One Marshall County

Don’t Give up!

Marshall County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC) and Marshall County Crossroads started conversations earlier this year about creating an over-arching organization to coordinate efforts throughout the county. This was looked at as the next step forward for Marshall County Crossroads. (Marshall County Crossroads seems to be faltering. Their website has not been updated since 2021. This is at least partially due to a lack of funding.) They created what was called the Collaborative Council, which has adopted “One Marshall County” as the name for the new organization. I was asked to join this group late in the game as they were missing input on housing; a target on the local, regional and State level. As I understood the initial mission, there were two main goals, 1) to try and coordinate the efforts amongst the various groups to better use funds and personnel, and 2) to form a united front and coordinated funding request when READI 2.0 project requests are announced.

While I’m generally supportive of the effort, I’m feeling a bit of Deja Vu’. I helped form the Second Century Committee in Culver. This came about around Culver’s bicentennial as a collaborative planning committee to coordinate the efforts of the various clubs, organizations and the town government. In Culver’s case, it was started as a subcommittee of the Chamber of Commerce. It did a lot of good things, including helping work through a charrette and motivating a new comprehensive plan. One Marshall County has bigger plans, and is looking for funding, but I don’t know that they won’t suffer from some of the same issues that came to plague the Second Century Committee.

The Second Century Committee had a core group forming a steering committee that pushed hard to get it started. There were regular meeting, agendas and great collaboration. But when the torch was passed to new steering committee members, the passion and vision didn’t follow. Without common goals, the group meetings changed from planning meetings, to just lunches. As the direction faltered, the group meetings had less and less participation, until they ended up being just the steering committee meeting amongst themselves. Then, instead of being the planning and vision for the collaborative group, the steering committee started doing projects on their own. Some of these were great, but without the help of the larger group, funding became an issue and the steering committee members became burned out. Their efforts to be independent from the chamber lost them some of their chamber support. In the end, they could not find replacements for the steering committee and the group withered and dissolved.

One Marshall County has more grandiose plans. They are requesting funding from municipalities and are planning to solicit businesses as well. They plan on having a director to make sure things proceed. I like what they are trying to do, but there are just a few drivers of the initiative and as with the Second Century Committee, I’m concerned what happens when those drivers are ready to step aside. I am also concerned that many of the groups they hope to pull under this umbrella organization are not currently involved in the planning. They can’t just assume that they will have to fall into place. As an example, Argos is not interested in participating and plans to go their own route.

My other concern is for MCEDC. As a founding member and past board member, I know the good that MCEDC has done and the gap that would be left without them. One Marshall County is targeting the same funding sources with MCEDC slated to fall under One Marshall County. That concerns me. For those not in the loop, and that includes a lot of those funding decision makers, it is going to be hard to differentiate between the two and justify doubling their contributions. (I understand the ask to be a match of what’s being giving to MCEDC for most of those involved.)

I will continue to be involved. The idea of One Marshall County is still evolving and I think it has potential. It’s just hard not to look at this through the lens of Culver’s, now defunct, Second Century Committee…

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