Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning & Development Commission

The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) has the potential to be a true road map that brings together many voices from your region to form a common vision for economic prosperity and resilience.  Through the CEDS Spotlight case studies series, the NADO Research Foundation is highlighting best practices and innovative elements of CEDS planning, development, and implementation from EDDs and other regional development organizations across the country.

In 2014, as staff from Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning & Development Commission (EUPRPDC) prepared to write the region’s five-year CEDS update, Governor Rick Snyder unveiled a new statewide planning program, the Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI).  RPI has two major purposes:  to better align service boundaries for state services and to fund a grant program to encourage better regional collaboration and effective outcomes. After a year of input from a variety of public and private stakeholders, a new Michigan service delivery map had been created which identified ten “prosperity regions” that state departments are encouraged to align with to improve efficiency and impact.

“We studied the requirements of both the CEDS and RPI and saw an opportunity to innovate by combining requirements of both plans into one unified plan for the region that would be stronger, more inclusive, and serve both state and federal economic development programs,” says Eric Wedesky, Planner II at EUPRPDC.  “Timing was on our side” with the CEDS re-write coinciding with the rollout of RPI, notes EUPRPDC Executive Director Jeff Hagan.  “EDA understood the opportunity we had by aligning these plans.”

EUPRPDC engaged in robust multi-level stakeholder engagement efforts to gain input from a diverse, informed group of stakeholders and experts to create a unified, cohesive strategy for regional economic development.  This included a Stakeholder Committee which addressed broad, high-level elements of the process and a smaller oversight group called the Regional Economic Development Advisory Collaborative (REDAC) that had been involved in previous CEDS planning processes.  The Stakeholder Committee and REDAC worked together to develop six focus areas for the plan.  These were: Education; Economic and Workforce Development; Tourism and Natural Resources; Health Care; Infrastructure; and Agriculture and Local Food Systems.  Six focus groups, co-facilitated by Michigan State University Extension, were then organized to dive into these topics to provide input for the plan.

Engagement crossed the public and private sectors and involved stakeholders from economic and workforce development, education, health care, transportation, agriculture, tribal communities, and others and consisted of 12 meetings over nine months.  Having multiple channels of stakeholder engagement that met the goals of both the CEDS and RPI plan were critical for this rural region.  “Stakeholder engagement can be difficult in large, rural areas,” says Hagan.  “Fortunately, the focus group meetings were able to serve as mini-SWOT sessions where we received valuable feedback.”  The meetings encouraged involvement from new participants and groups that previously had not participated in planning efforts and injected new life into regional conversations.

The completed plan, called Elevating the Eastern Upper Peninsula, was met with great enthusiasm from EUPRPDC’s board, EDA, and the state of Michigan.  The forward-thinking, comprehensive approach of this integrated plan has led to increased funding opportunities from the state, as well as access to EDA’s grant portfolio.  Funding has supported regional efforts to provide technical assistance to local governments; conduct a broadband study, housing analysis, and transportation logistics study; buy videoconferencing equipment for the three county seats in the region; and launch infrastructure projects to support wider regional economic development.

Elevating the Eastern Upper Peninsula can serve as a strong model to districts that are looking to integrate other planning processes with the CEDS.  This approach requires the right mix of timing, inclusive stakeholder engagement, and open communication with EDA and other funders.  Overall, the combined planning process led to a stronger and more thorough planning process and final plan than if these efforts had been conducted individually.  Says EUPRPDC’s Eric Wedesky, “The plan is a unified economic development vision for the region where the public and private sector are working together to make the Eastern Upper Peninsula attractive to enterprise, students, tourists, and residents.”

Elevating the Eastern Upper Peninsula serves as both the region’s CEDS plan and Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI) plan

An interview with Jeff Hagan, Executive Director, and Eric Wedesky, Planner II, Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning & Development Commission:

What does the CEDS mean to your region? How has it helped shape the conversation about regional economic development?

To the Eastern Upper Peninsula, the CEDS means regionalism, collaboration, and direction. As a sparsely-populated, rural, three-county region, our local private and public partners know that it requires a concerted effort pulling from all of the region’s resources to move the needle in the right direction. This notion blurs jurisdictional boundaries in a sense, and when stakeholders come together, they do so knowing that a positive result from the CEDS in one corner of the region will propel economic development elsewhere in the region. The CEDS has long been a rallying force in the region, which spurs collaborative efforts.

