Erika Rosebrook recently paid her second visit to the Grand Valley Metro Council. Her first was to introduce herself and let board members know they’d be seeing more of her. This time she came to briefly update them on an effort Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder started last year.
Rosebrook is an associate director of the Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitan Affairs, which the governor designated last year as being an instrumental tool to restore the state’s cities — one of the 10 objectives he set when he took office.
“Their diversity and vitality have always fueled our state’s greatness, but the issues facing our urban centers are often unique and complex,” said Snyder when he named Harvey Hollins as director of MOUMA.
“This initiative will primarily focus on their economic development needs such as business attraction, entrepreneurial startups and public transit,” he added.
Rosebrook was assigned to her regional post in March; her office is in the state building at 350 Ottawa Ave. NW in Grand Rapids. She said the overall purpose of her mission is to help establish a statewide agenda in which elected city officials can tell the state what is important to them and what the governor’s office should do to help them achieve their goals.
“If you want to consolidate services, how can we be helpful?” Rosebrook rhetorically asked council members as an example.
Rosebrook said officials in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Flint and Grand Rapids already had provided input into the data-gathering process. She also said her office is holding a statewide meeting on Friday when she expects to learn more about what city officials are facing and how Lansing can help.
“We will be adding a best-practices library,” she said.
GVMC Executive Director John Weiss said he, Rosebrook, a few Metro Council members and leaders from outside the immediate area have been meeting to develop a new urban policy for the state. “This is a very significant issue that we will hear about often in the future as the governor puts the final touches on his urban agenda for Michigan,” said Weiss.
“Those of us that participated from our area enjoyed the opportunity to represent our community and its unique challenges and opportunities in this critical effort for the future of Michigan,” he added.
Rosebrook is familiar with the region she has been assigned to represent. She spent nearly three years as a management analyst at Kent County and more than four years as a business improvement and communications coordinator and assistant county administrator at Ottawa County.
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell told Rosebrook that the Municipal Services Authority the city joined in July with the city of Livonia has taken a big step forward. The first project involving the city in the collaboration is to develop a cloud-based financial management system that could be used by any city in Michigan. Heartwell announced that Grand Rapids has received a $3.6 million grant that will go toward creating the system, which is expected to lower the cost of accounting and payroll services and cut the expense to manage employee health care benefits.
The MSA is a state-empowered entity that was originated by Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon to assist cities with their service-sharing efforts. Dillon said his idea for the MSA came about after he learned that seven of every 10 problems cities have dealt with over the past few years were the same.
“So we came up with this idea that creates a virtual city,” he said to Grand Rapids city commissioners last summer. “The beauty of this for you is you decide how aggressive you get and how involved you get with the MSA.”