Economic Development

The Community Foundation for Oceana County was selected by the Council of Michigan Foundations (CMF) to participate in the Rural Economic Development Cohort initiative. Assessing community needs throughout Oceana County is part of the Community Foundation’s 3 year strategic plan. The purpose of this initiative is to:

  • build community leadership to support economic development;
  • assist community foundations to engage with other local actors working on economic development;
  • complete a community assessment; and,
  • receive expert guidance to turn results into action

The Foundation selected the Shelby area to conduct the first assessment and recruited a team of community leaders to gain knowledge around economic development activities, conduct the assessment and build relationships with state economic development funders. On August 29, 2018 a community assessment was conducted where a cross-section of community leaders and residents shared their thoughts, feelings and aspirations about the Shelby area. A second community assessment was conducted by a similar process in the Pentwater area in June of 2019, as led by the Pentwater Vision Team.   In collaboration with the Village of Hesperia, the Right Place, and the Oceana County Economic Alliance, the Foundation completed a community assessment of Hesperia in fall 2021.

As a product of these assessments, consultants from the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM), produced comprehensive reports after receiving, summarizing and analyzing community feedback.
Shelby Area full report – Click here
Shelby Area summary report – Click here
Pentwater Area full report – Click here
Greater Pentwater Area summary report – Click here
Hesperia Area full report- Click here
Hesperia Area summary report-Click here
Walkerville Area Full Report – Click here
Walkerville Area Summary Report – Click here

    1. HOUSING: The Village has a high renter vs homeowner rate, and many of the rental properties are substandard. The affordable single family homes that are available, which are very few, are in need of repair.
    2. DOWNTOWN: The downtown is not “coherent”. The business mix is not conducive to attracting customers, quality of facades is spotty, and some buildings are in need of total renovation (especially in the rear of the building). The streetscape needs to be updated and beautified.
    3. QUALITY JOBS: The area is predominantly agricultural and there is not a diverse business mix. Many of the existing jobs are low paying.
    4. INCLUSIVE COMMUNITY: The Hispanic community is not represented in village government. Across the broader community, there appears to be some fear or lack of understanding of the value of sharing and learning cross-cultures.
    1. HOUSING: There is not enough year round housing that is affordable for young families, to support workforce growth or for seniors to age in place (no transitional housing).  The Village housing stock is more of a rental community than a family community.
    2. SHORT SEASONAL ECONOMY: Downtown businesses are more geared to visitors thereby leaving a void of needed goods and services desired by year-round residents. The short season also makes business attraction and investment difficult.
    3. COLLABORATION:  Bringing resources (service groups, organizations and public entities) together would yield better collective planning and results.
    4. INTERNET: Need affordable, reliable high-speed internet access, also providing new opportunities for people of all ages to work from home.
    1. DOWNTOWN: There are many vacant, dilapidated store fronts downtown. There is no organized effort or strategy to rehabilitate the buildings or attract new businesses to fill them. There is not plan for attracting customers/tourists to the businesses and other community assets in and/or near the downtown.
    2. COMMUNICATION: Communication is hampered in the community in several ways. First there is no affordable, dependable high-speed internet, and the cell service is spotty or nonexistent; and second, there is no reliable, “go to” source for information about what is going on in the community.
    3. ENHANCEMENTS TO NATURAL SPACES AND EXPANDING RECREATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES: There are no organized/convenient ways to market OR enjoy this beauty – no kayak or canoe launch; no trails system for hiking or cross-country skiing; no trails for biking or riding; no signage or marketing to attract tourists.
    4. ATTENTION TO THE NEEDS OF YOUTH: The problem of drug use and its impact on kids is perceived to be a problem. There was also a strong consensus that there is nothing for elementary age kids to do outside of school.
    5.  VARIED HOUSING TYPES AND PRICE POINTS: The community wants many things that could be made possible by developing different housing types at varied price points. Community members want to attract some type of business/manufacturing that would pay a decent wage and offer career opportunities for their kids so they don’t leave town after graduation or can be attracted back after they have left. They want to keep their seniors comfortable and safe. They want to attract new young families to populate their schools.
    1. BUSINESS AND RETAIL: The community members have dreams of (at the very least) a restaurant and access to fresh foods. There are vacant buildings with potential. There was interest from community business/building owners but they ran into roadblocks. Maybe a group of dedicated community leaders with a thoughtful, realistic plan can help bust through those roadblocks.
    2. COMMUNITY CENTER: An underlying theme was, “How do we rebuild community when we have nowhere to gather as a community?” Flowing from this theme were various suggestions like a community/recreation center. This type of facility might be a heavy lift, especially in the short term. However, with community partners such as churches, the school and other community stakeholders perhaps this goal of having a place for folks to gather might be achieved through other means, and could be incrementally visioned out once a location is secured.
    3. BASIC HUMAN SERVICES AND CHILDCARE: There are no human services providers with offices in Walkerville. One out of every three families live below the poverty level yet they are expected to travel to other communities to seek services. This issue might be addressed through outreach services, one day a week for example, possibly located in the community center envisioned by the community. The primary form of childcare is in private homes and is unregulated. All potential avenues to provide quality, affordable childcare need to be explored with human service partners, including the possible re-opening of the daycare center at Arbre Farms or a collaboration with an existing organization (such as a church). Businesses need employees and families need income – but this can’t happen without daycare.
    4. RE-BUILD COMMUNITY: Even the giggly, high school kids get serious when they talk about how they feel they don’t have a “community”. They don’t feel a sense of pride, nor do they feel it in the broader community. And they don’t think they, or the school, get enough support. The school is a tangible, obvious place to focus energy and resources to build the confidence, morale and spirit of the community. School and community leadership can work together to garner support and develop an action plan. Festivals and events are another way to re-build community, build pride, and bring people together. Longtime generational residents woefully remember a bustling village center, and family fun activities/events. They seem somewhat disheartened by memories of the past but hopefully, once marshalled, those feelings will motivate instead of demoralize.
    5. HOUSING AND INFRASTRUCTURE: The community wants many things that could be made possible by improving housing. They want to clean up and beautify Walkerville. They want to attract new young families to populate their school, and to add an infusion of fresh enthusiasm and energy to community events and activities. They want to attract good teachers and other employees with decent, affordable rental and homeowner housing options. One problem that hinders progress in housing is the need for upgraded infrastructure. Infrastructure and housing improvement/development are certainly stretch goals, however the community wants and needs them badly. These issues must be priority and on the radar of community leaders; even incremental steps could make a big difference.



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