Research Spotlight - 2020

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EDA University Center for Community & Economic Development The mission of the UM-Flint EDA University Center for Community and Economic Development is to coordinate, inform, and contribute to economic development efforts that cultivate innovation and advance high-growth entrepreneurship needed to build and sustain a diversified economy throughout the 7-county I-69 Thumb Region (Genesee, Shiawassee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Huron, Sanilac, and Tuscola counties). The EDA University Center receives direction and guidance from stakeholders who rely on its services and research and a Regional Advisory Board, consisting of a representative cross-section of the I69 thumb region. Focus areas include economic development, community development, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

EDA University Center Applied Research Fund The EDA University Center for Community & Economic Development Research Fund was established to support faculty/student teams in applied research that addresses community, economic, and business development needs in the counties of Genesee, Huron, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Shiawassee, and Tuscola (East Michigan Prosperity Region 6). This 7-county economic development partnership encompasses urban, rural, and suburban areas with diverse populations. University research teams work side-by-side with community groups and organizations to enhance learning for students while increasing the capacity of the community. Partners can include businesses, non-profits, and community organizations as well as local governments, hospitals, and economic development entities.

In partnership with the Fenton Area Resources and Referral Network (FARR), UM-Flint faculty and students developed a Community Resource Directory for FARR, completed in May 2020. This directory includes services offered by nonprofits, churches, local businesses and civic organizations, along with county and government agencies. The Resource Directory is available to FARR and other agencies providing services. In addition to the Resource Directory, a client database was established, which tracks the needs of the community and the use of FARR by individuals and families. The data collected assists in the detection of at-risk families as well as overuse and abuse of services. Those involved in the project delivered the completion of the FARR Resource Directory and the construction of the FARR Database. Throughout the project, Carissa Stockton, a student from the UM-Flint Social Work Department, was tasked with compiling a resource database for community organizations in Genesee, Livingston, Shiawassee and Oakland counties. After data was compiled using a survey, this resource database was translated into a resource directory of 145 organizations. Halil Bisgin PhD. and Chris Lincoln, both with the Computer Science Department at UM Flint, developed a central database for the FARR network, including organizational information and client intake forms. This database also functions as a search engine which enables FARR to locate specialized services they do not or cannot provide. The project was developed with the cooperation and commitment of the Director of FARR, Dawn Placek. She was valuable in providing a specific understanding of the program’s goals, and direction for project development.


Development of the Fenton Area Resources and Referral Network

Faculty: Halil Bisgin, Department of Computer Science, College of Arts and Sciences Mark Jagos, Department of Social Work, College of Education and Human Services Students: Christopher Lincoln, Carissa Stockton Partners: Fenton Area Resources and Referral Network (FARR)

In partnership with the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD), Office of Outreach, local teachers, and the Mott Foundation, UM-Flint faculty and a student compiled a curriculum for teaching entrepreneurship for Middle School students. This curriculum was not only tied to the State of Michigan Standards for Social Studies, but also aimed to create an entrepreneurial mindset, laying framework for innovation, critical thinking and economic decision-making at an impressionable age. It is intended to create an innovative, hands-on approach that is linked to the State of Michigan Standards enabling teachers to incorporate the curriculum in their daily planning. In the previous year, an entrepreneurship curriculum was written for elementary students and piloted in 14 classrooms. With that existing curriculum in place, Terry Groves, an economic professor at UM-Flint, worked to write a curriculum for middle school students. Jennifer Delong, a student graphic designer, worked on the design of the curriculum notebook, student activities, and worksheets to make them more appealing to middle school students. In the project, deliverables such as mapping the State of Michigan Social Studies Standards to the curriculum, using the [IN] on the Road curriculum as a model, revising the Business Model Canvas, age appropriate lessons, answer keys and worksheets for teachers, teacher professional development, and binders with materials for teachers were submitted.

Eventually, the curriculum could be expanded to other counties in the region and State of Michigan, working to impact new business creation on economic prosperity, and providing an early foundation to encourage future business formation.

Entrepreneurship Curriculum for Middle School Students

Faculty: Terry Groves, Department of Economics, College of Arts and Sciences Student: Jennifer Delong Partners: Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD), Office of Economic Development (Formerly Outreach), Local Teachers, Mott Foundation

Faculty: Kurt Neiswender, LEC I Geography, Planning, Environment Department Student: Elise Sturgeon, Partners: Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, University Corridor Coalition, Genesee County Land Bank Authority

UM-Flint Faculty member Kurt Neiswender and student research assistant Elise Sturgeon explored emergent trends in “pop-up” style retail and concepts in innovative business incubation. The project was in partnership with Genesee County Habitat for Humanity, University Corridor Coalition, and the Genesee County Land Bank Authority. The project seeked to expand on a previous pop-up retail precedent research from the broader EDA Region 6 area, and identified a target market that served the chosen community and nonprofit partners. The research performed an economic development study with the intent to support the practical implementation of the partner’s specific goals and needs.

The project resulted in the following deliverables: financial feasibility and pro forma development of pop up retail, insurance and land ownership feasibility analysis, and an economic development report summarizing ideal project site and development measures. This report was intended to catalyze the implementation of a real pop-up project that partners were seeking funding to construct and operate in 2021.


Pop-Up Retail Analysis

The team engaged with the community partner organizations to interview stakeholders within the community and funding sources that determined the ideal project outcomes. It examined the tangible forces that govern the development, implementation, and viability of economic development incrementally from pop-up retail up to fully-fledged brick and mortar establishments, and how each impacts the neighborhoods, towns and cities that surround them.

Faculty: Michael Witt, PharmD, JD, University of Michigan-Flint School of Management Students: Ryan Hicks, Evan Johnson, Garrett Prince Partners: The University of Michigan, City of Flint Officials, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, Tealbook, Inc (supply chain procurement analysis software company)

The process entailed soliciting and analyzing information from representative companies in the local community, including small, medium and large companies to better understand the impact of the size of a company on supply availability, selection of international versus local suppliers, and the degree to which disruptions in international shipping and logistics have had an impact. The team also gathered data on revenue impact and what business owners are doing to mitigate the downside. All of this information helped them understand whether and how to redesign current systems and create a list of best practices for the future.

Supply Chain Analysis

In a set of surveys and interviews, UM-Flint School of Management faculty member Michael Witt and students Ryan Hicks, Evan Johnson, and Garrett Prince reviewed and evaluated supply chains in various local industries. This information is useful regarding the present disruptions of re-shore suppliers to local sources and the benefit of our economy. The team focused on Genesee County specifically, as COVID-19 shuttered a significant portion of economic operations, severely damaging the local economy. Within the subset of data, the group hoped to improve supply chain processes, and identify opportunities for new market entrants to prosper within and grow the local economy. Throughout the project, the team delivered a research paper, presentation, analysis and recommendations for each business partner participating in the project, and an economic analysis of industries in high demand and feasibility by request of Genesee businesses.

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