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Sunday, 17 August 2014 22:00

Q&A: Jonathan Wilson, Muskegon County

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Jonathan Wilson Jonathan Wilson COURTESY PHOTO

As the recently appointed economic development coordinator for Muskegon County, Jonathan Wilson aims to leverage the area’s assets to further grow investment. Wilson will also staff the Muskegon County Port Advisory Committee, represent the county on the local Workforce Development Board and create partnerships with a number of people and organizations across the region. The Grand Valley State University graduate has a background in marketing and business development. Wilson spoke with MiBiz about the challenges and opportunities of his newly formed position.

What are Muskegon County’s best opportunities from an economic development perspective?

In terms of infrastructure, the region has a lot of assets and natural resources that make it attractive to potential developers. We are the only area in West Michigan to have all the multimodal forms of transportation with the airport, the Port of Muskegon and access to all the highways. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m hoping to let the world know about these features and bring them to town.

What are some of the new methods you plan to bring to the table to leverage all those assets?

I think Muskegon needs to take advantage of the opportunities for publicity to highlight these features. Since I’m not from the area, I don’t know a lot about what was done in the past, but I definitely plan on reaching out nationally and regionally to surrounding states via direct mail, social media, attending conferences and events and reaching to out to bring associations into town. I’m hoping to do several developer tours and invite potential investors to town to see the different business parks that we have available, the port and the wastewater site.

What are some specific challenges the county faces?

One of the challenges is infrastructure improvements — for instance, water at the wastewater site. There are great opportunities for a food processor or someone to invest in that land there, but we need water. (The challenges) are me finding out these resources so we can address those needs and move forward with the marketing of the property.

Where will you turn in the community to develop partnerships?

Everything that the county does in terms of workforce development to health care services, it all relates back to economic development. So the good thing is I have a lot of partners and organizations who I collaborate with. For instance, Muskegon Area First: They do so much for the community and I’m hoping to assist them and partner with them on various business development activities. I work with the Workforce Development Committee to put together apprenticeships. I’m one person, but I have a lot of different people who I work with.

How do you plan to prioritize all these different assets into a working, comprehensive plan?

Prioritizing — yeah, it’s difficult. I would say my main priorities are development of the wastewater site, port development and marketing the business parks. I’m also trying to serve as an asset for the townships and cities — (someone) who they can partner with for their economic development activities within their own regions.

There is a large group of stakeholders throughout Muskegon, West Michigan and at the state level looking at the Port of Muskegon as a means of development. How do you plan to engage with that established group as part of your job?

I’m staff on that advisory committee right now. I just attended the American Great Lakes Ports Association annual meeting in Monroe. We made a great pitch to host their event next year in Muskegon. I’m assisting with that element of the port development in bringing the meeting here. I have some design and marketing skills from my previous career so I designed some fliers that we distributed at the event, which was very helpful in letting them know what the Port of Muskegon has to offer in terms of how it plays into the St. Lawrence Seaway. I didn’t know a lot about ports before that and I’ve learned so much just being there.

How will you benchmark your performance and your accomplishments?

I’m still in the process of establishing my department and my office. … By the end of this year, I plan on having a strategic plan that I can implement in 2015. In addition to development and marketing agendas for the wastewater site and development of the port, (I’d also) like to assist the different committees with getting the word out about what we are trying to accomplish and what we are doing. I do have some benchmarks, but most of my job is partnering with other people, and I’m looking to be an asset to all the other organizations in the area.

Interview conducted and condensed by Nick Manes. 

Read 33096 times Last modified on Saturday, 16 August 2014 23:13

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