Prima Civitas Helps Promote Michigan’s Economy


David Hollister, shown in a 2005 file photo, is the former mayor of Lansing and was the first chief executive of Prima Civitas. The group will host its first statewide “Supply Chain Innovation Summit” on August 30-31 at the Henry Ford in Dearborn, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp.


Chances are you’ve never heard of Prima Civitas or even know what the name means (first state or first nation).

But this small community and economic development organization based in East Lansing works 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,” said CEO Arnold Weinfeld. “We are working to fill gaps and add capacity to ongoing projects. Our overall mission is to improve Michigan’s economy.”

His various initiatives include trying to revitalize the industrial sewing industry in partnership with watchmaker Shinola, increasing broadband availability in northern Michigan, contributing to economic development in Flint, and retaining talent in the state.

Prima Civitas will also host its first statewide “Supply Chain Innovation Summit” on August 30-31 at the Henry Ford in Dearborn in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

“We work in areas where we are invited,” said Weinfeld, who previously served as director of strategic initiatives at the Michigan Municipal League. “We don’t come in and say, ‘we’re so-and-so, and we’re here to save the world.'”

Prima Civitas was launched by Michigan State University in 2006 with the goal of engaging MSU in growing the Central Michigan economy through innovation, skills development, and regional collaboration.

Its first chief executive was former Lansing mayor David Hollister, who is credited with creating a community coalition that convinced General Motors Co. to build two assembly plants in the Lansing area.

The Mott Foundation in Flint took an interest in the work of Prima Civitas and awarded it a grant to help build a regional economic identity for an area stretching from Lansing to the Thumb area.

Prima Civitas became a statewide organization in 2011. MSU and the Mott Foundation remain its two major funders. The organization also operates on a fee-for-service basis.

One of his best-known projects is the I-69 International Trade Corridor, which originally promoted transportation-related economic development in a four-county region from Port Huron to Flint.

New developments in the area are 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 road, rail and air transportation assets.

The corridor “is a huge attractor for businesses that need to get their products to their customers quickly,” said Ron Kitchens, CEO of Southwest Michigan First in Kalamazoo.

Weinfeld said the corridor is an example of the four core principles of Prima Civitas: connect, collaborate, bring together and add capacity to existing economic development efforts.

“These are the things we think about to create a successful economy in the 21st century,” he said.