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Monday, January 30, 2012

Rick Haglund Column on Michigan Economy

Here is an interesting article about the michigan economy.

Michigan economy is proving skeptics (like me) wrong (Rick Haglund column)

Published: Sunday, January 29, 2012, 7:00 AM Updated: Sunday, January 29, 2012, 8:54 AM
Rick Haglund
Job-seekers from across West Michigan complete applications for work during a Gentex job fair in Holland. Michigan’s economy is rapidly improving, threatening to prove those who were skeptical about the state’s prospects wrong.  That would include yours truly.
Regular readers of this column might recall that, just a few weeks ago, I questioned whether Michigan’s economy this year could outperform its record in 2011.  I cited a number of factors, including a University of Michigan forecast for slower job growth this year and a Michigan State University survey that found Michiganders weren’t very confident about their future economic prospects.  But a variety of new data shows Michigan ended 2011 strong.

The state’s economic pillars might just be “built to last,” to steal a phrase from President Barack Obama.  Michigan’s December jobless rate of 9.3 percent fell 1.8 percentage points from December 2010, tying West Virginia for the fourth-biggest decline among the states.  Michigan added a seasonally adjusted 66,500 jobs last year, more than all but five other states: California, Texas, Florida, New York and Ohio, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released Tuesday.

Jobs holding up
The state’s December jobless rate also was 1.1 percentage points below the 10.4 percent average rate that U-M economists George Fulton, Joan Crary and Don Grimes forecast in November.
Jobs held up much better than we anticipated in the final three months of the year, Grimes said.
A big part of that is the resurgence in manufacturing, led by Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.
The state added 26,400 manufacturing jobs last year, the second-highest number in the past 20 years, said state labor market analyst Wayne Rourke.  “It wasn’t just autos,” Grimes said. “Job growth was much more broad-based last year.”  Nearly every employment category in the state posted jobs gains.
Only government, and leisure and hospitality services shed jobs last year.  Michigan also ranked 13th and the highest in the Great Lakes region in personal income growth between the second and third quarters of 2011, according to the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis statistics.

Still need to create more
The key to continued economic growth will be creating more jobs for those who have given up hope of finding one.  Michigan’s labor force shrank by 100,000 people last year as people moved, died, retired or stopped looking for work.  State labor market officials said in December’s jobs report that Michigan’s labor market has been shrinking since 2006.  It’s a similar story for the nation as a whole, for reasons economists can’t fully explain.  The size of the U.S. labor force has been stuck at 153 million people for five years.  That’s the biggest mystery out there, Grimes said. It’s never happened like this before.  He speculates that many factors are at work, including retiring baby boomers, students staying at college rather than looking for work and a whole lot of discouraged workers dropping out of the labor force.  But a report released last week by Business Leaders for Michigan said the state can continue its jobs momentum by building on its core strengths, including engineering, auto manufacturing and life sciences.  Michigan also must boost investment in higher education and revitalize its cities, the report released Tuesday said.   Doing so could create as many as 500,000 jobs and additional per-capita income of $18,000 a year by 2020, according the business group.  Those projections generate renewed hope for Michigan’s economic future.
E-mail Rick Haglund: haglund.rick@gmail.com
© 2012 MLive.com. All rights reserved.

Whether or not Mr. Haglund is correct, only time will tell.  However, I get the feeling that things may be changing around Michigan.  Let's hope so.

Friday, January 27, 2012

High Tech Fun at Chrysler

Here is an article from the Detroit Free Press that shows the future of manufacturing in America.  Rogers City would be a great place to build a new WCM (World Class Manufacturing) center.