In the most recent update, EUPRPDC developed subsections of the blueprint by convening groups of experts from specific focus areas to craft policies that would influence their work—a new technique in the region. Together the belief in the region and willingness to collaborate resulted in a direction that has been extolled and implemented. EUPRPDC, economic development organizations, local governments, and private partners have all grasped the concepts of Elevating the Eastern Upper Peninsula and have worked the strategies, laying a foundation for the future.

How have you incorporated the concept of resilience into your CEDS?

Resilience in Michigan’s Eastern Upper Peninsula is predicated more on economic vitality than natural events.  The region’s economy has long relied on public sector jobs, tourism-related sectors, healthcare, natural resources, and proximity to Canada. To become more resilient, Elevating the Eastern Upper Peninsula is focused on, among other variables, economic diversification and talent development. For example, EUPRPDC has partnered with economic and community developers on projects ranging from transportation and logistics, to broadband, to placemaking, to recreation, to career technical education—primarily to ensure that what is controllable within the region is done so according to best practices and sound management of limited resources.

What ways have you developed and nurtured partnerships with both traditional partners and underrepresented groups?

The unique opportunity that EUPRPDC faced when combining its state economic development program (Michigan’s Regional Prosperity Initiative (RPI)) with the CEDS process was to broaden and ramp-up stakeholder participation. CEDS has its stakeholder participation requirements; RPI, too. In the past, resources for CEDS development were limited, which meant that while the boxes were checked, a more robust approach was less feasible. RPI injected a new funding stream into the region’s economic development delivery, and EUPRPDC capitalized on the opportunity. The commission was able to reach out beyond its traditional committee to drill down on the six focus areas of the plan: education, economic and workforce development, infrastructure, agriculture and local food systems, health care, and tourism and natural resources. Each focus area had a meeting where the region’s leading professionals in the field joined together to participate in SWOT analyses, resulting in achievable action items for the duration of the 5-year plan. EUPRPDC was able to shore up its participation from its local tribal partners, health care sector, and agriculture sector, which are all key in the region’s economy.

How have you taken your CEDS process from planning to implementation? Any strong examples?

As combining the CEDS with the RPI allowed for a more inclusive planning process, it also has provided for a more robust implementation program. Traditionally in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, implementation of the CEDS resulted if EDA grants to enable private sector growth were secured or if private firms propelled their own operations. With the combination of the two programs, EUPRPDC was able to play a larger role in actively implementing the CEDS.

Several key projects have been taken or are underway. The Eastern Upper Peninsula Transportation-Logistics Strategy—a collaboration with EDA, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, local economic developers, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario—is identifying ways with which the region can maximize its transportation infrastructure and border location to attract new sectors. The Eastern Upper Peninsula 2016 Internet Access Survey charted existing internet access and gauged demand for improved services by placing a hard copy survey in every mailbox in the region (9% response rate), which has resulted in two economic development tools that developers are using in conversations with internet service providers.  Previous projects initiated under the RPI include a Regional Target Market Analysis, primarily focused on the three “Core” communities of the EUP (Sault Ste. Marie, Newberry and St. Ignace) and the 5-Year Department of Natural Resources Recreational Plan Development Project that successfully provided technical assistance to local municipalities to equip them with plans required to access vital grant funds. Lastly, the Community Development Mini-Grants program has acted as a source of gap financing for local projects to get off the ground and enhance communities’ appeal. These projects would not have been possible without the funding and vision that came out of the merger of the two programs.

Click here to download Elevating the Eastern Upper Peninsula (PDF)

Download Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning & Development Commission’s Elevating the Eastern Upper Peninsula here (PDF).

Download the 2016 EUP CEDS Performance report here (PDF)

Want to learn more about Elevating the Eastern Upper Peninsula?  Contact Eric Wedesky, Planner II at EUPRPDC, at: [email protected].

Click here to access additional case studies in the CEDS Spotlight series

Do you have a best practice or innovative approach to developing, designing, and implementing the CEDS?  Contact NADO RF Program Manager Brett Schwartz at  [email protected].

