By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
On Nov. 8, the Michigan Municipal League Foundation visited downtown Ortonville to do a deep dive of the local economy.
“One of the reasons that we’re here today is that we received some funding from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation,” said Rachel Skylis, program officer with the MML Foundation. “We have a really good relationship with them, and they’re really interested in learning what small businesses are experiencing in rural communities in southeast Michigan. Just to get more information on what it’s like to be part of a rural community, especially the small business community.”
Since 2022, the Michigan Municipal League (MML) and Michigan Municipal League Foundation (MML Foundation), with support from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, have been working on a local economies initiative to look at the state of entrepreneurship and small business support systems in southeast Michigan. The goal of the local economies work is to consider gaps in space, capital, technical assistance, networks, and more that could be filled to support more equitable local small business environments. The initiative includes one-day “deep dives” into some communities, including Ortonville.
Members of the MML started the day with a small business coffee hour where they talked to small businesses owners and community members to learn about the community and the small business experience. Following that, they went on a walking tour through downtown Ortonville to see the Heritage Garden, Crossman Park, a few local businesses and the Old Mill Museum.
Following the tour, they met again with community stakeholders to discuss the local economy and resource connections.
“We want to merge minds and start to understand what small businesses need to put together a picture of how we at the league can help Ortonville thrive,” said Skylis. “Afterwards, a give-back memo will be given to the village full of information and resources to help their small business community.
Members of the MML Foundation also brought home pieces of Ortonville with them, as they purchased a few rugs made on the look at the Old Mill Museum.
“They had a good experience,” said village manager Ryan Madis. “Our main takeaways are the connections, and there will be some easy-to-implement takeaways and some big picture things from their point of view as we’re planning in the future.”
This will also help Ortonville connect with other small communities to see what kinds of programs or solutions they have put in place for any similar problems, and vice versa, allowing the community to help other communities.
“We appreciate the exposure and being thought of as a community that’s on the rise, and a place that can help others with similar experience and help others figure out how to handle issues going forward,” said Madis.