The article is by Brent Snavely, Detroit Free Press Business Writer

Chrysler workers are using tools normally found at film animation studios -- such as 3D videos and computerized motion sensors -- to reshape the way they assemble a car or build an engine.
The automaker and the UAW have created an amusement park-like atmosphere in a generic industrial building in Warren to teach problem-solving skills that workers apply back at their plants, said Scott Tolmie, World Class Manufacturing academy leader.
"It becomes unforgettable. They are able to experience hands-on training ... and we are constantly linking back what they are learning here to the shop floor," Tolmie said.
At one station, workers wear special goggles that show three-dimensional videos about safety hazards.
Another station has small wooden catapults that enable workers to shoot ping-pong balls at a target. Participants must adjust more than a dozen settings on the catapult in order to hit the center of the target.
At a mock work station, employees don a special black suit with motion sensors similar to those used by the movie industry to digitally track movement. The system identifies stressful actions and enables workers to devise more efficient and safer movements.
Chrysler has tried to teach employees several other manufacturing systems in recent years aimed at improving quality and reducing costs.
But those efforts had only moderate success. So, many employees cast a skeptical eye when Chrysler's manufacturing leaders introduced yet another regimen in 2009 called World Class Manufacturing, which helped Fiat pull itself from the brink of financial ruin last decade.
To get the American doubters to buy in, Chrysler renovated 25,000 square feet of its UAW training center in Warren with classrooms and high-tech tools.
"We had to make a splash," Tolmie said. "We had to really create a new idea in people's minds that this is not going away."
The new academy has been in its pilot phase since October, but will be unveiled to the media and local officials today by the UAW and Chrysler executives.
The lobby includes a giant touch-screen system about the size of six flat-panel televisions that employees can use to toggle through different manufacturing topics.
Chrysler's goal is to bring more than 1,200 hourly and salaried workers through the academy annually for two- or three-day sessions. Already, about 320 employees from 30 Chrysler plants have participated in the academy's pilot phase.
"WCM is not a flavor of the month," Tolmie said.
WCM was adopted by Fiat in 2005 and introduced to Chrysler in 2009 after Fiat acquired management control of the Auburn Hills automaker.
UAW Vice President General Holiefield has said he was initially skeptical of the new system but has since spoken highly of the process because of the way it gets hourly workers involved.
"WCM is a way of life within all of the Chrysler facilities," Holiefield said in October. "It will drive the quality right through the roof."
The process has its roots in Toyota's manufacturing system, said Jay Baron, chairman and president of the Center for Automotive Research. But it also shares each Chrysler plant's performance with the others.
"That's one unique aspect," Baron said. "What benchmarking does is it creates competition, and a little competition is good."
But Chrysler workers have more at stake than bragging rights. The UAW contract ratified by workers in October provides a $500 annual bonus that can increase to as much as $1,000 annually if a plant hits certain World Class Manufacturing targets.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Attractive Sunrise Coast

Here is proof that other counties are getting energized by the prospect of increased tourism.

Pure Michigan ads attract interest in Sunrise Coast
by Holly Nelson
TAWAS CITY - “It is everything people don’t know about and they need to know about. It is everything people are looking for in a get-away vacation. When you go to the west side of the state it is very congested, it’s all about condos. This side of the state is very laid back, very relaxed. You can rent a cabin by the water and be right on the beach. There’s a total difference between the two. So that’s your benefit, that’s your glory on this side - and your quiet secret,” said Ken Yarsevich, an advertising specialist for Travel Michigan, a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Yarsevich was in attendance at the Iosco County Board of Commissioners meeting, held Wednesday, Jan. 18, to discuss the results of the first two years of Sunrise Coast Pure Michigan campaigns.
“For us, at Travel Michigan MEDC, tourism is all about economic development. It brings people to your communities. People shop in your stores, stay in your hotels and increase your business sector,” he said.

He played radio ads promoting the Sunrise Coast, also showing one television commercial.

Not getting the whole story? You probably aren't. The stories at iosconews.com are previews. For the whole story, subscribe to the print edition or the E-edition of this newspaper today through the link on this Web site.

Tourism Up, but More Effort Needed

Tourism has more good news for Michigan!  Please see the press release below from Travel Michigan.  Tourism is up!  If Presque Isle County wants to earn its share of the tourism business, it will have to step up its game.  Other communities are moving forward.  Will Presque Isle County send a representative to the 2012 Governor's Conference on Tourism?  Please see my notes below for suggestions on how our area could attract tourists.

News from Travel Michigan Vice President, George Zimmermann

The first set of 2011 Michigan tourism data is in, and I am happy to report it is positive.  According to Smith Travel Research, hotel occupancy in Michigan in 2011 was 55.3%, up 6.9% from 2010.  Additionally, revenue per available hotel room (RevPAR) in 2011 was $44.52, up 10% from 2010.  In both categories, while Michigan’s numbers lag the national average, our rate of increase is better than the national average, continuing a trend which began in 2010. 
Have you registered for the 2012 Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism?  This year's conference will be at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, March 25 to 27, and we expect this to be the biggest such event in Michigan's history.   Keynote speakers include Governor Rick Snyder, national travel expert and CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg, and Joel Secundy from Brand USA, the new public-private partnership created to, for the first time, market the U.S. as a tourism destination around the world.
One new feature this year is a special track for economic developers and regional and local officials, or anyone who wants to see their community grow and prosper via tourism.  This new track will present information on the connection and the correlation between tourism marketing and development and other economic development activity and results. 