This case studies series is presented through NADO’s Stronger CEDS, Stronger Regions program, funded through a generous grant from the US Economic Development Administration.

Search NADO.org

Contact Joe D'Antonio

Regional Development Researcher Andrew Coker joined the NADO team in March of 2023 after spending two and a half years as the Regional Economic Resiliency Coordinator at West Central Arkansas Planning and Development District. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

At NADO, Andrew conducts research on the newest economic and community development best practices from Economic Development Districts across the country. He helps produce easily digestible information on complex regional issues through case studies, tip sheets, and research reports. Andrew also hosts training and professional development opportunities including conference sessions and virtual webinars for member regional development organizations.

Andrew is one of our Missouri-based team members and enjoys reading and training for his next triathlon.

Jack Morgan came to the NADO team in 2022 after seven years with the National Association of Counties (NACo) as a Program and Senior Program Manager. Prior to NACo, Jack was a Policy Analyst for Friends of Southwest Virginia. Jack holds a bachelor’s in geography from Emory & Henry College and a master’s in geography from Appalachian State University.

As a NADO Senior Program Manager, Jack leads capacity-building and peer-learning work supporting energy communities in economic transition, regional resilience, and recreation economies. He also helps with the EDA-Austin training program Emerging Leaders.

Jack is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and is a member of the American Planning Association (APA) in the Regional & Intergovernmental Planning division. He also serves on the Emory & Henry College Alumni Board.

Taking road trips, reading non-fiction, and indulging in top-notch barbecue and coffee round out Jack’s days. He loves maps, mountains, and of course, all things sports.

Karron Grant joined the NADO team in 2023 as Administrative Specialist and is the first face (or voice) you’ll see or hear when reaching out to NADO. As Administrative Specialist, Karron manages our database and coordinates NADO event operations. He ensures members’ needs are met, contact information stays current, and NADO’s office is running efficiently.

Karron came to NADO after four years in the classroom teaching at The New Century School and Old Mill Middle North where he received the Patriot of the Year award. He attended Towson University and the University of Maryland Global Campus and holds a bachelor’s in international studies and humanities.

Visiting art galleries and museums, playing basketball and bowling, and taking in movies and music are some of Karron’s interests and hobbies.

Deputy Executive Director Laurie Thompson has been with NADO for 25 years. Laurie helps keep the NADO and NADO Research Foundation wheels turning through management of the daily operations of the Research Foundation, securing financial resources and overseeing grants management, and helping execute NADO’s Annual Training Conference each year.

Laurie holds a bachelor’s in public affairs and government from Mount Vernon College and a master’s in health services administration from The George Washington University. Prior to NADO, Laurie spent time as a Field Specialist and an Eagle Staff Fund Director at First Nations Development Institute.

When she’s taking a rare reprieve from her NADO work, Laurie enjoys traveling domestically and internationally to visit friends and family.

Jamie McCormick joined the NADO team as a Policy Fellow first in 2019, then moved into her current role as Legislative Associate in 2021. As Legislative Associate, Jamie keeps NADO members apprised of any policy and regulatory issues and communicates NADO’s policy priorities to federal stakeholders and partner organizations. She is also the first stop for members with inquiries on policy issues. The planning and execution of NADO & DDAA’s annual Washington Conference is also managed by Jamie.

Jamie holds a dual bachelor’s in political science and international relations from The State University of New York College at Geneseo and a master’s in international development studies from The George Washington University. In addition to her roles at NADO, Jamie also worked as a Legislative Assistant for the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association.

Outside of her NADO work, Jamie is an active volunteer with the VOLO Kids Foundation and a fundraiser for YMCA youth programs. She is also NADO’s resident baker regularly providing treats for those in NADO’s D.C. office. Traveling, taking her pup on walks, and hiking in the northeast keep Jamie busy. 

Brett Schwartz began at NADO in 2012 as a Research Fellow after earning his J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. The following year, he was promoted to Program Manager and has now been leading as an Associate Director since 2018. Brett is responsible for managing NADO’s Economic Development District Community of Practice (EDD CoP), as well as researching and monitoring the latest trends in regional economic development and resilience, including best practices for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). With more than a decade of experience on the NADO team, Brett is a dynamic relationship builder helping connect and build capacity among the national network of regional development organizations.

