Rural Economic Development Initiative
The Community Foundation of Oceana County was selected by the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) to participate in the Rural Economic Development Cohort initiative. Assessing community needs throughout Oceana County is part of the Community Foundation’s 3 year strategic plan. The purpose of this initiative is to:
- build community leadership to support economic development;
- assist community foundations to engage with other local actors working on economic development;
- complete a community assessment; and,
- receive expert guidance to turn results into action
The Foundation selected the Shelby area to conduct the assessment and recruited a team of community leaders to gain knowledge around economic development activities, conduct the assessment and build relationships with state economic development funders. On August 29, 2018 a community assessment was conducted where a cross-section of community leaders and residents shared their thoughts, feelings and aspirations about the Village of Shelby. As a product of the assessment, consultants from the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM), under contract with CMF, produced a comprehensive report after receiving, summarizing and analyzing community feedback.
Click here for the FULL report
Click here for a one page summary
MAJOR ASSESSMENT THEMES:
- HOUSING: The Village has a high renter vs homeowner rate, and many of the rental properties are substandard. The affordable single family homes that are available, which are very few, are in need of repair.
- DOWNTOWN: The downtown is not “coherent”. The business mix is not conducive to attracting customers, quality of facades is spotty, and some buildings are in need of total renovation (especially in the rear of the building). The streetscape needs to be updated and beautified.
- QUALITY JOBS: The area is predominantly agricultural and there is not a diverse business mix. Many of the existing jobs are low paying.
- INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY: The Hispanic community is not represented in village government. Across the broader community, there appears to be some fear or lack of understanding of the value of sharing and learning cross-cultures.
ASSESSMENT PROCESS FOR COMMUNITY FEEDBACK
(4) focus groups and (1) community-wide meeting were held throughout the day in the Village of Shelby.
- Focus Group 1: Business/Economic Development: When asked about the biggest challenges in the Shelby community, three issue areas dominated: lack of skilled workforce; lack of decent, affordable housing; and a disturbing undercurrent of bias among some of the Shelby Township governmental leadership. The workforce issue is exacerbated, according to participants, but several things. First, it is hard to nurture indigenous talent due to lack of post-secondary and/or trades education opportunities. And second, it is hard to attract talent because of the housing problem and lack of varied amenities in the community.
- Focus Group 2: Service Organizations: The responses (not surprisingly) of this group came from a social services perspective. In terms of challenges, generational poverty and often related social issues such as lack of parenting skills and drug addiction were mentioned. But they also touched on the themes from Group #1, need for safe, decent, affordable housing, need to revitalize the downtown, and lack of good paying jobs. They also echoed the sentiments of the prior group in their sense that the Hispanic population and culture is not integrated into the community as well as it could be, and that was a missed opportunity for everyone.
- Focus Group 3: Village Employees/Elected/Appointed Officials: This group also identified housing and overall economic development (including revitalization of the downtown) as top challenges. There was lengthy discussion of how to attract additional industry, with the recognition that without decent, affordable housing in the area the new employees would have nowhere to live. They acknowledged that in addition to lack of housing, lack of decent retail and other amenities make it very difficult to attract talent to Shelby.
- Focus Group 4: Seasonal Residents/Young Adults: The first challenge identified by this group was the lack of integration of the Hispanic and Anglo communities. Many in the group concurred that it was a loss for both to remain so divided. According to one participant, “If you go to the schools it’s obvious that the kids have this integration thing figured out – why can’t the adults?” The group also concurred on the blight problem in the community, saying that neglect is evident in many of the rental units and other buildings throughout the community. Not surprisingly, this was the only group that talked specifically about what the youth in the community might want – a place to hang out that is comfortable, all season and non-intrusive.
- Town Hall Community Meeting: The community meeting was held at the Ladder, a wonderful venue! Almost 30 people attended and they represented a wide cross-section of Shelby residents. Their vision for Shelby included a more inclusive community, with a beautiful downtown that is connected to the trail. There would be a variety of attractive and affordable housing options, high paying jobs, and lots of things for kids to do. The working portion of the town hall meeting generated a long list of projects. Many of the projects centered on the downtown, quality affordable housing, Getty Park, and working to become a more inclusive community.
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