The Michigan Office of Rural Prosperity (ORP) has released the Michigan Roadmap to Rural Prosperity, a 71-page report that details challenges that rural communities across Michigan face and strategies to help address them.
The ORP, under the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), was founded in 2022 as the Office of Rural Development. It was later renamed the Office of Rural Prosperity in 2023.
The office was created as a response to the unique needs that rural communities have and the challenges they face around issues like housing, broadband, infrastructure, economic development and health care access, ORP Director Sarah Lucas said.
“The Office of Rural Prosperity is one of just a handful of state offices that are focused on rural prosperity. There’s about six of us in the country and not many states have a comprehensive strategy like this, targeted specifically at rural communities,” Lucas said. “It is very unique and I think it’s a really important opportunity for the state to kind of come together around the needs that rural communities are experiencing.”
According to the Roadmap of Rural Prosperity released last month, rural Michigan is home to 20% of the state’s population and makes up nearly 94% of the state’s land area.
“Rural Michigan encompasses Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribes, more than 1,400 local governments, and 70 counties considered rural or mostly rural,” the report reads. “With over two-thirds of school districts and 21 colleges and universities located in rural areas of the state, rural Michigan is instrumental in preparing the future workforce.”
The roadmap aims to provide an understanding of rural needs and priorities and help guide local, regional and state leaders in “advancing collaborative and collective action to achieve prosperity across rural Michigan,” according to a press release from the LEO. The ORP defines rural prosperity as “resilient, connected rural residents, communities, and natural environments.”
Lucas said the idea for the roadmap started after hearing consistent concerns among rural community members. She said the ORP thought it would be beneficial if there was an understanding of how policy, programs and resources might impact some of the issues that were being discussed.
“I would say that the listening process began in April of 2022 and we’ve never really stopped that,” Lucas said. “That’s really a major function of our office is to be closely engaged with rural communities so that we understand what they’re experiencing and then making sure that our partners within state government and outside of state government have a shared understanding of what those experiences are.”
The ORP received input from rural residents and community leaders through several different engagement efforts, including a listening tour that reached 58 counties, a 2023 statewide survey that got 2,489 responses, rural leadership summits, local and regional discussions and topic-based roundtables.
According to the roadmap, those who responded to the 2023 Rural Priorities and Perspectives Survey said the biggest challenges facing the rural community over the next 10 years are: increasing housing opportunities, attracting a larger working-age population, changes to the cost of living, managing population growth and development and retaining workforce.
Housing is the most cited critical issue facing rural communities statewide, followed by workforce challenges, the roadmap states.
The seven strategies the roadmap presents to help address these issues are:
- Growing and diversifying the workforce across sectors.
- Improving individual health and economic well-being.
- Supporting local and regional capacity to deliver services.
- Expanding quality and attainable housing opportunities.
- Building and maintaining resilient infrastructure.
- Enhancing regionally driven and place-based economic development efforts.
- Protecting and conserving natural assets.
Now that the roadmap is published, the ORP will be using it as a way to “frame conversations,” Lucas said. She said this is an opportunity to share resources and “best practices” so that communities trying to implement the ideas outlined in the report have the support and connections to be successful.
“We’ll be actually talking to a lot of groups over the next several months about the roadmap and how it might look in terms of local and regional initiatives, in terms of statewide initiatives,” she said. “It’s really going to be, in some senses, a conversation starter and a vehicle through which we can collaborate with other agencies and with other kinds of partners, both within and outside the state of Michigan.”
So far, people have said the roadmap reflects the experiences they’ve had living and working in rural Michigan, Lucas said.
“Even in the last couple weeks, since it’s been released, there’s already just been a lot of really great opportunities that have come out of it to integrate it into local, regional and statewide action,” she said.
Michigan Roadmap to Rural Prosperity_Report FINAL
Harris, Whitmer, Stabenow discuss abortion rights in Michigan
With less than a week until the Michigan primary election, Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Great Lake State Thursday for the latest stop of her nationwide “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour, a series of discussions and speeches concerning life in the wake of 2022’s U.S. Supreme Court decision removing federal abortion protections. The tour and its message are central to the reelection strategy of Biden and the Democratic Party, who have seen voters activated in droves across the country to push back on anti-abortion legislation.
