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Monday, 12 March 2012 13:37

Weiss bridges public, private sectors in leading GVMC

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GRAND RAPIDS — John Weiss takes over as head of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council at what he sees as an opportune time to promote greater cooperation among communities and stronger collaboration with the private sector.

Amid tight municipal budgets and a push by business leaders for public sector consolidation or sharing of services to save costs, Weiss believes the regional planning agency can become a conduit for greater collaboration.

John Weiss“There’s a lot to be done in intergovernmental cooperation and between government and business,” Weiss said. “The biggest opportunity for the Metro Council, as a collaboration of 30-plus governmental organizations, is to look for opportunities to share resources, to collaborate, to cooperate and to build closer ties with the business community so that we in the region, and in West Michigan, can speak with one voice on lots of issues that may impact us from Lansing or Washington.”

Weiss joined the Metro Council full time on Feb. 13. He succeeded Don Stypula, who retired as the Metro Council’s executive director in January after eight years.

Weiss came to the job with a background in both the public and private sectors.

He’s a former city manager, one-time township supervisor and served 16 years on the Kent County Road Commission. He spent 20 years at design and architectural firm Design Plus Inc., the last 10 as CEO, and has been active in the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, most recently chairing the business group’s legislative affairs committee.

The recession placed intense pressure on both business and local governments, the latter of which have had to adjust to cuts in state funding for public services, Weiss said. The challenges of the difficult economic times that are now waning are becoming opportunities for all parties to work together to drive greater efficiencies, he said.

A lot of collaboration already occurs in the public sector, Weiss said, “it’s just not celebrated” or noticed publicly. The present economic era and incentives offered from Lansing to collaborate makes now a good time to step up those efforts.

“We’re more empowered now to build on them than we have ever been in the past,” he said. “Everybody is busy and everybody has their hands full, and they’re all acting locally — as they need to be — in taking care of what needs to be done. We, at the same time, need to leverage regionally in both the public and private sectors and act regionally as well.”

Weiss views his position at the Metro Council as a “unique opportunity” professionally. He decided to make a career move after Design Plus “made it through the tough years” and “is looking very, very positive and busy in the future.”

“I’ve been doing public sector and private sector collaboration and cooperation most of my career,” said Weiss, who was contacted and asked if he was interested in the position. “I was looking for a new challenge and a new opportunity and, I think, my experience has been in bridging the gap between the public and private sectors.”

The organization will look at areas where communities can share or consolidate services to avoid duplications and to generate greater understanding among the public and private sectors on what they need from each other.

The public sector also has a “huge role” to play in supporting economic development and organizations such as The Right Place Inc.

Pursuing greater collaboration requires the Metro Council to expand on its traditional role as a planning body that includes coordinating millions of dollars annually in state and federal transportation funding. The Metro Council needs to become even more of an advocate for collaboration in the region.

“We have to provide the vehicle for it, we have to encourage it and we have to mediate, and we have to cajole,” Weiss said.

Read 1657 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 11:29

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