Given this, I encourage everyone in the Michigan tourism industry to do two things.  First, register for the conference.  Second, invite your local economic developers, chamber members, city and county officials, mayors and council members, to join you at the conference so they will better understand the power and potential of tourism for your area and for Michigan. 

So, register today and invite your economic development partners, city and county officials to participate in the most important Michigan tourism gathering of the year, the 2012 Pure Michigan Governor's Conference on Tourism.

Click here for complete conference details and registration information http://milodging.org/conference/


For more information, contact George Zimmermann at (517) 335-1862.  

Tourism News & Trends

Petoskey News– January 20, 2012
Rogers City was featured in Under the Radar Michigan.  We have great attractions here!
Harbor Springs area to be featured in Pure Michigan campaign
Petoskey News– January 24, 2012

Wall Street Journal – January 21, 2012

Livability – January 18, 2012

Detroit Free Press – January 20, 2012

Detroit News – January 22, 2012

Search is on for Michigan outstanding outdoor kids
WNEM TV-5 – January 20, 2012
Rogers City kids are up to the challenge!

Michigan Department of Natural Resources – January 23, 2012
Fishing off Presque Isle County shores is some of the best anywhere!

Michigan Destinations

Metromode – January 19, 2012

WTVB 1590 AM – January 20, 2012

Pure Michigan Connect – January 19, 2012
We could do this....

Pure Michigan News & Updates

Pure Michigan Connect – January 24, 2012

Pure Michigan offers insight on how Frankenmuth, Saginaw got their names
Saginaw News – January 18, 2012

Perishable News – January 23, 2012
Go Knaebe's Munchy, Crunchy Apple Farm!


LA Times – January 7, 2012
Many of our hotel rooms remain vacant!

National Restaurant Association Blog – January 4, 2012
Local restraunt operators tell me they have seen a small increase in business due to tourism in Rogers City, but not enough!

Increased tourism in Presque Isle County will result in more jobs and economic improvement.  Please contact your Presque Isle County Commissioner and encourage them to invest in attracting tourists to our area.

National Marine Sanctuary Helps Community

The following information is provided by Jeff Gray, Superintendent of the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve:

Through research, education, and community involvement, the sanctuary works to protect the Great Lakes and their rich history for this and future generations. Education is one of our most powerful preservation and conservation tools. The sanctuary and our partners have developed programs to enhance awareness and stewardship of the Great Lakes and the ocean. Conducted on board ships, in our exhibits, and in classrooms, these programs have been delivered to everyone from kindergarteners to retirees.

We partner with educators to provide immersive experiences for students. Dozens of schools around the state participate in our underwater robotics contest. This program has set the stage for three incredible educational offerings in Northeast Michigan:

--Bob Thomson, a teacher at Sanborn Elementary in Alpena County, has woven sanctuary and ROV technology into his classroom throughout the year. Thomson also developed a week-long summer camp based on the underwater archaeology of the sanctuary and maritime technology.

Thomson class
Middle school teacher Bob Thomson helps his students maneuver their underwater robot into Thunder Bay. NOAA, Thunder Bay NMS

--At Alpena High School this spring, science teacher John Caplis will teach a class titled "Shipwreck Alley: Shipwrecks, Science, and the Marine Sanctuary." Students will explore the history, archaeology, technology, and science of the sanctuary during the trimester.

--Alpena Community College is about to launch a new degree program in Marine Technology. The program will train students for careers in the "Blue Economy."  Featuring classes on technology (including ROV building and operations), underwater archaeology, diving, and working on ships, the program provides students with experiences to better prepare them for the workforce.

With these partners, we are inspiring students to be stewards and preparing them for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Please contact us to find out more about our education programs.

Thank you for your support of the sanctuary. As always, we welcome your feedback on Thunderstruck or any of the sanctuary's programs so
we can better serve you.