The fight this election, they suggest, is to prevent Republicans from governing and introducing a nationwide ban on abortion.
“Freedom is fundamental to the promise of America. And what we saw over a year ago in the highest court in our land, the United States Supreme Court — the court of Thurgood and RBG — took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America, from the women of America,” Harris said ahead of a roundtable discussion with leaders in Michigan, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Michigan is again considered a swing state in 2024, with a slight Democratic edge — but Democrats, and especially abortion rights advocates, codified reproductive rights and abortion access into the Michigan Constitution by way of a citizen ballot initiative in 2022. When the draft majority opinion in the case that would overturn Roe v. Wade, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, was leaked to the public in May 2022, Michiganders rose up — 30,000 people reached out to the campaign in one day, crashing the website of progressive nonprofit Michigan Voices.
“We had folks from every corner of the state reaching out to make sure that they could get petitions to sign them,” said Sommer Foster, the executive director of Michigan Voices. She recalled a signing event at a coffee shop, where an 18-year-old was desperate to show their support — but they weren’t registered to vote. “So they took out their phone and registered on the spot to make sure that they could sign the petition,” Foster said.
Their measure resonated with young people and doctors and mothers, “who were so angry that their kids were going to live in a country where they had fewer rights than they had growing up,” Foster said. It passed with 56% of the vote.
“And then we turn around and realize that all of this can be stripped away with a national abortion ban,” Stabenow said. “Any woman in this process is not trusted at all, and so we have to do it again. That’s why we’re here: we did it, and we have to do it again, and make sure that we do not see our freedoms stripped away in Michigan or any other state.”
A person’s ballot is not an island — who voters select matters, Stabenow said.
Currently, Michigan Democrats own a trifecta in state government — control of the Governor’s office as well as both chambers of the state legislature, though only offices within the Michigan House of Representatives are up for grabs this year.
As is Harris’s job, as is the job of her boss, President Joe Biden.
“This is an issue that is about fundamental freedoms and liberty,” Harris said. “One must then ask, well, OK, how did this happen? And I would say, ask who’s to blame, and I’ll answer that question,” she added. In short, her answer is former President Donald Trump, who nominated three conservative Supreme Court justices, all of whom turned voted to overturn federal protections on abortion.
Trump, she added, has repeatedly gone on record taking credit for Roe being overturned — a move, she argued, that has resulted in medical providers being threatened with, or sentenced to, jail time; for putting pregnant parents’ lives at risk; to ensure that America’s young women have fewer rights than their parents and grandparents.
“Let’s understand the connection between all of these issues and the responsibility and the role that we each have to protect these fundamental freedoms, and the people of America to be able to make decisions about their own lives and the future of their family.””
Michigan's Arab American, left-wing communities vow 'uncommitted' against Biden in upcoming primary
A crucial Democratic voting bloc in Michigan is leading the charge for a protest vote in Tuesday’s primary election against President Joe Biden for his support of Israel in its war against Hamas.
Listen to Michigan, which describes itself as a multiracial and multifaith anti-war campaign, is spearheading the “Vote Uncommitted” effort, which encourages voters to show up to the polls and check off “uncommitted” on the ballot instead of Biden.
Michigan is home to the country’s second-largest Middle Eastern and North African population, according to US census data, with Wayne County having the highest percentage in any US county. Wayne County is home to the cities of Detroit and Dearborn, where much of the “Vote Uncommitted” effort is taking place.
“In recent months, a critical question has plagued residents of Michigan: how to make our voices heard when President Biden officials ignore our pleas. This sentiment is deeply felt in the Detroit and Dearborn area, where the community is acutely aware of the devastation in Gaza – a crisis we feel intimately connected to, as it impacts our friends, families, and broader communities,” according to Listen to Michigan’s website.
“Michigan voters are sending Biden a clear message in the February 27 Democratic primary that he can count us out. We are filling out the UNCOMMITTED bubble because we strongly reject Biden’s funding war and genocide in Gaza,” according to the website. “Uncommitted Michigan Democrats opposed to Biden’s policy in Gaza can demonstrate that we hold his margin of victory for re-election.”
Biden must earn their votes through a dramatic policy change, according to the website.
