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Monday, 05 March 2012 11:11

Collaboration adds value to West Michigan

Written by  Birgit Klohs
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Birgit Klohs

Growing West Michigan

By Birgit Klohs
President & CEO
The Right Place Inc.

Teams create results far greater than any individual or organization alone, so it’s not surprising that many economic development organizations – including some of our strongest competitors – already represent collective regions rather than single units of government.

They have the strength, personnel and funds to reach a wider audience with a product that is larger and includes a broader range of assets. More importantly, collaboratives create a seamless customer experience with greater value added.

In recent years, economic development organizations have partnered with increasing numbers of metro areas in order to enlarge their scope. Now, with even greater competition for investment, jobs and workforce availability, others like Team NEO in Ohio have also established formal ties to other area networks with similar agendas to create superstructures of support for local companies, business attraction, and talent and workforce development.

In West Michigan, we are also on that path.

To remain competitive, our companies look to us to assist them in securing talent, connect to innovation networks, and access new technologies and potential collaborators. Similarly, our region becomes more competitive the more we increase our scope by partnering with our peers.

In recent years, metro areas have had to reach farther and farther from their urban cores to find the resources and assets needed to support local companies and attract new investment. In West Michigan, one only has to look at our agribusiness and food processing sectors.

Without the food processors and their supply chains in the metro areas, as well as the water, unique climate and thousands of acres of tilled land, the region would be unable to retain – let alone attract – investment to an industry cluster that contributes billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to our regional economy. Companies involved in those industries are spread throughout West Michigan and it takes several organizations to sustain that cluster’s growth.

With that in mind, Governor Snyder has created a strategy to build regional economic development collaboratives. Comprising area economic developers and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the collaboratives are designed to facilitate communication, collaboration and service coordination within a region so that there is a greater level of impact among local companies.

The West Michigan Economic Development Collaborative (WMEDC), facilitated by The Right Place and Lakeshore Advantage in response to that strategy, includes economic developers from Allegan, Barry, Mecosta, Oceana, Mason, Ionia, Montcalm, Ottawa, Lake, Kent, Muskegon, Newaygo and Osceola counties. The collaborative will:

  • Deliver a seamless integrated network of economic development and business assistance to ensure West Michigan companies thrive regardless of location or size.
  • Provide partners visibility to domestic and international opportunities by creating a shared understanding of the region’s collective assets and resources so they can be used to retain and attract investment.
  • Leverage local, regional and state resources to market the collaborative as a single region, drawing from all of its assets to encourage investment.

Noting that every partner is valuable in this relationship is not hyperbole. Rural counties offer natural resources and assistance tailor-made for agribusiness and related industries. Urban counties can provide greater access to transportation infrastructures as well as industrial and commercial space.

If The Right Place had only represented and served Kent County’s interests for the last 26 years and did not work with our local and state partners, our ability to increase the investment in West Michigan would be far less than it is today.

And though stories of incoming jobs and investment may grab more headlines, the greater value of this collaborative is the impact it will have on more than 2,000 area companies.

Resources such as the NewNorth Center for Design in Business, The Starting Block, The Stream, Innovation West Michigan, the MSU Bioeconomy Institute, the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, designated Michigan SmartZones, regional incubation assets, and the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center will be available for assistance regardless of the size or location of the business involved.

Such programs will also play a role in a unified, coordinated approach to encouraging and supporting entrepreneurs throughout the region.

Other business impacts include coordinating visits to area companies to increase efficiency and reach more businesses, partnering on service delivery, and stronger workforce development and training partnerships with the region’s universities, community colleges and Michigan Works! offices.

West Michigan has prided itself on creating solid public/private partnerships. This collaborative is another critical step for the region in that journey.

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Read 1678 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 11:55

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