EVART — The City of Evart has graduated from Project Rising Tide.
The Rising Tide Program is designed to help towns who are struggling in a several areas get moving in a more positive direction, according to Rising Tide spokesperson Leah DuMouchel.
“Rising Tide is designed to help form plans for development and get a town back on track,” she said.
When looking at what towns qualify for Rising Tide assistance, there is a list of indicators that are reviewed: poverty, unemployment, labor participation, occupied renter units, vacancy rate and households on food stamps.
As of a 2016 report provided by DuMouchel, Evart had 40.9 percent of households on food stamps, 36.4 percent of the population in poverty and a 6.8 percent unemployment rate.
“Because of our demographics like our poverty line, housing and other identifiers we were considered at risk,” said Evart City Manager Zackary Szakacs.
Once a town is selected for the Rising Tide program, the town agrees to participate in the program for a year or two and a technical assistant is sent in to help the city in developing a master plan.
“The town has a year or two to develop an action plan that involves updating zoning, marketing, and development of the community,” said DuMouchel. “Once that list is made and everything is checked off, they graduate from the program.”
“We had two or three candidates,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “We call up each candidate and see if they want to be a part of the program. We don’t just start working with a town, they have to want the help.”
Several at the graduation, including Snyder, said that Evart’s biggest obstacle during the process of the program was getting everyone on the same page and bringing the community together.
“Everyone was in their own silos rather than coming together on the same page,” said Snyder.
“The biggest hump was getting everyone to come together to form a unit,” said Szakacs.
Eric Schmidt, the former Mayor of Evart, pointed to Evart’s lack of unity as the town’s missing link to success.
“Community togetherness was what Evart was missing,” he said during his speech. “Together we can achieve more.”
In graduating, many doors have begun to open for the community of Evart with funding.
“Now that we have graduated from and will continue to have a connection with Rising Tide, we will be looked at for other possible programs and grants,” said Szakacs.
Evart recently applied for the Michigan Main Street Program and Szakacs hopes to apply for more grants in the future.
In forming their master plan with the assistance of Rising Tide, Evart is on a path of improvement and has plans to continue its growth as a community.
“There is so much we have been able to do and can continue doing thanks to Rising Tide,” said Mayor of Evart Casey Keysor. “We have restaurants coming back to town, we have started to redevelop our main street area and have been working with large businesses to bring in more jobs to the area.”
Since 2015, Evart has seen two business restorations, nine new businesses, and a $1 million investment in upgrading the city’s storm water infrastructure.
Graduating from the program also means that Evart will get to serve as an example for other towns who are hoping to join the Rising Tide program.
Evart is the eighth community to graduate from Rising Tide, which Gov. Snyder created in 2015 to provide technical assistance and resources to communities aspiring to rise so they, together, can build a stronger framework for economic success.
“Communities whose leaders work together to overcome challenges and find common goals continue to show that collaboration is key to helping Michigan communities grow and thrive,” Snyder said in a press release. “Evart’s graduation today is another example of how Michigan wins when we all work together to create positive change.”
Rising Tide is led by the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan and brings additional technical assistance from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Talent Investment Agency.
“Project Rising Tide is an opportunity to inspire collaboration among local leaders in Michigan’s smallest communities to create a stronger economic framework,” Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan Director Roger Curtis said. “It’s also about the state working hand-in-hand with communities to ensure Michigan’s remarkable comeback can reach every corner of the state. Evart embodies the spirit of Project Rising Tide and we look forward to seeing what the future holds for the community.”
During its time in the program, Evart received technical assistance in creating an economic development strategy, becoming a select-level Michigan Main Street community, and creating a community ready for business investment and growth.
Evart joins Sandusky, Hillsdale, Charlotte, River Rouge, Grayling, Paw Paw and Harrison as graduates.