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Go Cultivate!


A podcast for community builders. Discussing ways to grow financially resilient, resource-conscious, and people-friendly cities.


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A podcast for community builders. Discussing ways to grow financially resilient, resource-conscious, and people-friendly cities.





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Season 3 Wrap Up — with Kevin Shepherd

We’ve reached the end of Go Cultivate! Season 3! To wrap us up, Kevin details the impacts that the suburban experiment has had on our country and asks the question: what does ‘quality of life’ really mean, and does an auto-centric lifestyle support these outcomes? After defining actionable steps to take in order to address the challenges posed by the suburban development pattern, Kevin emphasizes the importance of finding and connecting with other people and groups in your area to drive meaningful change at the local level. We believe that by working together, we can create more vibrant and inclusive communities that are built to last and benefit everyone. Stay updated with our newsletter!


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Meet the Verdooners — with Matt Meals

In this episode we are sitting down with Matt Meals, the newest addition to Verdunity’s engineering team. He and Kevin discuss Matt’s journey to Verdunity, and his perspective on how land use fiscal analysis gives cities the education they need to plan for communities to take root, as well as how it empowers citizens to take active roles in shaping the future of their communities. Throughout the interview, Matthew emphasizes the importance of context and community in engineering and design, and shares how his passion for environmentalism and sustainable energy led him to where he is today. Matt Recommends: Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert Putnam


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Leadership and Inclusive Prosperity — with Dr. Kaye Monk-Morgan and Shaun Rojas

In this episode, AJ interviews Dr. Kaye Monk-Morgan and Shaun Rojas of the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) where Kaye is the President and CEO, and Shaun is the Senior Director of Civic Engagement. Their discussion emphasizes the importance of building a culture of civic leadership and engaging with community members to address their concerns and build stronger, healthier, and more prosperous communities. The conversation also touches on the idea that leadership is an activity rather than a title or position, and the need to develop skills and engage in activities that promote leadership. Kaye Monk-Morgan, KLC President and CEO A third-generation Kansan, Dr. Kaye Monk-Morgan is the president and CEO of the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC), an internationally recognized center of excellence for leadership development and civic engagement. She previously served as the inaugural chief impact officer. Her work fosters civic leadership for stronger, healthier, and more prosperous communities in Kansas and beyond. Service and education have been hallmarks of Monk-Morgan’s personal and professional story for decades. Prior to her time at the KLC, Monk-Morgan dedicated her talents to higher education. Over 30 years, she served in roles ranging from residence hall director to Assistant Dean of Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and ultimately the Vice President for Strategic Engagement and Planning at Wichita State University. Her areas of responsibility varied over the years and included community and economic development, strategic planning, assessment and accreditation, and coordination of WSU’s First-Generation student services. Her longest appointment was as director of the TRIO Upward Bound Math Science program. An active community servant, Monk-Morgan has served on non-profit and corporate boards at the local, state, regional and national levels. She currently serves as a board member for: NXTUS, a non-profit that catalyzes startup ecosystems, The African American Museum of Kansas; and Emprise Bank. She is a trustee for the Wichita Land Bank; and advisor to the Ulrich Museum at Wichita State University. Shaun Rojas, Senior Director of Civic Engagement As Senior Director of Civic Engagement at the Kansas Leadership Center, Shaun oversees the organization’s Civic Engagement Initiative tasked to equip Kansans in public life to build civic trust on the most pressing issues. Shaun works with the Civic Engagement Team to develop Tresources for those in elected and appointed office and partners with organizations who are facing a civic challenge. Starting at KLC as an intern in 2008, Shaun has been around the KLC block. Over the years, he has done everything from help support community leadership programs across the state to help Kansans have better conversations on divisive issues. Shaun’s dedication to help communities engage in better civic dialogue goes well beyond his role at KLC. He is the founder of the Young Latino Professionals of Wichita – which helps raise the profile and equip young professionals with leadership skills – and was a previous board member for the Association of Leadership Programs. In 2014, Shaun was named as Young Professional of Year for Wichita Urban Professionals. In 2016, he was named to the City of Wichita’s Citizen Review Board by the City Manager. Shaun also serves on the District Six Advisory Board for the City of Wichita. Press Coverage: Local Entreprenuership Pilot Program https://kansasleadershipcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/Kauffman-Grant-Communities_FINAL.pdf Heartland Together Partnership https://kansasleadershipcenter.org/kansas-leadership-center-launches-multi-state-listening-tour/ Resources: Kansas Leadership Center (KLC) https://kansasleadershipcenter.org/ KLC’s Civic Mission https://youtu.be/jcMEWtUXVPg Heartland Together Project https://kansasleadershipcenter.org/heartland-together/ Mentioned in this Episode: Create Campaign,...


