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Friday, 18 May 2012 11:38

Q&A: Erika Rosebrook, Associate director for the Michigan Office of Urban Initiatives, West Michigan

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Q&A: Erika Rosebrook, Associate director for the Michigan Office of Urban Initiatives, West Michigan ELIJAH BRUMBACK

Erika Rosebrook is reacquainting herself with familiar faces in West Michigan. As the associate director for the Michigan Office of Urban Initiatives based in West Michigan, Rosebrook's job is to facilitate a discussion between the cities in the region and the governor's office. Gov. Rick Snyder set up the Office of Urban Initiatives to assist community leaders, local governments and stakeholder groups in efforts including grant applications, transportation needs, urban planning and economic development. Rosebrook covers primarily Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Holland and will work in tandem with colleagues in Detroit and the Flint-Saginaw area in solving statewide issues. With her first six weeks under her belt, Rosebrook is ready to develop a plan with the information she's gathered from meetings with local leaders.

What should the business community know about your office and your role in West Michigan?

First they should know that we're here. This is the first presence the governor has had in West Michigan in many years. What this office wants to do is share what the area is doing on statewide level. As a business leader or small business who sees issues that they believe we should engage in or keep improving, we want to be available to help as it relates to making our urban centers more sustainable.

What do you want to hear from people?

The leaders in this area have run their communities very well, and they're on top of their financial information and a can communicate that data. That's the kind of discussion we want to have. When people come with good data and good solutions, that is the kind of discussion we want to be a part of. When you have that foundation it makes the job of public office that much easier. We believe in being a complementary partner and working with local leaders to facilitate discussions with government agencies.

What can other areas learn from West Michigan?

We are not sure what those are yet, but that's the kind of process were going through to get there. We are doing things over here with the arts and other things that are very progressive and maybe those are things that can be extrapolated into statewide initiatives.

So far, what issues are people talking about?

Personal property tax is certainly an issue that's come up, and there is concern for what it means for the ability to provide services in urban centers. As an administration that is something we understand is a concern, and we are talking to communities. We are certainly willing to keep a dialogue on that.

How about transportation and mobility?

Every place I've been, every community meeting I've been too, I've had people come up to me afterword and say when you're ready to talk about transportation here's my card. I think I have a stack of cards on my desk that all say transportation on the back.

How can the state help cities with transportation?

Transportation is ... a true regional issue. That is something we will probably start trying to facilitate some discussion on because it's such a complicated issue. (It's) such an important issue for people getting to jobs, for moving goods and access – not just in cities, but also between cities. There are jobs in Grand Rapids that people in Muskegon could certainly get to if they had access to transportation.

So you've started conversations. What's next?

I'm starting to put information together from the meetings I've had with people throughout the community at different levels and cities. Statewide, of course, we're looking at a more global urban agenda. My counterparts in Flint and office director in Detroit are going through same process I am. Part of the reason I'm getting together information locally is not just to do things locally, but see how that feeds into state conversations.

Why coordinate statewide?

I think we have common issues in our urban centers, but they manifest themselves differently in each area. Speaking as a region or metro area can be difficult even though the issues are shared. Some of our office will be trying to figure out ways to craft solutions that address those common issues and the unique ways they present themselves in the community. (We're looking at a) high-level survey of policies that could help our urban centers and what are the things that are standing in the way of economic development of our urban centers.

What have you found thus far?

Some of the kinds of things they looked at are policies related to export, polices related to helping highly skilled immigrants come into the community and be able to use their skills because licensing regulations can be difficult. We hope to find ways to be inclusive as we grow so that everyone has an opportunity to participate in that growth.


Read 2136 times Last modified on Thursday, 02 August 2012 17:14

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