Tag Archives: Economic Development

Lansing Area Logistics to "Go Green"

Source: gogreentrikesllc

Scheduled to launch in Greater Lansing on Earth Day, 2014 (Tuesday, April 22nd), Go Green Trikes, LLC (Facebook webpage link) is the brainchild of local green business entrepreneur, Yvonne LeFave. Utilizing heavy-duty electric-assisted cargo trikes capable of carrying loads of up to 600 pounds, Go Green Trikes will provide prompt and sustainable delivery services throughout the urban heart of Greater Lansing – essentially an area bounded by I-96 on the south and west, I-69 on the north and Van Atta Road to the east. Here’s a maplink of the service area.

These are not your childhood tricycles folks, but industrial-grade cargo trikes designed to efficiently serve businesses while avoiding the tangles associated with trucks and street traffic. They also allow for door-to-door delivery of goods without the hassle of blocking lanes and/or customers in the process.

According to Yvonne, Greater Lansing will be at the very forefront of this cutting-edge form of “last mile” delivery/logistics service. Within North America, cargo trike delivery services such as Go Green Trikes only operate currently in Portland, Oregon (B-line); Vancouver, British Columbia (Shift Urban Cargo Delivery); Boston (Metro Pedal Power); and New York City (Revolution Rickshaws). Needless to say, Greater Lansing will be in good company, while also being the smallest urban center to support such an exciting and sustainable business venture.

If early indications

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are a guide, it appears Go Green Trikes, LLC will be pedaling off to a successful start, as they already have three clients lined up to date. So, starting April 22nd, keep an eye out for Yvonne LeFave as she plies her way about area streets and bike trails. Kudos to her for setting a sustainble standard for all of us to strive for!

– Rick Brown

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Filed under Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, the environment, Urban Planning

"Bikenomics" – An Instant Classic for Planners and Bicycling Advocates

Source: takingthelane.com

Certain books become a classic in their field of study because of their comprehensive nature (i.e. The City in History). Others do from their advocacy and groundbreaking nature (i.e. Silent Spring).  In the case of Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy, both of these reasons apply. Author Elly Blue has written “the” definitive book on bicycle planning that clearly identifies the societal, physical, environmental, and economic benefits of bicycling, while also completely debunking the myths, fables, urban legends, half-truths, and outright lies spread by naysayers and automotive apologists.

Facts are funny things. They tend to get in the way of spurious and superfluous arguments. In Bikenomics, Ms. Blue lays down the gauntlet with factual truths about bicycling and how a vibrant cycling culture can go a long way to curing many of our nation’s ills. If one could quote the entire book in a blogpost, I would.  There are so many quotable gems contained within this publication, that I could fill gigabytes of pages with them. But alas, you should read the book, so I have only provided a few of them at the end of this post.

Believe me when I say this is a book that every planning professional must read and own. It will single-handedly serve as your go-to resource on the benefits of bicycle planning in your community. Kudos to Ms. Blue providing all of us with a fantastic source of information. Enjoy!

Here are a sampling of quotes from the book:

“People who ride bicycles also pay taxes, which means they often pay more into the road system than they cost it. By one estimate, a carfree cyclist would overpay by an average of $250 a year — a few dollars more than the amount that the average driver underpays.” (page 13)

“As it turns out, gas taxes have paid for about 70% of the construction and maintenance costs of the Interstate system to date, with that percentage going down with each passing year. Local roads fare worse when it comes user funding. If you take the nation’s road system as a whole, only 51% of its cost over the years has come from direct user fees.” (page 39)

“When you brush away the rhetoric, though, even the fanciest bikeways are a screaming bargain. For the cost of one freeway interchange, you can completely transform your city and immeasurably improve the wealth, health, and happiness of its citizens.”  (page 49)

“Large road projects are often funded in a down economy because they create jobs. But roads are actually the least job-intensive of any transportation investment. Bikeways are the most, creating more jobs per million dollars spent than roads-this is because there are so few materials involved and most of the budget goes to workers.” (page 51)

“Bikes may not be able to solve our health care crisis singlehanded…But bicycling is one of the rare areas where people can directly and concretely address our own health and the health of our community, and quickly see big results. In this light, bicycling for transportation isn’t so much a lifestyle choice as it’s a form of civic action.” (page 61)

“Minimum parking requirements act like a fertility drug for cars’ – Donald Shoup.” (page 89)

“In the US, 99% of trips by car end up in a free spot [parking spot]. The value of that land—and to a lesser extent, the costs of paving, sweeping, policing, and maintaining it—makes [parking one of the largest subsides going.” (page 90)

“In a car-oriented world, old age becomes a disability for many, long before it might in a more walkable neighborhood. The more car-reliant your daily life, the lower the threshold becomes for frailness, injury, or failing eyesight to be experienced as outright disabling.” (page 104)

– Rick Brown

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Filed under Book review, Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Public Transportation, sprawl, the environment, Urban Planning

Does your community suffer from power pole blight?

I don’t know about your community, but here in Greater Lansing there seems to be an intense love affair between public utilities and power poles. “Holy pincushions, Batman, you’d think they’d all been raised by a family of porcupine.”

