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An annual study from the University of Michigan-Dearborn highlights cities around the state that are thriving economically, and what they are doing right to improve their business climates. Other communities in Michigan should take a look at what’s working in these cities and emulate those policies.

While the program recognizes outstanding efforts in growing a local economy, eCities is always open to providing information and guidance to communities that seek help in improving their business environment.

“We’ve been doing this project for almost 10 years,” says Tim Davis, iLabs administrator for the University of Michigan-Dearborn. “Our goal isn’t about competition, but it’s to help Michigan communities so our state can do better.”

The annual eCities research project began in 2007 and uses data supplied by the participants, as well as other public records to assemble an extensive six-factor, 32-item index of entrepreneurial activity. Davis says the study focuses on entrepreneurship because of its importance to the expansion and diversification of Michigan’s regional economies and the impact small businesses have on job creation.

To date, 199 communities across Michigan have participated in the study. There’s room for more.

In 2015, three Metro Detroit communities were among those earning top, five-star designations. They were Oak Park, Madison Heights and Northville.

However, the competition is only part of the eCities program.

“We’re not chasing smokestacks, we’re trying to grow entrepreneurs,” says Davis. “We recognize different types of communities have different types of business environments.”

Six communities were given acknowledgment for their “best practices.” For 2015, the judges determined the communities created environments that attracted both industry and residents. These communities have walkable destinations that aim to energize public spaces, creating a sense of place for the community while promoting economic development.

For example, Madison Heights, with about 30,000 residents, was honored for its commitment to advancing economic growth and for implementing program offerings that have specifically targeted entrepreneurs and industrial businesses.

Oak Park, also with a population of about 30,000, works with new businesses by meeting with them face to face, conducting business roundtables, and supporting chamber of commerce networking events to help newcomers get established. Tecumseh, a town of about 8,400, was also honored for its pro-business efforts.

Davis says he’d love to have 100 percent participation by all Michigan communities, either as competitors or to seek advice.

Communities should take advantage of the UM program, as well see what’s getting results in neighboring cities and around the state.

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