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Meet the Verdooners — with Maddie Bonney

Time to roll out some new Meet the Verdooners episodes to introduce y'all to the newest members of our team! In this episode, Kevin sits down with Maddie Bonney, our new Planner, and they discuss her personal motivations for pursuing a career in planning, including her desire to improve quality of life and promote self-sustaining economic development. She explains how her values align with Verdunity's focus on fiscal health and local wealth, and they discuss the relationship between the design of our neighborhoods and the mental health of the people living there.


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Plangineer to Storyteller — with Andy Boenau

Moving communities beyond status quo is hard. Entrenched practices in zoning, transportation planning, and road design have created places that are unsafe, unhealthy, and inequitable for many, while others who have benefitted from these systems staunchly defend them. In this episode, “Plangineers” Andy Boenau and Kevin Shepherd discuss how their careers evolved from engineering to planning to advocates for change in their respective roles today. They discuss why radical changes to traditional planning and engineering approaches are needed in order to create more inclusive, sustainable, and thriving places. Andy explains the benefits of using storytelling to communicate and simplify concepts to inspire change, as well as how to use online platforms and targeted posts on social media to communicate and test ideas. If you're searching for language and tools to nudge your community forward, Andy is an excellent resource. Andy Boenau is a storyteller disguised as an urban planner that wants to help create happy, healthy communities where we can safely ride bikes at night in dark clothes. He is a filmmaker, photographer, writer, and podcaster. Andy is the founder of Speakeasy Media LLC where he teaches people how to create memorable stories and is the producer of the podcast, How We Get Around. He's also the author of the Substack blog Urbanism Speakeasy where he shares simple truths about city planning & transportation to help you promote healthy infrastructure. Boenau has won awards for three short films, a podcast, and one of his books. His contributions to the design industry have also been acknowledged by Engineering News-Record (Top 20 Under 40, 2016) and Style Weekly (Top 40 Under 40, 2016). Andy is currently working on an upcoming documentary called White Collar Epidemic: Infrastructure is Crumbling our Minds and Bodies. https://www.andyboenau.com https://speakeasy.substack.com/ https://twitter.com/Boenau https://www.linkedin.com/in/boenau/ https://seedandspark.com/fund/white-collar-epidemic#story


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Development Bills at 2023 TxLEG—with Michael Kovacs and Tom Yantis

There are a number of bills working their way through this year’s session of the Texas Legislature that will impact cities’ ability to guide development in a manner that ensures fiscal sustainability and affordability. Proposed bills address topics like: annexation/deannexation; prohibiting cities from requiring development value and infrastructure costs as a factor in development approvals; reducing the minimum lot size; and allowing accessory dwelling units by right. One side of the conversation centers on those who want to preserve personal property rights and are opposed to higher density development via smaller lots and units. From the local government side, city officials are concerned about losing the ability to guide what gets built and the impact it will have on their ability to provide services to current and future residents and businesses. Suffice to say these are very important discussions and decisions that will have significant impacts. This discussion is not limited to Texas, either. Numerous other states are having similar debates as pressure to address growing affordability and infrastructure costs increases at the state and local level. In this episode, Kevin talks with two city management officials about which bills concern them and the unintended consequences that could result if they’re passed. Michael Kovacs, the City Manager of Fate, a fast growing suburb east of Dallas, and Tom Yantis, the Assistant City Manager of Taylor, a community outside Austin that recently landed one of the largest economic development deals in Texas with Samsung have been leaders in adjusting development processes to ensure their cities have the money they need to maintain quality services and infrastructure long-term while keeping housing and taxes affordable. Both cities received national awards for their Comprehensive Plans for embracing principles of fiscal sustainability. These two guys are extremely knowledgeable about how development impacts short and long-term costs and affordability, and how things “work” in Texas, so their input is worth listening to. Discussions in Austin are ongoing and votes will start happening very soon, so we wanted to get this episode out quickly so it can be shared to inform voters, lobbyists, and especially our representatives in Austin that are casting votes. - Don't forget to take part in our 2023 podcast survey! https://www.verdunity.com/2023survey