In some places, the primary roadway corridors look like a long, linear parade of power pole blight. Sadly, all too often this leaves communities in the region with disjointed and unpleasant streetscape aesthetics to viagra for sale overcome. I know Greater lansing is not alone, as I have seen power pole blight across many parts of the Rust Belt.

Seriously...in the middle of a roundabout?
Seriously…in the middle of a roundabout?

Attempts have been made to convince area utilities to remove portions of the visual blight and bury the power lines, but that is usually greeted with consternation and rebuttals on the costliness of such actions. If the community or property owners wish to pay for burying the lines, they would be glad to oblige. As a result, instead https://twitter.com/drjonesbilly of a modern and efficient electrical grid, numerous locations end up with a cobbled together third-world styled electrical grid that struggles to maintain service during ice, snow, and wind storm events.

One would think that after a certain number of repetitive power outages and emergency repairs to broken, damaged, and fallen power lines, electric utilities would initiate https://twitter.com/drjonesbilly routine burying programs on their own to reduce the number of outages and their firm’s long-term maintenance costs. Throw in discount viagra regular tree trimming efforts and eventually burying power lines doesn’t look so expensive anymore. Apparently the bean counters differ on that assessment.

Years ago, power utilities were often active participants in economic development, community enhancement, redevelopment, and revitalization efforts. It was seen as a way to increase the utility’s customer base. Today, some utilities can be a stubborn impediment to new initiatives and progressive streetscape design ideas. Whether this is a function of the short-term profit mindset or local firms being bought out or merging with multinationals is not entirely clear. Unfortunately, whatever the reason, local communities across the Rust Belt and other parts of the nation are left with paying the price of power pole/line blight with unsightly pincushionesque landscapes dotting the horizon.

No one is advocating for the burying of the entire power line infrastructure. That would be viagra for men impractical. But, in those areas where the power poles have become overbearing and omnipresent, or in places where redevelopment and revitalization efforts are trying to get underway, burying the power lines makes sense. As stakeholders in the community and https://twitter.com/drjonesbilly the Rust Belt generally, it is hoped the region’s utilities will join any and all localized efforts to achieve a more aesthetically pleasant streetscape and overall community vision.

– Rick Brown

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Ten Lessons from Boulder, Colorado

 

View of Boulder from the Flatiron Mountains - photo by author

I had the great pleasure of visiting Boulder, Colorado for the first time over an extended weekend. As an urban planner, I was able to take away many useful lessons for Rust Belt communities from the lovely city abutting the Front Range. Granted, not every place can be set aside majestic mountains, but every community does have unique attributes.

Here are what I would quantify as the top ten. Many of these are remarkably similar to the ten lessons from European industrial cities published earlier this month.

  • Cherish, protect, enhance, and enjoy your natural surroundings, attributes, and amenities.
  • Don’t worry, be active! As one of the healthiest and most active cities in the United States, Boulder residents practice this every day.
  • Active transportation (walking, hiking, cycling, mass transit) is absolutely key to a vibrant, healthy community.
  • Design the city to be human-scaled and pedestrian friendly.
  • There is a place for cars, but not at the forefront (both in the city and on college campuses) – the University of Colorado campus is amazingly compact and is only bisected by a few streets.
  • Skyscrapers and sprawl are not necessary for a healthy community – sprawl, in particular, is the antithesis of a healthy community.
  • Create third places and amenitiesdowntown Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall (a closed street) is an amazing third place filled with people and constant activity.
  • Embrace street art, performers, and vendors – they add life and vibrancy.
  • Preserve and protect your community’s architecture and cultural heritage – they’re the only ones you’ve got!
  • People will pay the necessary premiums (taxes, fees, rent, cost of living, etc.) to live, work, and play in a well-planned, diverse, eccentric, healthy, innovative, and sustainable community.

– Rick Brown

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Gaming the Economic Development System

Once again, it appears that “build it and celebrate it” no matter the past sins (or future consequences) reigns supreme among economic developers. While hyping an announcement of more jobs and new construction in Greater Lansing, the fact that the insurance company in question challenged its property taxes using the “functionally obsolete building” scheme in 2010 was conveniently overlooked (see article in City Pulse).

Source: freep.com

If you are not familiar with the “functionally obsolete” tax game that is being employed most often by big box retailers, the claim that is made is their building is “functionally obsolete”  because it was specifically designed and built for their purpose and no other entity could possible adapt it. Needless to say, the whole argument is rather sketchy, but unfortunately, state tax tribunals have been swallowing it hook, line, and sinker. This argument might be plausible or reasonable if the structure was 20+ years old, but it is also being made for newly/recently constructed buildings. The story in the May 8, 2013 edition of City Pulse is an example of the same scheme being used for an office building. Exactly how hard is it to move cubicles, desks, and partitions?

The professional planning community needs to address this issue and fast. If a building is to become so dysfunctional (or functionally obsolete) so quickly, should it be approving for construction in the first place? And if it means the local property taxes are going to soon take a backhanded hit in the process, even more reason to deny the project unless the applicant certifies the building will be erected In an manner that is not dysfunctional (a.k.a. functionally obsolete).