Brett also holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s from Trinity College Dublin, as well as a certificate in mediation training. He’s a member of Catalyst Grantmakers of San Diego and Imperial Counties and was a participant in the 2021-22 Field Trips to the Future Cohort.

Brett is one of NADO’s West Coast team members residing in San Diego, CA where he enjoys spending time outdoors, attending concerts and festivals, and soaking up life as a parent of two young children.  

Communications Manager Katie Allison joined the team in 2023 to lead the strategic communication efforts of NADO. Katie creates and develops print and online materials, communicates NADO’s updates to members via weekly emails, and maintains content for nado.org and NADO’s social media channels. She also works with different departments to generate new ideas and strategies to effectively describe and promote the important work NADO is doing for EDDs and RDOs across the country.

An experienced nonprofit communications professional, Katie has worked for organizations in western North Carolina for nearly a decade. She holds a bachelor’s in communications from Wingate University where she was a four-year student athlete. Katie has also completed Vision Henderson County, a comprehensive leadership development program that promotes informed and committed civic volunteerism.

Katie stays busy trying to keep up with her two young sons whom she enjoys exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains with. Traveling to new and favorite places and cheering on the Atlanta Braves are some of her family’s favorite pastimes.

Senior Program Manager Ciara Ristig has been a member of the NADO team since 2021, and helps with NADO’s EDD Community of Practice, EDD staff capacity building and other grants on a range of subjects, including equity and solar energy. Before NADO, Ciara worked as a Planner for the County of Santa Barbara and an Assistant Project Manager for REM Consult. Ciara holds a bachelor’s in urban studies and French from Bryn Mawr and a master’s in urban studies from Ecole d’Urbanisme de Paris.

When she’s not traveling, you can find her outrigger paddling and serving on the board of the Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama, CA, near her home base of Santa Barbara.

Carrie Kissel has been a member of the NADO team since 2005 when she began as a Research Fellow. She later moved into the roles of Program Manager in 2006, and then Associate Director in 2011. Carrie holds a bachelor’s in anthropology from Ball State University and a master’s in public anthropology from American University. As Associate Director, Carrie oversees NADO’s work in rural transportation and rural wealth creation. She provides technical assistance and support to rural regions on transportation and economic development issues and develops training and peer exchange events on transportation issues and rural wealth creation as an economic development strategy.

Carrie is a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and secretary of TRB’s Rural Transportation Issues Coordinating Council. She is also a member of the American Anthropological Association and the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology.

Reading, gardening, hiking, and kayaking are a few of Carrie’s hobbies, and she organizes and facilitates a DEI/social justice-focused book club in her community.

Melissa Levy has worked at NADO as a Regional Development Researcher since February 2023 and is the Principal Consultant at her own firm specializing in wealth-based economic development consulting. With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Melissa brings a breadth of knowledge to her role as a Regional Development Researcher. Melissa provides in-depth research, coaching, and training on regional economic resilience, rural wealth creation strategies, and economic development.

Melissa is a North American Food Systems Network trained AgriCluster Resilience and Expansion (ACRE) facilitator and a WealthWorks coach, facilitator, and trainer. In addition to her professional work, Melissa serves on the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Council, on the board of the Hinesburg Community Resource Center, and on the Hinesburg Economic Development Committee.

A true outdoorswoman, Melissa enjoys cross country and downhill skiing, paddleboarding, hiking, biking, and kayaking, as well as yoga, and teaching Tai Chi.

Program Manager Krishna Kunapareddy began her role with NADO in February of 2023 after 14 years of service at Boonslick Regional Planning Commission in Missouri. Krishna manages NADO Research Foundation’s Planning and Environmental Linkages and Center for Environmental Excellence projects. In addition to researching and writing, Krishna also conducts virtual workshops on innovative tools and techniques related to transportation planning.

She holds an undergraduate degree from Andhra University and a master’s from JNT University in India, as well as a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington. Krishna is also a certified Smart Cities Academy Practitioner and holds the Location Advantage certificate from geographic information system software company ESRI.

