More collaboration between local governments is the key to spurring economic development and cutting costs in Michigan, says a new report released by Business Leaders for Michigan, a private, nonprofit organization made up of top executives from businesses and universities across the state.
The report, developed from statewide surveys and polls, government data, and analysis of non-government sources, found several statewide and national examples of savings resulting when communities work together.
“The good news is that our regional local government and private sector leaders are already thinking of and implementing innovative ways to leverage regional economic assets and to deliver services more effectively and efficiently,” says Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of the organization, based in Lansing.
In Detroit, for instance, an authority of representatives from Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, the state of Michigan, and the city of Detroit was established in 2009 to oversee operations of Cobo Center. Since that time, the authority has reduced annual operating costs by nearly $6 million, energy costs by almost 45 percent, while more than doubling operating revenue from $3.6 million to $7.6 million.
Rothwell also notes that recent changes to state law will better allow regional leaders to seek out collaboration. For example, efforts such as the Regional Prosperity Initiative and the Economic Vitality Incentive Program — established in the budgets for fiscal years 2014 and 2012, respectively — provide grants that encourage consolidation and mergers.
The program also seems to parallel the opinions of the public, as a recent survey by the Glengariff Group in Chicago found that nearly two-thirds of voters believe that Michigan, with nearly 2,900 local units of government (general purpose and special purpose), has too many municipalities.
Despite the positive strides being made, challenges remain, Rothwell says. In recent years, several efforts to consolidate units of local government have failed. This includes, for example, the village of Douglas and city of Saugatuck along the west side of the state. A consolidation of the two entities was denied by voters last week, although the merger could have saved the communities nearly $500,000 per year.
To read the full report, click here.