Cass County organizations recognized with 2022 Graham Woodhouse Award

Published 11:33 am Tuesday, February 7, 2023

CASSOPOLIS — As the village of Cassopolis celebrates the continued success of the Imagine Cass project, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission recently recognized several partners that helped bring the project to fruition.

At the Feb. 2 meeting of the board of commissioners, Commissioner Roseann Marchetti, who also serves as chair of the planning commission, presented Cass County and the Cass County Economic Development Corporation with plaques commemorating the 2022 Graham Woodhouse Intergovernmental Effort Award. According to the planning commissions website, “the award is presented annually for projects that exemplify cooperation between and among governments, nonprofits, and private entities. It was established to recognize and reward the partners who execute complex, regional problem solving that optimizes the use of limited resources.”

Imagine Cass — Embrace the Vision began as a collaboration with Michigan State University and the Sustainable Built Environment initiative. The project launched a strategic transformation of Cassopolis, the county seat, into a vibrant, sustainable, and inviting community. With help from many funding sources, Cassopolis has thus far eliminated five blighted municipal buildings, added murals throughout the downtown, installed more than 20,000 feet of new roads (including water and sewer mains), built new playgrounds and a skate park, and launched a series of popular community events.

“The Imagine Cass Project sought to transform our entire community, stop the perpetual decline and unite, for the first time in decades, under the core principles of community vision, collaboration, citizen-led change and the premise that if you invest in yourself, others will invest in you,” said Cassopolis Village Manager Emilie LaGrow. “It has been our goal of the project to create a community that our residents can be proud of.”

When Commissioner Marchetti presented the awards to the board of commissioners and the economic development corporation, she noted that the County last received the award in 2014.

“The 2022 award was granted to Cassopolis, for the outstanding collaboration on the Imagine Cass project, the results of which we are fortunate to see every time we come into Cassopolis,” Commissioner Marchetti said during the Feb. 2 meeting.

Marchetti praised Cass County and the EDC for contributions of time and funds to the project. Members of these organizations, including Marchetti, participated in multiple planning sessions, phone conversations, small group meetings over the course of multiple years to bring this project to life.

Other entities recognized for their contributions to the project include the Village of Cassopolis, Michigan State University Extension, Cassopolis Main Street, Midwest Energy & Communications, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Community Economic Development Association of Michigan.

“Great things happen when we all work together,” Marchetti said.