02-23-2017 WHS Winterfest; Watervliet DDA consulted WMU students; Hartford School Board approves wei

WATERVLIET HS WINTERFEST 2017 PRINCE & PRINCESS CANDIDATES… pictured (from the left) are: Gustavo Cardoso Jr., Kylee Warren, Omar Cardoso, Emma Armstrong, Cole Pline, and Zoe Mast. A pep assembly is planned for Friday, Feb. 24 with games following the theme “Panthers are Out of the World” and the crowning of prince and princess

Watervliet DDA consulted WMU students on Little City, Big Dreams

Editor’s note: The Watervliet City Development Challenge was an experiential learning activity that was designed to help develop and test MBA students’ strategic analysis and planning skills while immersing them in an unforgettable community-based challenge. The key outcome was to provide the officials of Watervliet a thoroughly analyzed and vetted idea including financial plans and feasibility numbers as well as other outcome-based metrics.

Watervliet, Michigan—a location on M-140 and I-94 with a population of 1,843, is a small town that has the potential to become the “Biggest Little City in Michigan” according to members of its downtown development authority and MBA students in Dr. Derrick McIver’s strategic management course.

Jim Shymkus, a member of the Downtown Development Authority’s Place Committee, approached McIver, assistant professor of management, to see if consulting with the city on ways to develop unused parcels of land flanking an old mill site on the Paw Paw River would be of interest. It was, and students got to work on developing four proposals for the city: two that were designed to improve quality of life and two that were designed for revenue generation.

In the quality of life category, the students proposed two parks. First, they outlined plans for the Paper Mill District Park, with recreation options including a playground, splash pad, kayak rental, basketball courts, dog park and more. The second park, the River’s Edge Community Park, would feature nature trails, a riverwalk and an amphitheater.

In the revenue generating area, the MBA consulting team proposed a Cork and Brew Museum, which would capitalize on Watervliet’s oldest brewery as well as the strong history of beer and wine making in the state. With exhibits and beer and wine tastings, the space would be a one-of-a-kind attraction in Michigan. The second proposed project was The River’s Edge Reception Hall and Community Center, a multi-purpose event space for weddings, corporate retreats and youth activities.

“This was a unique opportunity to take on a major challenge that is common among many cities in Michigan and across the country,” says McIver. “It provided the opportunity for our students to learn how to strategically analyze and understand a problem and develop possible solutions in a project-based, experiential learning exercise.”

The experience of working on this project hit home for student Tina McNeil, “I am from a small town, so I could really relate to this project. I learned a lot about Watervliet’s issues and desires—wanting to establish the town as a destination for tourists and a community attractive to young professionals. Their challenges mirror those of so many towns in our area. Meeting with residents and city officials, I was inspired by how invested everyone was in the city’s success.”

The partnership with the city was a good one; McIver notes that city officials were collaborative and open to new ideas.

“I was very impressed by the students’ work and the depth of their analysis,” says Bob Becker, chair of Watervliet’s Downtown Development Authority board of directors. “Having MBA students with experience in a variety of industries provided a cross-functional team that delivered great ideas and data. It would have cost us thousands of dollars to hire a consulting team of this caliber.”

And the cost savings for Watervliet did not end there. The students’ proposals for park development came in at $20 million less than estimates for redevelopment of the site previously provided by the county.

“Now, it’s up to us,” says Becker. “Improvements of this type take time and happen in stages, but we have some solid concepts for ways to add value to our city and make it fresh and appealing not only to tourists but also to new residents who will h