Senator John Proos Talks with Michigan Municipal League Staff About New Placemaking Book in Baroda

Senator John Proos Talks with Michigan Municipal League Staff About New Placemaking Book in Baroda

Senator John Proos Talks with Michigan Municipal League Staff About New Placemaking Book in Baroda

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The Michigan Municipal League continued the roll-out of its new book, The Economics of Place: The Art of Building Great Communities, at a special event in downtown Baroda in southwest Michigan on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014.

The book, released by the League Oct. 17, features an 18-page chapter on collaboration work taking place in the Baroda area as well as an eight-page how-to case study about the Uncork Paw Paw marketing campaign.

Overall, the book goes beyond placemaking as a concept to offer real-world examples of economic drivers and agents of social and cultural change in Michigan’s own backyard.

“One of the rewarding things about working in local communities is that you get to meet some remarkable people along the way,” said League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin, a co-author of the new book. “When you combine innovative thinking with people who are passionate about the places where they live, the results can be extraordinary. That’s what this book is about. It tells the stories of people turning placemaking into a reality in Michigan. It shows how everyone can live, work, play and learn in better communities. What’s happening in Baroda, Bridgman and southwest Michigan is an excellent example of how collaboration can make placemaking happen.”

The 226-page book, available for sale at, is a mix of economic strategy, cultural enrichment and human triumph. The book’s stories and the lessons they provide are inspiring and powerful.

The League first dipped its toe into the publishing waters in 2011 with The Economics of Place: The Value of Building Communities Around People. That book included essays by people who spearheaded important advancements in city-building. It introduced readers to ideas about building competitive cities and affirmed some old truths about the importance of communities and place.

“The success of our first book makes our new book possible,” Gilmartin said. “And it’s even more ambitious than the first. If the first book answered the question of ‘why’ placemaking and communities are important, this new one sheds light on ‘how’ it’s done.”
The Art of Building Great Communities, co-authored by Elizabeth Philips Foley, Colleen Layton and Gilmartin, covers more than a dozen community placemaking projects in detail, including:

•How the local food movement and agritourism helped spur economic activity in multiple southwest Michigan rural communities, including Baroda, Bridgman, Berrien Springs and Kalamazoo. This work contributed to the addition of 18 new businesses and over 100 new jobs.

•How Marquette, a mining town on the shores of Lake Superior, continues to transform its waterfront from a post-industrial eyesore into great spaces for everyone in town to enjoy.

•How cultural activity can stimulate growth in communities like Traverse City, where the Traverse City Film Festival has pumped millions of dollars in proceeds back into the local economy to support cultural programs in schools, historic theaters and a burgeoning comedy festival.

•How a successful local business – Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor – with an inspiring commitment to the community became an incubator for entrepreneurs.

The stories in the book run the gamut from marketing campaigns and municipal projects, to special events and recreational opportunities. Some were large-scale efforts involving significant funds and long-range planning. Others were small ideas that led to big impacts. Some were organized strategies in a larger vision. In other cases, someone simply wanted to launch a business or improve a community asset that became part of a larger movement – maybe without even realizing that what they were doing was part of this thing called “placemaking”.

These in-depth case studies are presented as storytelling narratives meant to engage and inspire readers with the power of placemaking. But they are also intended to provide a path to replicate their successes. Each chapter includes valuable resources, data, and teaching tools related to the specific topic as well as case-specific examples of public policies and programs, legislation, action initiatives, community partnerships, and economic drivers that can facilitate similar efforts.

For more information, go to or contact Matt Bach, League Director of Media Relations, at 734-669-6317 or

The Michigan Municipal League advocates on behalf of its member communities in Lansing, Washington, D.C., and the courts; provides educational opportunities for elected and appointed municipal officials; and assists municipal leaders in administering services to their communities through League programs and services.

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