Talent Enhancement

Veterans have sought-after skills and qualifications that employers are looking for, yet the unemployment rate for veterans is still high. In 2013, the unemployment rate for veterans who served since 2001 was at 9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  And for veterans aged 18 – 24, that rate more than doubled at [...]

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The Ingredients to Community Development

November 10, 2014 Community Development

Communities are playing a major role in building a stronger economy in Michigan.  As people choose to settle in places that offer the amenities, social and professional networks, resources and opportunities to support thriving lifestyles, community development is playing an important role in building a stronger economy in Michigan. MEDC Community Development is helping Michigan [...]

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How Small Businesses can Succeed at Exporting

November 3, 2014 Business Growth

More and more small business owners are taking advantage of exporting assistance provided through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help expand their global reach. Meet John Sammut, president and CEO of Grand Rapids-based Firstronic. He utilized MEDC resources to conduct initial market research necessary to begin development of business strategies for new markets. Through [...]

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Global Crowdfunding Convention Offers Key Takeaways for Michigan Entrepreneurs

October 30, 2014 Access to Capital

Iconic Silicon Valley startups like Twitter and Uber have gone a long way to raise awareness among ambitious minds for the possibilities available to budding entrepreneurs. However, one common misconception from massive fundraising successes of these companies is that all great startups depend on dollars from venture capitalists. While it’s true that the amount of [...]

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Mythbusters: What You Need to Know about Careers in Michigan Manufacturing

October 28, 2014 Events

Manufacturing is in Michigan’s DNA. Home to nearly 14,000 manufacturing establishments, 61 top automotive suppliers, and more engineers per capita than any other state, Michigan is a leader in making things and making things work. Talent is key when it comes to manufacturing industry growth, however the industry faces perception issues when it comes to [...]

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The Tale of Two Moves: Two Men from Out-of-State Calling Michigan Home

October 23, 2014 Business Growth

Michigan is the comeback state — fueled by persistence, innovation and collaboration. The comeback has gained the attention of job seekers – both in and out of state – who are looking to Michigan as a place full of opportunity. Chuck Lippstreu and Mark Geary are two examples of those who have found work and [...]

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