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Rural Community Transformation — with Julianna Dodson

Rural communities are a focus for us here at Verdunity. In this episode, AJ interviews Julianna Dodson, Deputy Executive Director, and Radically Rural Director for the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship. Prior to her work with Hannah Grimes, she was primarily in the financial services industry (which according to her is a lot more vibrant and dynamic than one might imagine!) but has also taught English overseas, and runs her own small business on the side. Together they chat about how to transform these places for the better. You might be surprised to hear that rural communities face some of the same issues that bigger cities do – housing shortages, inability to find affordable child care – but they also face issues like the hollowing out of medical support systems that historically have been a part of the rural fabric. Julianna highlights how rural communities have attempted to recover from one financial crisis after the next and how they do that differently than cities. - If you have a spare minute, please take part in our 2023 podcast survey! https://www.verdunity.com/2023survey Press Coverage: Radically Rural 2023 Summit https://www.radicallyrural.org/2023-summit/ Radically Rural PitchFork Challenge https://www.radicallyrural.org/pitchfork-challenge/ The News Project – ‘Radically Rural’ https://gnat-tv.org/the-news-project-radically-rural/ Tight knit: Connection is critical for progress in rural entrepreneurial ecosystems https://www.kauffman.org/currents/connection-is-critical-rural-entrepreneurial-ecosystems/ Radically Rural: Turning the Silver Tsunami into Gold https://dailyyonder.com/radically-rural-turning-the-silver-tsunami-into-gold/2020/01/06/ In Little Keene, NH, Boosting Rural Economies and Entrepreneurship https://www.forbes.com/sites/annefield/2019/08/22/in-little-keene-nh-boosting-rural-economies-and-entrepreneurship/?sh=455daadd7e98 Resources: Federal Resources for Rural America https://www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/community-strategies-group/rural-in-the-american-rescue-plan/ The Rural Business Show, Episode 42: Radically Rural https://www.ruralbusiness.com/episode-42-radically-rural/ E&P Reports Vodcast, Episode 101: Focusing on Small-Town America https://www.podbean.com/media/share/dir-jmbbi-fde3064?utm_campaign=w_share_ep&utm_medium=dlink&utm_source=w_share 2022 Radically Rural Summit Recap https://www.radicallyrural.org/2022-summit/ Mentioned in This Episode: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover https://bookshop.org/p/books/educated-a-memoir-tara-westover/15280731?ean=9780399590528


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Place and Prosperity — with William Fulton

William Fulton is one of America’s most established thought leaders in urban planning. From 2014 to 2022, he served as Director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Prior to moving to Houston, he served as Mayor of Ventura, CA and Director of Planning and Development for San Diego. He’s the author of multiple papers and books, including his most recent book Place and Prosperity, which is the focus of this episode. Kevin and Bill discuss Bill’s experience growing up in a factory town in New York, stepping into community planning and city leadership roles in California, and personal stories detailing how quality of life for he and his family has been impacted by the design of the different neighborhoods he’s lived in. Bill makes the case that building great places is fundamental to cultivating prosperity, and better cities emerge when the people who shape them think more broadly and intentionally about the places they are creating. Some of the topics covered include: Be sure to complete our quick annual podcast survey for a chance to win $50 to Amazon! These submissions help us steer Go Cultivate! in the right direction so we can better provide the content you want to see. LINKS William FultonPlace and Prosperity BookPlace and Prosperity Book Talk (YouTube)Kinder Institute