Jeff Gray, Superintendent

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Jeff and all the folks at the Thunder Bay Sanctuary are great friends to Rogers City.  We support the Sancturay expansion into the waters off Presque Isle County as a means to preserve our priceless maritime heritage.  Keep up the good work Jeff and company.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jobs for Veterans

This story is by Gabrielle Mays as reported in the Houghton Bureau Reporter

HUBBELL -- With the recent withdrawal of troops from overseas, many veterans returning home are realizing that finding work can be a difficult task.
Sam Wareham is a former Electrician's Mate for the Navy, and he was able to find employment through the Veterans Services Division.
"They helped me get a job here when a position became available, and through them, they helped me get my applications together and fill out the applications properly," said Wareham.
Employment representatives work directly with veterans on a daily basis to connect them with employers in the area and place them into jobs.
According to the Joint Economic Committee, in 2010, the unemployment rate for veterans in the state of Michigan was 16 percent which is double the national average.
Wednesday night, Governor Snyder held the State of the State address, and he spoke about the current unemployment rate for veterans.
"Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, our unemployment rate was approximately 29 percent. This isn't right and we need to act. I encourage all employers to place a priority on hiring veterans," said Governor Snyder.
One particular company in Hubbell is doing just that. OSMOSE is a company that makes raw materials for the wood preserve chemical industry, and on Thursday they were honored for their outstanding service to veterans.
"This company is being honored today because of their consistent history of hiring veterans. They have about 60 people on staff total, and 20 of them are veterans," said Mark Tweedale, Employment Specialist for the Veterans Services Division.
Getting veterans back into the workforce is a top priority for Michigan Works, and with companies like OSMOSE doing their part, more veterans will be able to find jobs once they return home.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Article about Pure Michigan Campaign

The article below shows how the partnership between Rogers City, Presque Isle County, the US-23 Heritage Route Management Council, and Travel Michigan is helping the economy in our area.
Pure Michigan rep gives presentation in Rogers City
Submitted by Phil Heimerl on January 20, 2012 – 5:20 amNo Comment

Business and community leaders gathered Thursday in Rogers City to hear a presentation about the effectiveness of the state’s Pure Michigan campaign.
Ken Yarsevich of the Michigan Travel Bureau provided statewide data and information that was compiled specifically for the six county area that makes up the Sunrise Coast – from Standish to Cheboygan.
Yarsevich said 2011 was the first year travelers from outside the state spent more dollars in Michigan on travel than residents did; and 98 percent of all travelers to northeast Michigan came from the greater Detroit and southeast Michigan areas.
“The Sunrise Coast is a haven and I vacation here myself”, he said
According to Travel Bureau statistics, the Pure Michigan campaign spent $27 million to promote travel in 2011 and tourism is Michigan’s fourth largest industry, generating $17 billion annually.
Statewide numbers indicated that non-residents traveling to Michigan paid $138 million in sales tax at retail businesses.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nautical Festival Books Air Show

The following story was reported in the Presque Isle County Advance:
Nautical Festival books major air show team for '12 event
1/18/2012 11:52:04 AM
Photo courtesy of Team RV
Photo courtesy of Team RV
This year’s Nautical City Festival (NCF) will take a step up—way up into the clouds—to entertain. The NCF has booked Team RV, billed as the “world’s largest air show” to fill the sky with exciting formation aerobatics. NCF chairman Dennis Downie, treasurer Paul Dubbs and committee member Dick Bennett shared the news of the booking last week. Bennett said he witnessed an air show in Florida last year and pursued the idea before presenting the concept to the board. “It is the most expensive thing we have ever been involved in. But it is in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Calcite quarry and they have been very cordial to us,” Bennett said. The NCF hopes to secure donations from many vendors to honor Calcite. He said the show is not completely sponsored yet, but the response has been very positive. THE AIR SHOWS will cost in the range of $30,000-40,000. The festival will furnish rooms, meals and transportation during their four-day stay in Rogers City. They will meet the public at the festival big tent and be available at many events. The tentative schedule has them arriving in town on festival Thursday, Aug. 2 and conducting a media ride Friday morning for a 30-minute flight. That is followed by a sponsor ride, lunch and rehearsals later in the afternoon and a dinner in the evening with sponsors. (More on this story in the Jan. 19, 2012 issue of the Advance)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Great Television Show on Rogers City

Please check out the Television show Under the Radar (UTR) Michigan.  Episode 206 is about Ludington and Rogers City.  This is one television program that is worth watching!


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

CutTime Players to Visit Rogers City

Rogers City will be honored to host the CutTime Players from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  They will perform at the Rogers City Theater on Thursday, February 23 and in Onaway on Friday, February 24, 2012.  Time of the permormance is to be announced.  Below is biographical information about some of the members of the CutTime Players.

