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Friday, 17 February 2017 14:15

New dashboard to provide accessible West Michigan data

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GRAND RAPIDS — A new dashboard unveiled today by a coalition of West Michigan economic developers and other organizations aims to increase accessibility to key data about the region.

While all the information displayed in the new West Michigan Regional Dashboard is publicly available, project stakeholders say this is the first time the stats have been aggregated in one area. The dashboard tracks nearly three-dozen economic, social and environmental metrics that can inform businesses, workers and other parties about the region, said John Weiss, executive director of the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council.  

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a student doing a paper or a young lady in South Dakota who is interested in moving to West Michigan and wants to learn more information about it from a single source,” Weiss said during an event this morning announcing the dashboard. “That’s what’s important to us. It’s free, it’s all data that’s out there. None of it’s been massaged and it’s available at one point.”

The West Michigan Regional Prosperity Alliance and The Right Place Inc. built the dashboard, which has taken thousands of hours and a year and a half to complete, said Rick Chapla, vice president of strategic initiatives at The Right Place. The alliance is administered by the Metro Council and includes 26 members representing a variety of interests across the West Michigan region.

In the dashboard, the partners track various metrics, including the number of violent crimes, applications for federal student aid, per capita water usage, labor force participation and the percentage of highways in good condition. The data sets can be broken down by county and compared on a statewide and national basis.

Thirteen counties — Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa — are represented in the dashboard, which will updated annually for at least five years.
For Chapla, the project also marks an opportunity for the region to compare its performance to peers and implement strategies for improvement, either through collaboration or independently.

“This dashboard content is not meant to be a varnished, shiny example of how good we are,” Chapla said. “It should point out some challenges we have going forward to continue the prosperity that we have in this region.”

The West Michigan Regional Dashboard also could assist economic developers in attracting new businesses to the state, said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who spoke at the event this morning.

“I believe our economic development agencies now will have at their fingertips the information that they need to sell their regions and to answer inquiries as they come in,” Calley told MiBiz following the event. “I think it will help (economic developers) be more efficient and it sends a message to that prospect … that this region really has its act together.”

Other partners in the dashboard include Grand Valley State University, Barry County Community Foundation, Lakeshore Advantage, Michigan Works! West-Central, Sustainable Partners LLC, Talent 2025, W.E. Upjohn Institute, and West Michigan Works! advised the project.

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