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Monday, 23 November 2015 11:51

Focusing on its own talent demands assists Kinexus with workforce development

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Focusing on its own talent demands assists Kinexus with workforce development PHOTO: John Lacko

BENTON HARBOR – As a nonprofit devoted to bridging workforce gaps in Southwest Michigan, Benton Harbor-based Kinexus focuses on thinking more like a for-profit company as it strives to help other businesses grow.

The organization, which functions as the Michigan Works! provider for Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties, believes that taking down silos and removing barriers in the areas of workforce, community and economic development have helped make it successful.

“The one way to do that is through innovation and creativity. We’ve always prided ourselves here on being social entrepreneurs. That’s really important to us,” said Kinexus Executive Director Todd Gustafson. “When you make that decision to adopt that philosophy, as a leader, it’s my responsibility to go find the best talent and attract them, have them buy into the mission and have them believe in what we are doing and finding (other creative talent).”

Kinexus — said “connects us” — was recognized as the winner in the 2015 MiBiz Best-Managed Nonprofit Awards in the budget category of more than $3 million.

While the organization serves as a part of the Michigan Works! network, what sets Kinexus apart from other providers around the state is the organization’s status as a nonprofit, which allows it to act autonomously and provide the programming it deems necessary from its conversations with stakeholders, Gustafson said.

By honing in on its own mission and establishing its value proposition in the community, Gustafson said the organization has been able to make an impact within its region.

Kinexus fills a somewhat sprawling role in its three-county area. The organization operates two revolving loan funds available for entrepreneurs, helps place at-risk youth into workforce development programs, and works with employers in the region to identify talent needs.

That third piece is one of Kinexus’ most important roles, Gustafson said. At the end of the day, the employers remain the largest customers and the end users of the nonprofit’s services.

“Our greatest impact is determining the in-demand sectors that drive our regional economy, understanding what the employers’ needs are and building the pipeline,” he said.

To meet that need as a nonprofit devoted to talent development, it’s important that Kinexus first and foremost fills its own organization with the best available people, Gustafson said.

“It’s so important for nonprofits to identify the talent that can be creative, innovative and, most importantly, adaptive,” Gustafson said. “If you take all those ingredients, it makes for a successful recipe and you can be entrepreneurial.”

Winner: More than $3M
Mission: We are change agents who create solutions for business, workforce, and community challenges to promote economic vitality.
Service Area: Michigan, with the primary focus on Southwest Michigan (Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties)
Executive director: Todd Gustafson
Number of employees: 65
Annual budget: $10 million
Best practices for management: Operate like social entrepreneurs, attract the best talent, empower staff, be adaptive.


• Paul Bergan, Lake Michigan College Board of Trustees
• Tim Calhoun, Lakeland Regional Medical Center
• David Colp, First Church of God
• Jeff Curry, United Federal Credit Union
• Jim Finan, Indiana Michigan Power/AEP
• David Glynn, Special-Lite Inc.
• Bill Haase, IBEW Local 153
• Don Hanson, Van Buren County Commissioner
• John Janick, Cornerstone Alliance
• Bob Kara, Ironworkers Local #292
• Jim Kodis, Regal Finishing Co. Inc.
• Jeanette Leahey, Berrien County Commissioner
• David Mathews, Southwestern Michigan College
• Jeff Mills, Van Buren Intermediate School District
• Randall Peat, Randall Peat Farms
• Chris Randall, Randall Residence
• Arnie Redsicker, ROSTA USA Corp.
• John Ryder, Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital
• George Saleeby, Swing-Lo Systems
• Mike Toth, Van Buren County Commissioner
• Kathy Valdes, Michigan Department of Health & Human Services
• Bob Wagel, Cass County Commissioner
• Bernie Williamson, Cass County Commissioner
• Mamie Yarbrough, Berrien County Commissioner

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from its original version. The sidebar with the story that appeared in the Nov. 23 print edition of MiBiz inadvertently left off the names of several Kinexus board members. 

Read 14595 times Last modified on Monday, 23 November 2015 16:00

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