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2023 Podcast Survey

Whether you're a long time follower of our Go Cultivate! podcast or just started listening, we'd love some feedback. This annual survey guides our team in creating content you actually want! As a thank you, all submissions will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 Amazon gift card - winner will be announced in our May 2nd podcast episode! Link: verdunity.com/2023survey


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Enabling Desirable Neighborhoods - with Melissa Milton-Pung

Melissa Milton-Pung is a Policy Research Labs program manager at the Michigan Municipal League. As a Federally-qualified architectural historian, her expertise is in place-based economic development initiatives, historic rehabilitation, and heritage tourism. She holds a BA in Public History from Western Michigan University and a Master of Historic Preservation from the University of Kentucky College of Architecture, where her research created the Commonwealth’s first historic property tax credit. Melissa is also adjunct faculty in Historic Preservation at Eastern Michigan University and a past president of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN). Prior to joining the League in 2017, Melissa spent more than a decade as economic development & historic preservation project manager for Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor), and worked in cultural resource consulting. It's not enough to hope for better neighborhoods. Meaningful policy needs to be enacted to make better places possible. Melissa Milton-Pung and the Michigan Municipal League have been working to give advocates the tools they need to push for zoning and housing reform in Michigan. But the lessons they provide can be applied across the country. This particular episode covered a large number of fascinating articles and resources. Check them out below. Press Coverage: Plan by MML and MEDC could bring more housing options to communities quicker https://www.macombdaily.com/2022/10/15/plan-by-mml-and-medc-could-bring-more-housing-options-to-communities-quicker/ September 22, 2022 Press Conference https://www.facebook.com/MMLeague/videos/758557258540932 New partnership draws inspiration from catalog and kit homes to shore up state housing stock https://www.secondwavemedia.com/rural-innovation-exchange/devnews/Pattern-Book-Homes-22.aspx Housing experts lay out plan to encourage more infill housing across Michigan https://mibiz.com/sections/real-estate-development/housing-experts-lay-out-plan-to-encourage-more-infill-housing-across-michigan CNU Teams with Michigan Leaders on New Guide to Code Reform https://www.cnu.org/news/cnu-teams-michigan-leaders-new-guide-code-reform Resources: Pattern Book Homes https://www.mml.org/pattern-book-homes/ Houses by Mail: A Guide to Houses from Sears, Roebuck and Company by Katherine Cole Stevenson and H Ward Jandl, 1995 https://bookshop.org/p/books/houses-by-mail-a-guide-to-houses-from-sears-roebuck-and-company-katherine-cole-stevenson/7295788?ean=9780471143949 America’s Favorite Homes: Mail-Order Catalogues as a Guide to Popular Early 20th-Century Houses (ISBN: 0814320066) 1990 United Way - The ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Project https://www.uwmich.org/alice-report The Project for Code Reform (CNU) https://www.cnu.org/our-projects/project-code-reform Enabling Better Places: Users’ Guide to Zoning Reform https://www.cnu.org/sites/default/files/PCR-9-15-18.pdf Michigan Statewide Housing Plan https://www.michigan.gov/mshda/developers/statewide-housing-plan Michigan Association of Planning Zoning Reform Toolkit https://www.planningmi.org/zoning-reform-for-housing Michigan Association of Planning https://www.planningmi.org/ Housing Michigan Coalition https://housingmichigan.weebly.com/ RSMeans - Construction Cost Estimating Software https://www.rsmeans.com/


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Bridging Infrastructure Gaps — with Mark Funkhouser and Liz Farmer

