By Ray Wilbur
Listen Up, Lansing
Bustling bars, sandwich shops, and cafés – downtown Lansing is an environment that’s always changing, and always finding new ways to attract more people.
Businesses in Lansing are vital to the quality of life of its inhabitants, and numerous organizations in the state of Michigan work to attract and keep businesses in the Lansing area to keep the quality of life of it’s families high.
The Lansing Economic Area Partnership or LEAP is one of these organizations and works daily to bring new businesses to Lansing and the tri-county area.
“We’re tasked with attracting new businesses to Lansing, and also helping to grow those businesses, so they can provide jobs for families,” LEAP Chief Operating Officer Steve Willobee said.
LEAP has helped bring such companies as Niowave Inc., and Farm Bureau Insurance to Michigan and the Lansing area, and continually works with GM to grow customer awareness of new cars being built in Michigan.
LEAP also receives business ideas from the numerous incubators in downtown Lansing, Willobee said, including the fashion incubator, Runway.
But LEAP is not the only organization in the Lansing area that helps attract new business. Michigan Economic Development Corporation or MEDC works alongside LEAP to bring businesses to the specific downtown Lansing area.
“We work with MEDC to find entrepreneurs who want to start their business in a thriving city like Lansing, and MEDC helps us promote our efforts to a broader community of businesses,” Willobee said.
The MEDC recently succeeded in bringing two large corporations to Michigan in March, and both combined are expected to generate $59.6 million in new investment and create 185 jobs in the Lansing area, said MEDC chief executive officer Steve Arwood.
The MEDC also works directly with Downtown Lansing Inc.’s business development committee, which works on a smaller scale to bring local entrepreneur’s businesses to the downtown Lansing area.
Downtown Lansing Inc. also became a part of Michigan State’s Housing Development Authority when it joined the Michigan Main Street Program in 2008, which is meant to preserve downtown Lansing’s history through community revitalization and interaction.
The Main Street Program is a national strategy, and enacts 4 points of approach: organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring.
According to their website, more than 246,000 buildings have been rehabbed and 502,728 jobs have been created nationally as a result of implementing the Main Street Program in cities around the country.
Arwood said the downtown Lansing business development committee has worked to implement the Main Street Program and was pivotal in bringing a cluster of new businesses to downtown Lansing last year, including Firehouse Subs, Jersey Giant Subs, and Lou and Harry’s.
Aside from bringing new business to downtown Lansing, the Downtown Lansing Inc. business committee also organizes monthly events downtown for citizens, meant to spur economic activity and citizen interaction in the downtown area.
“I went to a couple of the monthly discount days at bars in downtown Lansing, and I definitely noticed an increase in people compared to normal, so that must be working,” Lansing resident Carrie Smith said.
It isn’t all about the business though, Willobee said. “We do this work for the families of Lansing, for their future and present, for their children and their grandparents – everyone needs jobs, everyone needs money,” he said.