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Economic growth focus of presentations April 20

GRAYLING – Officials at Kirtland Community College aren’t giving up on trying to help northern Michigan reinvent itself economically, providing area business and community leaders another chance to hear firsthand about the lessons and experiences of other successful communities by hosting not one, but two, free informational forums Wednesday, April 20.

Kirtland will again seek to host John Davis, executive director of the Cornucopia Art Center in Lanesboro, Minn., to speak at a special event at the Ramada Inn in Grayling. The presentation is slated for 7 p.m. on April 20. The presentation is free and open to the public. No registration is required.

Davis was originally set to speak on March 22 but the event was postponed due to poor weather. A snowstorm the night before prevented Davis from making the trip from Minnesota to Grayling in time.

“While we regret the delay, we’re very excited that we were able to reschedule this event,” said Dr. Tom Quinn, Kirtland president. “We feel it’s that important, because we all need more information to help us create a new economic model here in northern Michigan. And, rather than reinvent the wheel, such presentations should give us a good idea of what we need to do.”

Plans for April 20 have not only been rescheduled, but expanded. At 5:30 p.m., Nancy Krupiarz, executive director of the Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance (MTGA), will speak on how communities can integrate the creation of “complete streets” and use of various types of trails, such as bike paths, into their plans for economic growth and development.

“I am talking about more than just trails,” Krupiarz said. “It’s the whole system of how the roads are planned and built for all modes of transportation, and how that contributes to economic development.”

MTGA is a non-profit organization that fosters and facilitates the creation of an interconnected, statewide system of trails and greenways for recreation, health, transportation, economic development and environmental/cultural preservation purposes. For additional details on the MTGA, visit online at www.michigantrails.org.

Quinn said having both Davis and Krupiarz speak should help create valuable discussions on what a community, such as Grayling with its AuSable Artisan Village concept, may do to emerge stronger and more viable, despite the region’s recent economic struggles and high unemployment.

“Lanesboro provides a model for what we could do here in Grayling to revitalize the area’s economy based on local artists and the great outdoors – two of our strengths that are underutilized in many ways,” Quinn said. “As the executive director of the art center in Lanesboro, John has first-hand knowledge of an art-based economy.”

Quinn added there are several similarities between Grayling and Lanesboro, a town of about 800 residents in southern Minnesota. Like Grayling, Lanesboro has a river running through the community, as well as numerous bicycle and hiking trails.

Lanesboro received the “Great American Main Street Award” in 1998 and was named one of the “100 Best Small Art Towns n America” by author John Villani for its economic efforts. It was also rated one of the “50 Best Outdoor Sports Towns” by Sports Afield magazine, as well as being featured as one of the “20 Best Dream Towns in America” by Outside Magazine.

“Kirtland is happy to be able to host these very informative speakers and we’d love as many business and community leaders, local artists and anyone else to come out and listen to John and Nancy,” Quinn added.

Light refreshments will be provided in between the two presentations. There will also be an optional pizza buffet available at a nominal charge.

If people can’t make either presentation April 20 or have more questions, there will be a breakfast with Davis and Krupiarz at the Ramada Inn the following day at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 21. Those attending will pay for their own breakfast, but there is no other fee to attend.

Annually, about 3,200 students attend a variety of certificate and two-year degree programs at Kirtland’s four locations – the main campus near Roscommon and the Michigan Technical Education Center (M-TEC) in Gaylord, as well as sites in Grayling and West Branch – with the college’s service area including all or parts of Crawford, Oscoda, Ogemaw, Roscommon, Otsego, Kalkaska, Missaukee, Gladwin and Alcona counties, and the surrounding areas.

For more information on the April 20 presentation or April 21 breakfast, contact the president’s office at Kirtland via e-mail at kathy.koch@kirtland.edu or by calling 989-275-5000, extension 253.