Michiana 2027: Cass County wants community to help shape potential development

“There really is a feel that there’s a movement afoot,” said Karen Folks, Cass County Administrator.

The focus point of that movement she’s talking about is the main stretch of road in Cassopolis.

Cass County, the Village of Cassopolis, and the Economic Development Corporation teamed up with Michigan State University to come up with a vision on how to master innovative development on the village’s downtown area.

“How could we make this a destination? Not something you simply drive through, but a destination. It has so many interesting component pieces; history, the retail, it sits on a gorgeous lake,” said Folks.

Those three entities created a task force, named the project, and turned to students with a goal in mind.

“This is about our future. So if we’re sitting around a table, honestly, and we don’t see younger people there, it begs the question, ‘who’s going to be here in the future that will continue to benefit and carry this on,” said Troy Clay, CEO of Mno Bmadsen in Dowagiac and part of the Economic Development team for the project.

But the task force didn’t stop at students. They’ve reached out to hundreds in the community too.

Mom and entrepreneur Nina Lilley is looking to be part of that next generation of potential development in Cass County with her idea of a center for learning – tech – and creative arts.

“The need that I’ve seen in this community is a place for people to congregate, especially for the young people to go have something to do,” said Lilley. “People don’t have the money to invest in a lot of equipment so a ‘maker’s space’ would be a place where they can come and try different things out.”

Clay says the issue may have been not including other parties who actually hold the vision for the future..

“What’s wrong is we need a stronger vision and we need stronger collaboration throughout business and government leaders of the county so we can really make Cass pop like it should be,” said Clay.

And residents like Lilley are glad to step up.

“I’m very excited about ‘Imagine Cass’. I think it’s timely, I think it’s needed and I think it does exactly what our business is trying to do, it creates a forum for people to voice what they want to see,” said Lilley.

County officials are reaching out to hundreds of residents asking that you come to their events, which will be 3 in total with a graphic visioning collection of ideas being available closer to summertime.

The first kickoff event is being held on January 31st to collaborate and bring ideas for this new visionary development project. The event will be held at the Cass County Council on Aging from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Click here to RSVP and for more details.

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