Center for Innovation Research

eCities 2011


2011 Best Practices Communities



The City of Auburn Hills has a high-tech atmosphere and is home to a large concentration of businesses and their global networks. There are 22 high-technology parks in the city and the proximity to 5 universities and colleges provides a desirable talent pool. The City supports the needs of high-tech firms with streamlined permitting processes, ordinances to assist with electric vehicle charging stations and green building programs. They are proactive in writing policy to assist with high-growth and new technology companies. It is only after the above that the City also mentions that within all of this, they also have a cozy, small-town atmosphere.  


The City of Frankenmuth is an incredible tourist destination, anchored by iconic, world-renowned companies. However, the City is quick to point out that they are much more. They are home to major agri-business, insurance underwriters, and hundreds of small and medium businesses that make up a lively business environment and provide a valuable support structure for new firms. Partnerships and assistance mechanisms for new and existing businesses are highlighted on the City’s website. There, the networking and connection to marketing tools, funding opportunities, and support networks are highlighted and easy to find.


The City of Grand Rapids highlights their incubator and accelerator resources as well as opportunities for larger manufacturing. Leveraging the largest employers in the community, GRid70 is an innovation and design hub that cultivates ideas, experience, and learning to spark innovative thinking in smaller firms. Grid70 is one of only a few innovation and design hubs in the world and operates with the motto: “Talent attracts talent…” Additionally, the City has leveraged a wide-range of public-private partnerships to be a catalyst for life sciences and biotechnology growth. They also highlight how the resources in the West-side of Michigan, such as workforce talent and supply chain contacts, support Grand Rapids as a regional business destination.


The City of Novi highlights their customer service and accessibility. The City takes pride in their ability to interact with and assist a spectrum of businesses and interests. From the start up to the more mature business, the City is able to identify and guide businesses to appropriate and relevant resources. For true start-ups they connect them with planning and funding resources. For more established firms, they focus on walking them through City processes such as permitting. The accessibility includes their website, social media tools, and monthly newsletter all targeted to a business audience. Novi was an early adopter of a Business Assistance Team (BAT) to continue assisting and guiding businesses. The BAT provides more than just basic retention visits and includes volunteer professionals who act as a think tank to address business concerns in the community.


The City of Port Huron has a true partnership with the Economic Development Alliance (EDA) of St. Clair County. In fact, the EDA helped craft the message the eCities best practices panel reviewers read. The partnership dates back 50 years and is truly a collaborative team. Together they lease buildings to support automotive and logistics companies. The City supports incubator spaces, quarterly business network meetings, small business loan programs, and online job databases. The City also points out the invaluable proximity to the boarder and the 700,000 Canadians who come across the Blue Water Bridge every year. With that, the City has Foreign Trade Zone opportunities and programs to help business with the destination travelers who come into the area from Canada.


The City of Rochester Hills highlights their talent pool and how it is a perfect match for engineering, R&D, testing, and sales support to nearby manufacturing. Having Oakland University and its new medical school nearby will only increase the opportunities in life sciences and biotech resources. Beyond the talent, the City also has designed programs and partnerships to engage the business community. The Mayor’s Business Council and its associated events bring CEOs from both small and large companies together looking for opportunities to start new businesses, increase sales at existing businesses, and encourage collaboration between businesses. 


The City of Wixom has experience in addressing economic challenges as demonstrated by their ongoing efforts to diversify the tax base and keep property values stable. The idling of the Ford Plant in 2007 served as a catalyst for subsequent efforts to diversify their economy and attract alternative industries. The City has encouraged new development targeted to be flexible and affordable for start-up business needs as well as mixed-use retail and office. The City also focuses on being efficient themselves as a way to pass on savings and provide resources to both business and residential taxpayers. Wixom has privatized services where appropriate to keep utility costs and tax rates low. This flexible entrepreneurial attitude is part of the pervasive culture and outlook of City Hall.