Fiscal policy, municipal finance, thoughtful budgeting, and infrastructure maintenance. If you ever wanted to know where and why your city's money gets spent, you'll want to hear this. Mark Funkhouser, former mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, with decades of experience in municipal finance, and Liz Farmer, a writer, thinker, and consultant on policy and budgeting, are two of the most knowledgeable people when it comes to local finance. They present us with some really tangible options for getting more out of those in this episode and explore how the systems we have built are fragile, like we've seen in places like Pittsburgh and even in a place like Texas that is ostensibly booming. There's a lot more. Don't miss it. Some things to check out after the episode: Mark’s 2015 Governing article about Infrastructure vs. Pensions: https://www.governing.com/gov-institute/on-leadership/gov-fiscal-issue-that-matters-most-infrastructure-pensions.html Liz Farmer’s Substack article on 5 things she’s learned after a decade of reporting on municipal bankruptcy: https://lizfarmer.substack.com/p/5-things-ive-learned-after-a-decade?utm_source=post-email-title&publication_id=560793&post_id=96315141&isFreemail=false&utm_medium=email Volcker Alliance Paper: https://www.volckeralliance.org/resources/sustainable-state-and-local-budgeting-and-borrowing-0 BOOKS Dignity by Chris Arnade Bonds of Inequality by Justin Jenkins Still Broke by Rick Wartzmann Strong Towns by Charles Marohn Think Again by Adam Grant Contact Mark or Liz mark@mayorfunk.com Website: mayorfunk.com Twitter: @mayorfunk liz@majorfunk.com\ Substack: Long Story Short Twitter: @LizFarmerTweets


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Engaging Youth in Planning — with Mara Mintzer

We’re kicking off 2023 with an interview with Mara Mintzer, a co-founder and the Executive Director of Growing Up Boulder, an initiative to engage with city children and youth and offer them opportunities to affect change within their community. In 2017, Mara hosted a TEDx talk on including young people in city planning—which has amassed nearly 2 million views—and she recently co-authored the book, "Placemaking with Children and Youth: Participatory Practices for Planning Sustainable Communities". In this episode, we discuss Mara's mission and inspiration, young people’s natural ability for intuitive and smart city design, and the connection between the inclusion of children in community building with the residents they’ll become in the future as adults. "Placemaking with Children and Youth" book Growing Up Boulder GUB's Child-Friendly City Map "How kids can help design cities" TEDx talk "The Nature of Cities" documentary trailer


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Meet the Verdooners — with Kevin Shepherd

Kevin Shepherd, the founder and CEO of Verdunity is here to talk about where the company has been, where it might be going in the future, and what gifts your city-focused friends might enjoy. Spoiler alert: he loves books. Kevin is an engineer, but as is usually pretty obvious, not your typical engineer, and its interesting to hear from him some of the struggles he has faced trying to communicate a message of fiscal responsibility to sometimes very resistant parties. This episode rounds out our Meet the Verdooners mini-series. We hope you've enjoyed getting to know a little more about our team!


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Meet the Verdooners — with AJ Fawver

Episode 5 of “Meet the Verdooners” introduces us to AJ Fawver, who leads Verdunity’s Community Consulting Program. In this episode we learn what initially brought AJ into the planning world and what element of community building she is most concerned about. AJ is a firm believer that we serve communities best when we remember that people are at the center of everything we do, and she greatly admires communities that are willing to have difficult conversations in order to effect positive change in their cities. After the episode make sure to check out AJ’s book recommendations: The Local Economy Solution by Michael Shuman Placemaking with Children and Youth by Victoria Derr, Louise Chawla, and Mara Mintzer As well as “We Built it That Way”, a podcast she co-hosts with Jordan Clark.


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Meet the Verdooners — with Tim Wright

Tim Wright's work spans the gamut from missing middle housing to incremental development and infrastructure right-sizing. He has been an engineer on the kinds of projects that can transform a place into a more sustainable, connected community. Hailing from the great state of Louisiana (Shreveport to be exact) and proudly lacking on sleep (as he's a brand new dad), Tim is an integral part of the team here at Verdunity. Tim is also the founder of Re:Form Shreveport, an organization that is working to improve the city of Shreveport by fostering deep community connections and volunteerism, locally.


