By Shelby Stewart-Soldan
Ortonville — Following a site visit in November, the Michigan Municipal League Foundation provided the village of Ortonville with an opportunity report.
“The report gives us a fresh perspective on what the village is going well, and areas that could be improved,” said Village Manager Ryan Madis.
The report, which comes from the MML and the MMLF, with support from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, serves to help local economies to explore entrepreneurship and small business support systems. Ortonville was one of the communities chosen for a site visit. Over the next two years, the MML and MMLF will collaborate with eight rural communities in southeastern Michigan to help connect them with potential resources to strengthen the local economy. The opportunity report outlines three different opportunities for the village to strengthen the small business community.
“There are several helpful takeaways, with tangible things the Village and DDA can implement to better serve businesses, residents, and the greater community,” said Madis. “It was encouraging to see several items already underway identified as priorities, so in many ways it feels like we’re on the right track. The report also gave us some ideas for things that could be beneficial, like activating different spaces in the downtown or using our existing assets better, that can have a big impact as we budget, plan, and work toward a downtown that serves its people for the long-term. Any opportunity to gather so many stakeholders who impact our community is a good thing, and we were grateful to see so many sectors of our community represented in our conversations that contributed to this report.”
The first opportunity outlined in the report is place-making, which is the process of creating places people care about and where they want to spend time. In the short term, the report recommended exploring opportunities to bring families downtown with temporary art installations featuring youth artists, collaborating with partners to bring additional programming to Crossman Park in downtown, and inventory vacant buildings and approach owners to discuss opportunities for pop-up activation of those spaces. In the long-term, place-making recommendations include leveraging community pride to crowd source match funding for the Heritage Park and to work with business partners to program the gravel lot that connects to Crossman Park.
The second opportunity focused on fostering community and identity. In the short-term, recommendations included supporting the creation of a business networking group, adopting main street economic vitality best practices, and allowing local businesses to draw visitors into their establishments during downtown events. Long-term, the recommendation is to strengthen the existing brand and build a robust identity for Ortonville.
The third opportunity highlighted developing entrepreneurial resources for downtown businesses. In the short-term, the report recommends updating the Ortonville Downtown Development Authority website, creating a how-to resource for opening a business in downtown Ortonville, and partnering with Oakland County’s Business Forward to host office hours monthly for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In the long term, they recommend exploring opportunities for creating an ongoing pop-up retail space and partnering with the Brandon School District.
“We appreciate the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation funding the project, and look forward to working with the Michigan Municipal League Foundation as they complete the work over the next eighteen months,” said Madis. “We also look forward to meeting with the other communities who participate, and learning from their efforts, as well.”
The full report can be found on ortonvillevillage.com
By Shelby Stewart-Soldan