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Urban chief outlines New normal for cities

2/29/2012, 8:09 p.m.

Harvey Hollins III is the director of the Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives and is a principal adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder on urban economic development. He is a loaned executive through the Council of Michigan Foundations, and his salary is supported by individual foundations through the council.

Michigan Chronicle editorial alliance partner, Bridge magazine reporter Amy Lane, spoke with Hollins in the wake of Snyder’s budget proposal for fiscal 2013 and as a new report, commissioned by statewide CEO group Business Leaders for Michigan and prepared by Public Sector Consultants Inc. and the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, was to be issued on urban and metropolitan strategies for Michigan.

Q: How do you view the goals and strategies in the report commissioned by Business Leaders for Michigan?

A: Generally speaking, the goals I think are good objectives, but we need to figure out a way as a state to tactically land those in a community.

Q: Can this report provide a blueprint that will be a game-changer for Michigan and its cities and metropolitan areas?

A: I don’t look at this report being the silver bullet report. I think this report, in combination with other efforts in the state, and if we can piece this thing together right, will certainly contribute to a game-changing environment in the state. I think for example, the current initiatives on the ground right now, that are occurring right now in the state, are beneficial. When you add this report to that, I think you can accelerate opportunity. This report helps us to really understand our state much better. It gives us a clear indication where opportunities in terms of sector might lie, and it helps us to bring focus on strategic initiatives that will address those sectors, for example, like advanced manufacturing.

Q: What initiatives are your top priority? What are you working on right now?

A: This office was designed to use the Brookings Institution report as a guiding document for the state’s approach to urban centers. To achieve that, there are three things that we will do. One, we’ll have satellite offices in Grand Rapids, in Flint and in Kalamazoo. The top priority is to get the satellite operations up and running for the governor. We’ve got to get the infrastructure in place. The second priority is to get the advisory group up and operating – an advisory group that involves foundations, chamber organizations, some business leaders and key stakeholders around the state, to help advise this office on the direction of how we engage the locals. The third priority is to develop an urban agenda/strategy for the state’s approach to how it will engage the cities based on the goals defined in the Brookings report. Once we have that defined, that strategy will be driven in part by where we currently have resources, and a resource map on how we can move or better align our investments to achieve better outcomes in our urban centers. I want to see on a map, where the state has been putting its money. Either direct state money, or pass-through from the feds. That’s what’s in play right now with departments, a request to provide address mapping for funds.