“President Biden has been a successful candidate in the past by representing a broad coalition, but right now he’s not representing the vast majority of Democrats who want a ceasefire and an end to his funding of Israel’s war in Gaza. He’s not representing the young people who put him in office and turned out in the midterms — and are now out protesting his policies in the streets,” the website said.
Family ties in Michigan’s political scape
Listen To Michigan’s campaign manager, Layla Elabed, is Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s sister.
Tlaib (D-MI) represents part of Dearborn and the majority of Dearborn Heights. Tlaib is the only Palestinian-American member of Congress and a leading voice in the ceasefire movement. Both Tlaib and Elabed did not return The Post’s request for comment.
Tlaib encouraged Michiganders to vote uncommitted in a video posted on Listen to Michigan’s Instagram.
“It is important as you all know, to not only march against the genocide, not only make sure that we’re calling our members of Congress and local elected officals and passing city resolutions all throughout our country, it’s also important to create a voting bloc, something that has a bullhorn to say, enough is enough,” Tlaib said in the video. “We don’t want a country that supports bombs and destruction. We want to support life. We want to stand up for every single life killed in Gaza.”
“I want you to think of all of the amazing young children and the people whose lives were lost, and this is the way you can raise our voices don’t make us even more invisible. Right now we feel completely neglected, neglected and just unseen by our government,” Tlaib said. “If you want us to be louder, then come here and vote uncommitted.”
Listen to Michigan and supporting organizations are driving their message on social media and through phone banking.
Dearborn’s Mayor, Abdullah H. Hammoud, published an op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday explaining why he’s voting uncommitted.
“I, like many of my fellow Americans, cannot in good conscience support the continuation of a genocide. This has weighed heavy on my heart, particularly as the presidential primary election in Michigan has drawn near. It is for that reason that I will be checking the box for “uncommitted” on my presidential primary ballot next Tuesday. In doing so, I am choosing hope,” Hammoud wrote.
However, Jewish Democrats expressed confidence in Michigan’s Arab voters showing up to the polls in November in support of Biden regardless of how they vote in the primary, banking on the shared threat of another Trump presidency as the driving factor.
The Post spoke to a Biden campaign official in Michigan who declined to provide a comment on the matter.
Jewish Democratic Council of America CEO Halie Soifer told The Post that voting “uncommitted” is playing with fire.
JDCA endorsed Biden early on in the campaign and is leading efforts to galvanize Jewish Democratic support for him.
Soifer adamantly said that any effort to deflect or divert Democratic support for Biden is effectively electing Trump. Those who want Biden to win in November should absolutely support him in the primary, she said.
With Rashida Tlaib leading this effort, it’s almost guaranteed that Jewish voters in Michigan will not be listening, Soifer said.
“Jewish voters are overwhelmingly not just supportive of Joe Biden, but very happy with his strong support of Israel in the aftermath of Oct. 7. His approval of the way he’s handling this war transcends partisan divides,” Soifer said “Not only will Jewish voters, whether they be in Michigan, or frankly any other state, be strongly supportive of Joe Biden in their primary, but they will also support him in the general.”
“We’ve seen it happen in 2016 in Michigan and we don’t want to see it happen again,” Soifer said, referencing Bernie Sanders who won the primary. Trump won Michigan in 2016 by just over 10,000 votes, Soifer said, which was due to turnout. Biden won Michigan in 2020 by over 150,000 votes.
Soifer described Trump as a threat to the shared values, security and freedoms of the Jewish and Arab communities in Michigan
While Soifer thinks the “Vote Uncommitted” movement isn’t going to gain much traction, she said the aftermath of the movement is dangerous for Democrats.
“For those who have voted uncommitted as perhaps a protest vote, what will they do in the general? Are they going to do it again in the general?” Soifer said. “Because as I said, either a non-vote, or a vote for a third party candidate or position, in this case, is a vote for Donald Trump. And we’ve seen it happen before in Michigan.”
Soifer said Democrats can bring protest voters back to support Biden in November by talking about shared policy priorities and shared threats emanating from MAGA extremism.
Recruiting Roundup: Michigan pursuing four-star top-100 safety with ties to current player
While college football recruiting is currently in the late-winter dead period, there is still plenty of Michigan football recruiting news to get to.