In her spare time, Krishna volunteers with Mentors4College helping high schoolers better plan for their post-high school paths. She is also a dedicated advocate for documented H4 Dreamers.

Krystal DeLeon joined the NADO team in October of 2020 as Database & Grants Manger, but in January of 2022 transitioned to her current role as Operations Manager. Krystal keeps NADO running through behind the scenes work of invoicing, solving any database issues that may arise, producing membership reports, and much more. Her organizational skills and thorough knowledge help the NADO team operate more efficiently across all departments.

Prior to NADO, Krystal was the Conference Services Coordinator for State Services Organization. She is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), a licensed realtor, and holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Liberty University. When she’s not keeping NADO’s operations in order, Krystal enjoys running and rock climbing, and adventuring with her husband and son.

Senior Program Manager Bret Allphin joined NADO in April of 2022 bringing with him a wealth of knowledge after a 20-year career with Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Marietta, Ohio. In addition to his bachelor’s in political science and master’s in public affairs, Bret is licensed Geographical Information Systems Professional (GISP). He is NADO’s go-to team member for all things mapping while also supporting members with transportation and economic development technical assistance services.

An avid sports aficionado and former collegiate athlete, Bret enjoys cheering on his Cincinnati Reds, hitting the trails on his mountain bike, and improving his golf game whenever possible. Bret is an involved community member in Marietta dedicating much of his spare time to serving on local nonprofit boards.

Contact Karron Grant

Applications cannot be saved and returned to at a later time. It is recommended you compile all of your information in advance in a word processor and cut and paste into the application below.

2023 Impact Awards

The primary applicant must be a NADO member. Project partners, both NADO and non-members, can be recognized under "Project Partners" below.

Primary Project Contact:
This person will be the designated point of contact for all future awards-related correspondence.

Organization Address

Project Location (if different from Organization Address)

Executive Director

Additional Organizational Information
Please upload your organization's logo which will be included on the winning project award certificate.

Project Information
This title will be printed on the award certificate for winning projects and in all 2022 NADO Impact Award materials and cannot be changed.

Project Summary & Questions
Please craft clear, thoughtful, and engaging responses to the following questions. Use the following sections to tell us how your project has made an impact, such as its use of creative funding mechanisms, efforts to create efficiencies or reduce costs, unique partnership models, and emphasis on building resilience and/or enhancing your region's quality of life.

For award-winning projects, the information provided below may be used verbatim to inform project descriptions that will be published in the 2023 NADO Impact Awards materials and included on the NADO website.

Please submit at least one photo showing your project in action. Please keep file size to a minimum (<2Mb) and use JPEG format. If uploading multiple files, ZIP files prior to submitting. If you have trouble uploading images they can be directly emailed to Brett Schwartz at [email protected]. Include the project title they correspond to in the subject line of your email.

Note: Submitted photos may be used in NADO Impact Awards materials and in other NADO published materials with credit to your organization. Please also consider submitting photos for NADO's 2023 Photo Contest, which will be held this summer.

Your application is not submitted until you are directed to a confirmation page. If you have any questions or are unsure if your application has been submitted, please contact Brett Schwartz at [email protected]

Contact Melissa Levy

Contact Krishna Kunapareddy

Contact Andrew Coker

Contact Lara Gale

Contact Katie Allison

Contact Jack Morgan

Content Questions Form

Registration Questions Form

Hotel Questions Form

New Speaker Inquiry

Job Listing Inquiry

Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.

Joe has thirty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional, national association, and government management since 1991. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

McKinney has provided congressional testimony on numerous occasions regarding the importance of regional development organizations in helping shape the nation’s economic growth. He is nationally recognized for promoting innovative solutions in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, and aging services.

Contact Danny Tomares

Contact Dion Thompson-Davoli

Contact Ciara Ristig

Contact Bret Allphin

Contact Brett Schwartz

Contact Carrie Kissel

Contact Scott Brown

Contact Jamie McCormick

Contact Joe McKinney

Contact Krystal De Leon

Contact Brittany Salazar

Contact Laurie Thompson

Contact Mirielle Burgoyne