Summer 2018 Annual Meeting

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Join us in Grand Rapids!


Hosted by Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, we invite Mayors & their staff to Grand Rapids, MI for the Mayors Innovation Project Summer Annual Meeting. The Summer Meetings are an opportunity to see and learn about the great work happening in cities up close while still digging deep into the most pressing challenges (and solutions) that most cities face. While in Grand Rapids, you will get the chance to learn and hear firsthand about their efforts to encourage equitable economic development, create healthy urban forests, and use smart city technology for the public good. You'll also learn about their efforts to convert waste to energy and reduce utility energy use overall. Yet, like most cities with continued growth, Grand Rapids faces many challenges. This summer’s meeting will be an opportunity to learn from other cities and experts from across the country – we always invite the brightest minds for you to learn from and network with.

In addition to the important work of helping cities tackle their biggest challenges, the Summer Meeting will provide you with plenty of fun while networking – Grand Rapids is well known as Beer City USA for a reason, and they also boast a wealth of arts and cultural actives available all throughout the city. The meeting will kick off at Founders Brewing headquarters, with much more fun to come. Grand Rapids is also home to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, the LEED certified Grand Rapids Art Museum, and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, which was named as one of the 100 most-visited art museums worldwide.


As always, registration is free for Mayors Innovation Project member cities’ mayors and staff. You can become a member here if you’re not already, and register here



Download the Full Agenda

Draft: Wednesday, August 22

3:00 - 5:00pm

​Steering Committee Meeting

Members only

5:00 - 7:00pm

Welcome Reception

Founders Brewery Headquarters, 235 Grandville Ave, SW


Welcome Dinner

Bistro Bella Vita, 44 Grandville Ave SW

Thursday, August 23

​7:30 - 8:30am

Registration & Breakfast

Steelcase Conference Center, 2nd Fl, Grand Rapids Chamber, 250 Monroe Ave, NW

8:30 - 9:00am

Welcome & Introductions

9:00 - 10:45am

Equitable Economic Development

Traditional economic development has left neighborhoods and communities behind. It’s time to take a more equitable approach – one that involves communities, informed by history, and focuses on keeping the benefits of growth in your community. This panel will explore a range of ways that cities are practicing equitable economic development.

Kara Wood, Grand Rapids, MI

10:45 - 11:00am


11:00 - 11:45am

Innovation Showcase

11:45 - 12:30pm


​12:30 - 2:30pm

The Water/Energy Nexus: Aiming for Net Zero Water Utilities

The pumping of drinking water and treatment of wastewater use a massive amount of energy and contribute to carbon emissions. Cities striving for net zero city-wide need to consider water as part of the equation. This panel will explore ways in which cities and utilities are conserving energy, sourcing energy renewably, and reducing emissions from water.

2:30 - 3:00pm


3:00 - 5:00pm

Tours of Grand Rapids

6:00 - 7:00pm


The B.O.B., 20 Monroe Ave, NW

7:00 - 9:00pm

Dinner & Keynote

Richard Rothstein, Economic Policy Institute

Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a fellow of the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and of the Haas Institute at the University of California (Berkeley). He is the author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America.

The B.O.B., 20 Monroe Ave, NW

Friday, August 24

8:00 - 9:00am


9:00 - 10:45am

The Benefits of Healthy Urban Forests

Trees tout a suite of economic, social, and environmental benefits, but they are disappearing from urban spaces at an alarmingly fast rate. This panel will offer a comprehensive look at the driving forces behind urban forests’ decline and what cities can do prevent it.

Karen Firehock, Green Infrastructure Center Inc.

Stephanie Adams, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

10:45 - 11:00am


11:00 - 12:30pm

Walking Tour of downtown Grand Rapids

12:30 - 1:15pm


1:15 - 3:00pm

From Buzzword to Reality: Smart Cities in Practice

“Smart” has become a buzzword for all data-driven city projects and innovations. But with the large number of smart devices, apps, and providers flooding this space in city government, what does it truly mean to be a smart city? This session will provide context on the range of programs and initiatives that make a city “smart,” and will highlight city programs that effectively use smart innovations to meet defined community needs.

Melanie Nutter, Nutter Consulting

Josh Naramore, Grand Rapids, MI



3:00 - 4:00

Steering Committee Meeting

Members only


Optional: Dinner & Comedy Club

If you’re still in town, join us for dinner (no-host), then a show at Dr. Grin’s Comedy Club (10:30pm)! Complimentary comedy club tickets for the first 25 attendees - sign-up to secure your tickets at registration table at the meeting.

Saturday, August 25 - Sunday, August 26

All Day

We encourage you to stay the weekend and enjoy all that Grand Rapids has to offer! On Friday, grab some grub at Food Truck Fridays. On Saturday, be sure to snag some Michigan-made treats & gifts at the Made in Michigan Pop-Up Marketplace. On Sunday, enjoy an afternoon picnic cruise on Sunday on the Grand Lady Riverboat. All weekend long you can explore Grand Rapids through its most significant historical sites, meander through the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, cheer on the West Michigan Whitecaps (Grand Rapids’s Minor League Baseball team), download and take the black history month tour, or polka your way through the weekend-long Annual Polish Festival. And of course, no trip to Grand Rapids is complete without a few brewery tours!


Member cities: FREE! Contact to learn more about membership. 
Non-member cities: $325/person
Non-profits/Academic: $400/person

We invite Mayors, other local elected executive-branch leaders, and their senior staff to attend our meetings from the US and Canada only. Other elected local government leaders and staff should contact their executive and/or us for an invitation. Registration covers the cost of materials and all meals listed on the agenda. View our refund cancellation policy here.  If you're with an NGO or a business interested in presenting at or sponsoring a meeting, learn more here or contact


A room block has been reserved at the downtown JW Marriott, 235 Louis St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503, at a rate of $189/night plus tax. The hotel is within walking distance of all meetings and meals. Attendees are responsible for their own reservations. Please book no later than Friday, July 27. Instructions:

  1. Book online here, or
  2. Call our dedicated group reservation line at 877.901.6632 (no passcode necessary).



Getting to Grand Rapids

The Gerald Ford Airport (GRR) is approximately 14 miles from the JW Marriott.


Ground Transportation

Taxi, Uber, & Lyft are all reasonable options. The hotel does not offer shuttle service.



Meeting Content: Katya Szabados, 608-262-5831,

Travel & Logistics: Emily Miota, 608-263-7958,