Rachel Noyes earned her Masters in Violin Performance and Suzuki Pedagogy at University of Maryland, College Park, where she was a student of Ronda Cole and David Salness, and her Bachelor of Music degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music with academic honors, where she studied with Donald Weilerstein and David Updegraff. She has participated at festivals such as Tanglewood's BUTI program, Musicorda (MA), and the Aspen (CO) Center for Quartet Studies. Rachel has had extensive experience as a chamber musician. As a founding violinist of the Chiara Quartet, she studied with members of the American, Audubon, Cleveland, Emerson, Guarneri, and Orion string quartets. Born into a musical family, she began playing the violin at the age of three in her mother's Suzuki program. She enjoys performing both chamber and orchestral music and is currently teaching and performing in the Bay area.

Gabriel Bolkosky, a native of Detroit, Michigan, began his violin studies at age three. His primary mentors were Michael Avsharian of Ann Arbor, Paul Kantor at University of Michigan, and Donald Weilerstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Gabe earned a Bachelors of Music, a Masters in Jazz Improvisation, and a Masters in Chamber Music from U of M. At the Cleveland Institute he earned a Professional Studies degree, served a year as Wellerstein’s teaching assistant and won the Darius Milhaud prize. He attended the Aspen Music Festival/Institute from 1991–98 on fellowship, first playing with the Aspen Chamber Symphony and then the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble for four years. During those four years he premiered hundreds of new works, and with his group, Non Sequitur, conducted workshops and concerts for thousands of students in the Aspen valley.   As a recitalist, Gabe has appeared across the United States and abroad. He performs a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary works with different collaborative artists from many genres of music making. Recently he performed in the premiere of Rzewski’s “Natural Things” for Carnegie Hall’s Making Music Series. He has also collaborated with other composers, among them William Bolcom, John Harbison, George Tsontakis, Derek Bermel, and Bernard Rands. Gabe has released six CDs that show his breadth as a musician. His debut solo album, This and That, features classical and jazz music. Other albums include The Shape of Klez to Come with the klezmer group Into the Freylakh; The Orchestra Is Here to Play, a live recording teaming the Gemini children’s music group with a full orchestra; The Oblivion Project Live, showcasing the music of Astor Piazzolla; Non Sequitur, contemporary and experimental music, including one of his own compositions; Home from Work, an eclectic mix of jazz, folk and blues in collaboration with San Slomovits; and as sideman on John Lindberg’s recording Two by Five. Gabe teaches violin at the University of Michigan. He is the executive director of The Phoenix Ensemble, a nonprofit organization dedicated to being a musical resource for artists and educational institutions. Gabe also directs PhoenixPhest! and PhoenixPhest! Grande, two amateur chamber music festivals held each May and August, and maintains a private violin studio.

Antione Hackney began playing viola though the Ann Arbor Public Schools instrumental music program at the age of ten. After two years of study he received the Sarah Pollack scholarship for private instrumental instruction. Over the next six years Mr. Hackney spent his summers honing his skills at the Interlochen Arts Camp, The Blue Lake International Orchestra and the Indiana String Academy. After studying with John Graham at the Eastman School of music Mr. Hackney began playing in the many numerous orchestras throughout the state of Michigan. He is currently in the viola sections of the Grand Rapids, West Michigan, Flint and Ann Arbor Symphonies.

Rick Robinson plays and writes personally expressive music driven by 22 years of experience as a bassist for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). In 2012 he leaves that orchestra to fulfill his artistic potential while drawing new audiences to classical with a pragmatic attitude fully expressed in his CutTime® brand of established and future symphonic hits.  Born into a musical family in Detroit, Robinson attended the Interlochen Arts Academy, Cleveland Institute of Music and New England Conservatory. He also held several principal positions with regional orchestras before joining DSO in 1989. Since then Robinson has worked hard in and out of the orchestra to prove classical music to new audiences.  In 1995 he began CutTime Players, an eight-piece ensemble of DSO members to perform his transcriptions of famous symphonic repertoire for distant communities. He also began publishing these works as CutTime Players Publishing. Then he had a dream which launched a composition for large orchestra that DSO eventually premiered in 2006. This led him to pursue composing for another innovative ensemble, a string sextet with occasional woodwind solo called CutTime Simfonica.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Michigan No. 1 for R&D projects

Site Selection Magazine: Michigan No. 1 for R&D projects

Michigan is the No. 1 state in the nation for research and development facility project announcements, beating out Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina, according to the January issue of Site Selection magazine. 

According to “States Reinvent the Future through Industrial R&D,” Michigan was also in the top 10 for the reported investment and job creation plans associated with these projects.

