Community development fellows ‘add capacity’ to Rising Tide communities

MANISTEE — Project Rising Tide is underway in Michigan, and Manistee was selected as one of nine communities to participate over the course of the next year.

This week, Rising Tide introduced a new edition to the program — which is in its second cohort — welcoming fellows that will be immediately available to each participating community.

The program takes place over a course of 12-24 months.

“We’re hoping that they are able to serve as connectors — not only connectors of people and stakeholders within the communities, but also connectors to resources at the state level and at the local level, and maybe uncovering partnerships that haven’t been explored to this point,” said Katharine Czarnecki, senior vice president of Community Development at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Lissette Reyes, Manistee’s community development fellow, started her first day on Monday, and has moved to the city for the course of the project.

Sarah Teater, CEDAM community development fellowship coordinator, said this new edition to the program was suggested by the previous

REYES

REYES

cohort, which participated in the first round of Rising Tide.

The fellow is meant to “add capacity” to each community, and collaborate directly with local partners to implement economic development projects that help communities grow and thrive.

“I was brought on recently to manage the fellowship, because it is new this year,” said Teater. “We received very generous funding from MEDC to really start the fellowship and build it. It’s really exciting for me to create something that is going to support communities around the state.

“The feedback from the first round of communities, they thought they would be more successful in implementing their projects with another set of hands.”

In her diverse background, Reyes has an undergraduate education in business and economics, and she worked in public administration in the Dominican Republic with the U.S. Department of State.

“I worked as an analyst with the U.S. Embassy there for probably five years, and that’s kind of how I got involved in working with local government,” she said. “I moved to Kalamazoo to do my master’s degree in international development in 2016, and I have been here ever since.”

Reyes was interested in Manistee, and upon her first visit, she knew it was the perfect fit. In her time with Manistee, Reyes will be available to the community.

“A lot of my work has to do with helping the community, making their voice heard and (helping them) use resources,” Reyes said. “Most of my work is getting people together for understanding. I think this is a beautiful place, and everyone is pleasant to talk to.

“I am happy that I actually got to work in this community, and I think we have a lot of asset-based development we can do here.”

Project Rising Tide kicked off in 2015, starting with one community from each of the state’s prosperity regions.

The program runs under the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Talent Investment Agency and Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Collectively, the three groups form the Talent and Economic Development (TED) team, managing the Rising Tide program.

Communities were selected using data connected to factors like poverty, unemployment, renter occupancy and vacancies and cross-matched by population.

Participating in round two is Adrian, Albion, Beaverton/Gladwin, Eaton Rapids, Hamtramck, Ionia, Manistee, Marlette and West Branch. Ontonagon is still seeking a fellow.

Teater said Manistee was selected to participate based on several factors.

“With investments in Manistee and access to resources in extra capacity, we think that could have a great impact on Manistee in becoming a more thriving community,” she said. “I would not say there’s a downward trend, it is just that within the region there was an opportunity for Manistee to benefit from additional resources and support.”

Another reason communities like Manistee were chosen is based on its interest in improving.

“Communities were chosen also based on their level of engagement and interest in making their community an even stronger (place), with an even stronger economy,” Teater said. “There may be other communities similar to Manistee, but perhaps Manistee was seen as a place where people are more invested, they care about where they live and are proud of where they live. With a little bit of an investment it could have a great impact.”

Right now, Thad Taylor, Manistee’s city manager, and Reyes plan on meeting with city leaders, community members and more, to discuss the project. Taylor said a committee has already come up with several priorities for the project.

“We have met and identified priorities we want to focus on,” said Taylor. “Lissette is already putting those in motion. We have a one-month plan started, but it should not take a month to do.”

After meeting with the public, Reyes said she plans to help build a working strategy to meet set priorities and the community’s needs. Reyes said the goal is to have a working action-plan competed within the next month, which would ideally alter overtime.

“Within the first few weeks, a lot of this is to meet everyone in the community and get everyone’s ideas, or what is going on so I can discuss them with Thad,” Reyes added. “Then we can get a good working strategy going, so we can channel what everyone wants done, but with the things that make sense with the priorities we have.”

Reyes can be reached anytime at manisteecdfellow@gmail.com.

avatar

Posted by Ashlyn Korienek

Ashlyn is the cops & courts and city reporter for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach her at (231) 398-3109 or akorienek@pioneergroup.com

Leave a Reply