In today’s edition of the Recruiting Roundup, we’ll dive into the pursuit of a top-100 safety with ties to a current player on the roster, a Miami commit interested in the Wolverines, and one of the best players in Arkansas having Michigan high on his list despite the coach he was recruited by the most heading to the NFL.
2025 top-100 safety talks Michigan being a top school
In a recent interview with The Wolverine’s EJ Holland ($), Jadyn Hudson, one of the best safeties in the 2025 class, said the Wolverines have been pursuing him.
“Before they won the national championship, they were recruiting me really hard,” Hudson said. “They are a great program overall. They had a great defense. I feel like I could play the free or the strong safety. I could see myself fitting in well in that defense.”
Hudson had Michigan in his top-10 that he released this fall. Something that may give Michigan a leg up in this recruitment is the fact he is familiar with current Michigan defensive back Zeke Berry, who shared some praise regarding Michigan being a great place to improve as a player.
“Zeke went to De La Salle, but he grew up in Pittsburg like me,” Hudson said. “He has told me some really good things about Michigan. He said the work that you put in is beneficial. He said that you’ll learn a lot there and really get developed.”
Hudson is hoping to get back on campus this offseason. He hasn’t been to Ann Arbor since last year, so this would be a return trip for him.
“They have a great environment,” Hudson said. “I went there at the beginning of last spring. I liked the strength and conditioning program. They do a great job with the athletes and transform their bodies. I definitely will make another visit. I just want to see more from a player’s point of view like school life.”
He has offers from Georgia, Ohio State, LSU and Miami, among others, and 247Sports has two Crystal Ball predictions for him to head to Oregon. He is rated on the 247Sports composite as the 96th-best prospect in his class, the eighth-best safety and the 10th-best recruit from the state of California.
2025 four-star Miami LB commit discusses interest in Michigan
Linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary is reportedly one of the newest editions to Michigan’s coaching staff, and he brings recruiting connections with more than a few top linebackers. This includes Elijah Melendez, a top-150 linebacker who committed to Miami in December.
Melendez expanded on his relationship with the new Michigan coach with Brice Marich from The Michigan Insider ($). Jean-Mary recruited Melendez back when he was coaching at Tennessee.
“Michigan has always stayed in contact with me and the staff has been very real. I love Michigan,” Melendez said. “Coach BJ is real and he’s from around the same area as me, so we click really well. I have always viewed Michigan as a top contender for me. I always loved Michigan and now adding coach BJ, I just hope they recruit me hard because it’s been a few months without a linebacker coach and Michigan was still in my top-three. Now we’ll see what they can do with one.”
Melendez spoke highly of Michigan’s culture and winning ways. He seems excited to get back on campus a few more times, which could possibly sway his decision.
“Yes, I’m supposed to go (to Michigan) this spring for unofficial and then another time for an official then possibly another unofficial really close to signing day,” Melendez said.
The fact Melendez is wanting to get back to Michigan three times is truly telling, especially considering his current pledge to Miami. The Wolverines were recruiting him heavily before he made his commitment, and it doesn’t appear they are taking their foot off the gas pedal anytime soon, especially with Jean-Mary in town.
Three-star S discusses conversation with Sherrone Moore
Michigan has been in pursuit of 2025 three-star defensive back Marcus Wimberly, one of the top players from the state of Arkansas rated just outside the top 500 on the composite. However, with the departure of Jay Harbaugh — his lead recruiter — to the NFL, it’s fair for Michigan fans to question if his interest in the program is still legitimate.
Well, we have some answers now, as Wimberly discussed a recent conversation he had with new head coach Sherrone Moore to The Michigan Insider’s Marich ($).
“I have (been in contact with Michigan),” Wimberly said. “Coach Moore actually just called me the other day just to check up and see how I was doing and let me know he’s excited to get me back up there! I’ve been in steady contact with (assistant director of recruiting) coach Popper as well.”
Wimberly was one of several recruits in Ann Arbor for the Ohio State game, and he announced his decommitment from Arkansas on Dec. 1. While Oklahoma appears to be a favorite for him based off four recent Crystal Ball predictions, Michigan still appears to be high on his list for now.
“They’re still a top-three school in my recruitment right now for sure,” Wimberly said. “You can’t get any better than Michigan. So, yeah man, they are still very high for me and I think I’ll be back this spring if we can.”
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