Staff Picks: 2012 Building Michigan Communities Conference Sessions

The annual Building Michigan Communities Conference is quickly approaching with an array of diverse session topics guaranteed to broaden your horizons in the community economic development field. Below, CEDAM staff members share the sessions that they are most excited about.

Megan Kursik: “Across the country the most successful efforts to help low-to moderate income individuals connect with the financial mainstream and work toward financial security are happening at the local level. On Tuesday, April 24 from 3:15pm-4:45pm, the “Welcome to the Town of Opportunities: Financial Empowerment” session will give participants an overview of why local initiatives can be successful and what entities they should connect with in their communities to create effective financial empowerment initiatives. This session will feature speakers from diverse roles, including a local elected official (Eric Schertzing – Ingham County Treasurer), financial institution (Beth Troost – MCUL), free tax assistance (Carlos Cisneros – Mott Community College), and Centers for Working Families (Rodney Benifield – Detroit LISC).”

Allison Wardlaw: “I’m most excited about the “Property Tax Foreclosure in a Box” session. Our AmeriCorps members are seeing increasing numbers of people facing tax foreclosure come into local agencies for counseling. My knowledge on this particular topic is limited and am therefore interested to learn available options for Michigan homeowners and how I can be a better resource for the AmeriCorps members I work with.”

Brian McGrain: “I’m particularly excited about the keynote sessions. Liz Murray and Anneshia Freeman* both present compelling stories about personal turn-around through hard-work and determination. That they have gone through such personal transformation demonstrates the positive life-altering possibilities of our work. Likewise, Bill Strickland’s successful training programs at Manchester Bidwell show this transformation at a larger scale. This theme of ‘transformation’ spills over into many of the conference sessions being offered, where similar stories of people and organizations across the state and nation will be shared.  I can’t wait to be inspired by all of this great work taking place!”

*Note: Anneshia Freeman will be speaking at the opening session on Monday, April 23, at 8:30am. Her session scheduled on Wednesday, April 25, will not be offered, due to a scheduling conflict. Conference attendees are invited instead to attend her day-long training in Lansing on Tuesday, May 15, at a reduced rate. Visit for more information; contact Katie Fritz (517-485-3588; to register.

Jamie Schriner-Hooper: “I’m most excited about the press conference Monday afternoon at 3:30pm in room 202 announcing the new Community Foreclosure Response Toolkit. This will be the launch of a wonderful and innovative tool to help all different types of people and communities across the state deal with the foreclosure crisis in their community.”

Olivia Courant: “What better way to wrap up Tuesday than with a video screening and popcorn? At this session we’ll watch positive Michigan stories on the TV show The Bright Side, meet people on the show and have light conversation over some of the newest developments and best practices in placemaking, food systems and arts and culture.”

Kari Marciniack: “I am looking forward to hearing about a consolidation process that took place in northern Michigan recently: Merging a Village and a Township – What We’ve Learned from Onekama. Consolidation can no longer be considered taboo as municipalities seek to manage resources efficiently and effectively and the Onekama process provides several examples of best practices and learning moments.”

Lisa Benck: “I am really excited to hear the WMCAT Story, on Monday from 3:00-3:30 p.m. The West Michigan group works to connect art, technology and people by creating an inspirational environment for people. When people are given opportunities and an outlet to explore and present their ideas, a community truly becomes unique.”

Jessica AcMoody: “I am most excited about hearing Anneshia Freeman speak on Monday morning.  I have seen her present and she is both thought-provoking and inspiring.”

The conference website lists the comprehensive panel with descriptions. Also, don’t forget that CEDAM’s Annual Member Member Celebration Event will be held on Tuesday, April 24 beginning after the final conference session of the day at 5:30 p.m. To register for the annual event, please click here.