Michigan’s strong base of engineering talent and the strength of its research universities are cited as biggest reasons for the strong R&D activity – the Mitten State ranks no. 5 on the magazine’s list of top 12 states for Bachelor’s Degrees conferred in engineering.

 “Access to talent is the most important factor in being an R&D state,” Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Michael A. Finney notes in the article.

Finney goes on to say that Michigan is producing “new engineers by the thousands:” all 15 of the state’s public universities offer engineering programs, with two of the nation’s top engineering programs belonging to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

The Big Three automakers continue to be significant contributors to the state’s R&D activity; other contributing factors include the state’s University Research Corridor, an alliance of MSU, U-M and Wayne State University focused on economic transformation, fostering invention, innovation, and technology transfer; and the MEDC’s business incubator and start-up support programs.

In a separate article in the same issue focusing on metro Detroit, “Where the Tech Jobs Are,’’ more attention is given to Michigan’s recent dramatic hiring wave, particularly in the tech sector.

Quicken Loans, Compuware and other companies have located high tech facilities in Detroit’s Woodward Corridor, bringing thousands of jobs to the area. And Grand Rapids was cited as the second metropolitan area nationally in positive employment change for 2011 – compared with Atlanta, which ranks 93rd and showed no employment growth in the same period.

--End of story--

Blogger note: Rogers City is a great location for a modern R&D facility.  We boast scenic waterfront on Lake Huron, available broadband, reasonable real estate prices, full services, a competitive work force, and likely a new high tech power plant.  Any developer looking for these qualities should investigate Rogers City, Michigan.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Goon News for Safe Routes to School

Project Will Help Create Thousands of Miles of Sidewalks and Bike Paths

Boulder, CO (January 5, 2012)– The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has provided a three-year renewal grant of $2,999,725 to the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, a diverse, nationwide coalition of more than 550 organizations. The grant will support the National Partnership’s efforts to advance Safe Routes to School, a federal program that creates safe, convenient and fun opportunities for U.S. children to walk and bicycle to and from school.

“This program will help a generation of children to become more active and healthy through the construction of lasting street-scale improvements that will result in more walking and bicycling,” said Deb Hubsmith, director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. “We are grateful for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s generous support, and look forward to working with many partners to help reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in the next three years.”

The grant will build on policy wins from recent years, and advance built environment improvements in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This project will result in thousands of more miles of sidewalks and bike paths, traffic-calming projects and safer street crossings, and will enable many more students to benefit from Safe Routes to School. The project will focus on supporting communities with high rates of childhood obesity.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is leading national efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. This grant contributes toward that goal, and has four main elements:

1) Helping all states to increase the award and obligation of federal Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancements funds, resulting in the construction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities nationwide, particularly in lower-income communities;

2) Developing a national learning network to share best practices among advocates for advancing street-scale improvements, such as sidewalks and pathways and joint-use agreements that develop opportunities for cities and schools to collaborate on creating safe places for kids to play and engage in healthy physical activity;

3) Advancing state-level policy reform in seven states (Calif., Fla., Miss., N.C., N.J., Ohio, and Tenn.) which will result in the award and obligation of federal transportation funds, street-scale improvements and joint-use agreements. The seven states were selected based on need and their capacity to succeed with the program goals; and

4) Publication of two policy reports highlighting the importance of the built environment in relation to improving health.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership was founded in 2005 and is leading a national movement designed to make it safe, fun and convenient to walk and bicycle to and from school and in daily life. In 1969, approximately half of all school-age children walked or bicycled to school. Today, only about 13 percent of children in America walk or bicycle to school. Since 2005, Congress has dedicated funding for state departments of transportation to provide grants to schools and communities to build pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and run educational programs to support more walking and bicycling. A growing body of evidence confirms that community and street-scale improvements to the built environment play an important role in increasing physical activity for children and adults.

About the Safe Routes to School National Partnership
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is a fast growing network of more than 550 organizations and professional groups working to set goals, share best practices, leverage infrastructure and program funding and advance policy change to help agencies that implement Safe Routes to School programs across the nation. The National Partnership’s mission is to advocate for safe walking and bicycling to and from schools and in daily life, to improve the health and well-being of America’s children and to foster the creation of livable, sustainable communities. The National Partnership is a major program of the Bikes Belong Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which is a sister organization to Bikes Belong Coalition. For more information, visit www.saferoutespartnership.org.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable and timely change. In 2007, RWJF committed $500 million toward its goal of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic by 2015. For nearly 40 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.

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