Six Berrien County municipalities have made the first steps in joining other Michigan communities participating in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) initiative. The multi-stage RRC program is voluntary and encourages communities to adopt and implement redevelopment strategies through a set of best practices.

The RRC certification is a formal recognition that a community has a vision for the future and the fundamental practices are in place to achieve these goals. RRC communities have effective development practices in place, efficient processes and broad community support.

To date, the following Berrien County communities are in the engagement process: the cities of Benton Harbor, Niles, St. Joseph and Watervliet, and the villages of Baroda and Stevensville.

The engagement process requires communities to undergo a rigorous assessment and then work to achieve a set of criteria laid out in the RRC best practices. There are six best practices and each one address key elements of community and economic development and set the standard to attain certification:

1. Community Plans and Public Outreach
2. Zoning Regulations
3. Development Review Process
4. Recruitment and Education
5. Redevelopment Ready Sites®
6. Community Prosperity

“We are in a very competitive economy, developers and businesses can invest anywhere,” said Greg Vaughn, Chief Operating Officer and VP, Business Development for Cornerstone Alliance. “These Berrien County communities are committing to eventually become a Certified Redevelopment Ready Community, a significant component in successful economic development.”

Stacey Stephens, Senior Director of Entrepreneurship and Special Projects for Cornerstone Alliance said, "While we understand communities will have their unique approach and challenges with the best practices, Cornerstone Alliance will provide whatever resources we can to aid in the process.”

Communities following a best practice protocol have a consistent and sustainable development process. RRC certified cities and villages have a community-supported vision and attract investments that create places where people want to live, work and play.

Benton Harbor City Manager Darwin Watson said, "The timing of working through the RRC Best Practices evaluation process works well with the city’s efforts to update its Master Plan and supporting documentation as we look to the future.”