Economic Development

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White River Economic Impact Assessment

In July 2022, the White River Watershed Collaborative (WRWC) launched an effort to study the economic impact of the White River in Newaygo, Oceana, and Muskegon counties. The study is intended to develop a baseline to gauge progress in the communities along the White River. The study will be conducted over a 12-month period to evaluate the economic impact of the White River on local communities through river-based recreation and property values. Information gathered will be leveraged to target opportunities to both capitalize on and improve the quality of the White River.

Grand Valley State University (GVSU) was hired to conduct the study, which will include user intercept surveys, business surveys, a river communities survey, and an analysis of White River property values. Simply put, information will be gathered and compiled into models to estimate the economic impact of the river in terms of commerce generated and property values. Surveys are expected to continue through June 2023 to capture all seasons and varieties of river usage. The project is expected to be complete in July 2023.


White River Watershed Collaborative: Since 2019, the WRWC has focused on environmental and economic opportunities of the White River. WRWC is led by Trout Unlimited’s Jake Lemon and involves stakeholders from over forty local, state and federal organizations. The WRWC Economic Opportunity sub-committee, led by Newaygo County’s Economic Development Director, Julie Burrell, identified the opportunity to conduct an economic impact study of the White River.

WMSRDC: Recognizing the potential value of this study, WMSRDC stepped up to serve as fiduciary on behalf of the WRWC. WMSRDC was able to successfully apply for and receive funding from the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, the Community Foundation for Oceana County, and the Fremont Area Community Foundation. WMSRDC is providing this service “in-kind” so that all secured funds will be dedicated to contracting with Grand Valley State University (GVSU) to conduct the study.

Grand Valley State University: GVSU was a critical partner in designing the scope of the project and conducting the assessment.

The Economic Assessment of the White River – Final

This project was generously funded by grants from following organizations:


Community Foundation for Muskegon County Environmental Endowment Fund and White Lake Community Fund

Fremont Area Community Foundation

Community Foundation for Oceana County

Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited

Free the White River