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      MSU tells Marquette to work with neighboring communities

      The Michigan State University extension office just completed a study of 80 successful small towns in 22 states; one of them is Marquette. The goal is to figure out how these communities can continue to thrive in a challenging economy. Tuesday morning, a representative with the MSU extension office met with local leaders to analyze what Marquette has done right and how they can continue to move forward.

      Marquette may be a relatively small city, but it's the Upper Peninsula's metropolis, a power, MSU extension rep Dave Ivan says, the city can use to their advantage, while also helping their neighbors.

      "Different organizations have recognized the efforts in Marquette. It's important for them to reach out to the neighboring communities and the neighboring communities to reach out to Marquette and say, you know, in a time of declining resources," said Ivan, "what can we do better together as a collection of communities?"

      Marquette is one of 80 successful small communities Ivan recently analyzed. Tuesday morning, he announced their common denominators: a commitment to entrepreneurship, quality of place and life, and commitment to regionalism.

      But as successful as Marquette's downtown has been, there's always room for improvement, and at Tuesday's meeting, they pinpointed where improvements can be made.

      The Downtown Development Authority, Lake Superior Community Partnership, and Marquette Visitors and Convention Bureau all agreed the city could do a better job communicating with the rest of the U.P.

      "It's a bigger pie, and as a pie gets bigger, it can be shared more," said DDA president and Doncker's candy shop owner, Tom Vear.

      Vear suggested the use of big business as a vehicle for improvement.

      "We have to use them as a resource for our development as a county, especially," he said. "So that's the view I have is as DDA director; I try to drive resources downtown that are important for the DDA, but I also love the idea of Lowes coming to town, that's a good thing."

      Ulltimately, Ivan says if Marquette stays on its current path, but creates a strategic plan for communication, the city can continue to expect growth.