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Meet the Verdooners — with Mari Austin

Mari Austin is Verdunity's Process and Communications Coordinator. Her work is too varied to adequately explain in a podcast blurb – but it ranges from process improvement to multimedia production (including this very podcast), to fostering a positive and forward-looking company culture here in-house. Mari comes from outside the world of municipal planning and engineering, and thus brings a unique perspective to our team. But it's clear in this episode how much Mari brings to the work that we do here; her personal experience living in underserved communities and looking up at the systemic apathy that can often oversee the communities we live in is critical to the conversations we have. Enjoy!


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Meet the Verdooners — with Karina Castillo

Episode 2 of "Meet the Verdooners is back with Karina Castillo, a planner here at Verdunity. If you are a young planner, ready to go out and change the world, there is some interesting backstory you might enjoy from Karina. There are some real gems of knowledge here when it comes to trying to get good work done – who really makes the big decisions in your community, and are those the same people who are most qualified to solve the issues in front of them?


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Meet the Verdooners — with Marshall Hines

We are heading into this holiday season with a little series of episodes called "Meet the Verdooners. You'll get to hear from each of our team members and get a little background on them and what makes them tick. This first episode introduces Marshall Hines, our Creative Director and the person responsible for helping us communicate this message of fiscal responsibility in the most compelling and understandable way possible. After the episode be sure to check out the books Marshall recommended: Increments of the Neighborhood Brian O'Looney Visualizing Density Julie Campoli and Alex S. MacLean


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Community Branding and Engagement — with Ryan Short

Ryan Short is the CEO of CivicBrand, a firm that blends together branding, communications, and direct engagement with communities. As we think about the kinds of places we want our cities to grow into and be in the future, it's important to directly connect with members of the community to help identify and then take ownership of a place. CivicBrand is right at the place where those things converge. If you are interested in how to get your community more engaged in discussions both large and small, this episode is right for you. There is also some really interesting discussion about communicating in a meaningful way in the time of COVID, and work-from-home in this episode. Take a listen and let us know what you think. Links: Eyes On the Street Podcast – https://www.civicbrand.com/insights/podcast CivicBrand Website – https://www.civicbrand.com


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Neighborhood Evolution in South Bend - with Mike Keen and Monte Anderson

How sustainable is any system which requires the agreement and buy-in of those with the deepest pockets and largest portfolios to be successful? Can many small players create the same value in a place that the big guys do? This week's guests will tell you that the former simply isn't sustainable, and not only is the latter, but it also creates more lasting value for the community. Monte Anderson and Mike Keen are working in two different places (South Dallas and South Bend, Indiana). Still, they are working to create incremental wealth in the communities where they live, and as you will hear, both of them have been successful at this bottom-up approach to development. The discussion on this week's podcast covers topics like financing these small projects and how imperative it is that common sense and effective land use entitlements are to the success of these small, locally-led projects. About Mike Keen Mike Keen is a Managing Partner with Hometowne Development LLC, and President of The Bakery Group LLC. A LEED-AP with two decades experience as a sustainability professional, he spent 30 years as a professor of sociology and sustainability studies at Indiana University South Bend. As Managing Partner of Hometowne Development for the last six years, Mike has taken the lead role in the development of Portage Midtown, a sustainable neighborhood demonstration infill project located in South Bend, Indiana. He is also the facilitator of the Michiana Town Makers ecosystem, an informal network of small scale developers, design professionals, finance officers, real estate agents, property managers, contractors, neighbors, and municipal officials dedicated to helping to create wealth in neighborhoods for neighborhoods. A social entrepreneur, Mike is trained in The Natural Step’s Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development. He offers seminars, workshops and consulting services to developers, municipalities, and not-for-profits wishing integrate sustainability and/or incremental development into their localities. About Monte Anderson Since 1984, Monte has been improving the living and working environments in Texas’ southern Dallas and northern Ellis counties. He’s an outspoken man who cares about people, and he is an advocate for policies and practices that serve urban neighborhoods. Items to check out after the podcast: A New Generation of Town Makers – Strong Towns Counting the Impact of Incremental Development – Public Square The City Owned by Locals – Reasons to be Cheerful One Dallas Developer’s Secret: Bigger Isn’t Always Better – D Magazine Tyler Station Grow Desoto Marketplace Wheatland Plaza