"Chances are that you never have heard of Prima Civitas or know what the name even means (first state or first nation.)
"But this small community and economic development organization based in East Lansing is working to elevate Michigan's position in the global economy in areas ranging from fashion to logistics.
"Prima Civitas is what I would call a niche organization,' CEO Arnold Weinfeld said. 'We work to fill gaps and add capacity to projects that are ongoing. Our overall mission is to improve Michigan's economy.'
"Its various initiatives include trying to revitalize the industrial sewing industry in partnership with watchmaker Shinola, pushing to increase broadband availability in northern Michigan, aiding economic development in Flint and working to retain talent in the state.
"Prima Civitas also will host its inaugural statewide 'supply chain innovation summit' Aug. 30-31 at The Henry Ford in Dearborn in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
"'We work in areas where we're invited,' said Weinfeld, who was formerly director of strategic initiatives at the Michigan Municipal League. 'We don't walk in and say, 'we're so and so, and we're here to save the world.'
"Prima Civitas was started by Michigan State University in 2006 as an effort to engage MSU in growing mid-Michigan's economy through innovation, skill development and regional collaboration.
"Its first chief executive was former Lansing mayor David Hollister, who was credited with establishing a community coalition that convinced General Motors Co. to build two assembly plants in the Lansing area.
"The Mott Foundation in Flint became interested in Prima Civitas's work and awarded it a grant to help build a regional economic identity for a region stretching from Lansing to the Thumb area.
"Prima Civitas grew to a statewide organization in 2011. MSU and the Mott Foundation remain its two largest funders. The organization also works on a fee-for-service basis.
"One of its best-known projects is the I-69 International Trade Corridor, which originally promoted transportation-related economic development in a four-county area from Port Huron through Flint.
"New development in the region is eligible for state tax incentives under the New Michigan Development Act.
"Last week, the corridor announced an expansion to include the I-69 communities of Charlotte, Coldwater and Marshall in promoting the region's highway, rail and air transportation assets.
"The corridor 'is a huge attractor to businesses that need to move product quickly to their customers,' said Ron Kitchens, CEO of Southwest Michigan First in Kalamazoo.
"Weinfeld said the corridor is an example of Prima Civitas's four core principles: connecting, collaborating, convening and adding capacity to existing economic development efforts.
"'Those are the things we think about in creating a prosperous 21st century economy,' he said."