Most special use (or conditional use) permit approvals require a community to determine whether the use “will not be detrimental to the economic welfare of neighboring properties or the surrounding community.” If the proposed building is to become “functionally obsolete” within ten years, no realistic or reasonable decision maker should approve its construction. Otherwise, all they are doing is losing badly at a zero sum game.

– Rick Brown

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The Epicenter of Craft Beer Brewing

Source: experiencegr.com

In 2012, Grand Rapids, Michigan and Asheville, North Carolina tied in a nationwide vote as Beer City, USA. The Grand Rapids consolidated metropolitan area has no less than 19 craft breweries dotting its scenic West Michigan landscape and at least one more set to open soon.  According to experiencegr.com these include:

·         B.O.B.’s Brewery

·         Brewery Vivant

·         Founders Brewing Co.

·         Harmony Brewing Co.

·         The Hideout Brewing Co.

·         HopCat

·         Grand  Rapids Brewing Co.

·         Jaden James Brewery

·         Michigan Beer Cellar (Sparta)

·         The Mitten Brewing Co.

·         New Holland Brewing Co. (Holland)

·         Old Boys’ Brewhouse (Spring Lake)

·         Perrin Brewing Co.

·         Pike 51 Brewing Co. (Hudsonville)

·         Rockford Brewing Co. (Rockford)

·         Saugatuck Brewing Co. (Douglas)

·         Schmohz Brewing, Co.

·         Waldorf Brew Pub (Hastings)

·         White Flame Brewing Co.  (Hudsonville)

As a result. Grand Rapids has been catapulted into the forefront of craft beer brewing on a worldwide scale and received the following additional accolades in 2012:

·         World’s 2nd best brewer (Founders) – per RateBeer.com

·         World’s 3rd best beer bar (Hop Cat) – per Beer Advocate

·         Top 10 vacation city for beer lovers (with Kalamazoo) – per The Street

·         Top 25 world beer city – per DrinkingMadeEasy.com

·         The National Homebrewers Conference will be held in Grand Rapids in June, 2014.

You only need visit Grand Rapids one time to feel the cultural and economic vibrancy that is taking place around its craft breweries and how that same vibe is literally foaming over into the community at large. This past Saturday, both Founders Brewing’s Tap Room and Harmony Brewing Company were absolutely packed. The region’s brewpubs, beer bars, and breweries are hopping (bad pun) every day of the week with or without  live entertainment, as they have become a significant economic engine in the community.

Founders Brewing - Source: experiencgr.com

It is quite a sight to behold as historic structures are lovingly restored and inner city neighborhoods teem with street life, commerce, traffic, and residents. Combined with the immense success of ArtPrize, private-sector philanthropic and foundation investments, cooperative regional planning efforts, and Michigan’s economic revival, the 1.3 million resident Grand Rapids region has become the place to be in Michigan and certainly the epicenter of the craft beer industry in the Rust Belt and the entire nation. There is a perceptible “can-do spirit” in Grand Rapids that you do not feel in all cities. The region doesn’t wait around for handouts or bailouts. Instead, it has picked itself up by its own bootstraps and charted a successful course towards economic prosperity. Is everything perfect? Of course not, but there is definitely visible and identifiable progress taking place.

New Holland Brewing - Source: michigan.org

Indianapolis, Columbus, and Minneapolis-St. Paul may get most national attention as vibrant Rust Belt cities, but Grand Rapids deserves to be included in this illustrious list.   Kudos to the city, the region, local leaders, and especially its citizens for showing us all how to get “hopping.”

Rick Brown

Source: experiencegr.com

 

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Six Rust Belt Economic Superstars for 2013

Source: fourtheconomy.com/initiatives/fourth-economy-index/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published annually by Fourth Economy Consulting of Pittsburgh, the Fourth Economy Index identifies those counties that are “ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth.” The index is broken down into micro (<25,000 population) small (25,000-49,999), mid-sized (50,000-149,999), and large (150,000-499,999) counties based on population.  The following five metrics are utilized as foundations for determining future economic success:

·         Investment

·         Talent

·         Sustainability

·         Place

·         Diversity

Kalamazoo - Source: trialx.com

 

 

 

 

 

Below is a list of the Top 10 large counties as determined by the Fourth Economy Index – six of which are Rust Belt counties (shown in bold):

  1. Durham County (Durham), North Carolina
  2. Sedgwick County (Wichita), Kansas
  3. Guilford County (Greensboro), North Carolina
  4. Linn County (Cedar Rapids), Iowa
  5. Onondaga County (Syracuse), New York
  6. Dakota County (Twin Cities), Minnesota
  7. Lehigh County (Allentown), Pennsylvania
  8. Polk County (Des Moines), Iowa
  9. Kalamazoo County (Kalamazoo), Michigan
  10. Hamilton County (Chattanooga), Tennessee

It is interesting to note that none of the Top 10 are from the New England, South Central, Rocky Mountain, or Pacific Coast states. Congratulations to all those counties that made the Top 10, particularly those from the Rust Belt.

– Rick Brown

 

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