GRAND RAPIDS — Regional economic development firm The Right Place Inc. will focus on new areas of economic opportunity over the next three years.
In revealing its new strategic plan that goes through 2022, The Right Place is taking a more targeted approach to companies and talent in the Chicago market, and focusing on economic inclusion efforts with its involvement in the Community Transformation Fund, which targets investments that increase diversity in business ownership in West Michigan.
The plan, which was developed with Texas-based TIP Strategies, calls for $548 million in new capital investments; the securing of 5,050 jobs and generating $184 million in new and retained payroll for the greater Grand Rapids region.
The Right Place President and CEO Birgit Klohs said she is confident in the organization’s ability to meet those goals because of its performance during the previous three-year period, when its target was $500 million and the group was able to secure $800 million in new investments. Even so, Klohs acknowledged possible headwinds including the economy and tariffs, as well as persisting talent issues.
“We have a low unemployment rate, but we still have folks out of work — they have chosen not to work,” she said. “How do we get them back into looking, but give them the skills to go back to work?”
The Right Place also will begin to publicize two new metrics of success: average wages and the amount of times it assists job seekers or companies seeking talent.
For the 5,050 jobs it hopes to attract, the organization aims for an average wage of at least $26.35 per hour, 20 percent higher than the current average West Michigan wage. It also hopes for 2,900 assists for companies and job seekers.
“If we just track the average wages, we don’t go anywhere,” said Tim Mroz, vice president of strategic initiatives at The Right Place. “We want to take one step up over the next three years. We want to make sure the jobs we’re adding to the community are quality jobs.”
The areas of focus include advanced manufacturing, information technology, health sciences and agribusiness. These are all areas where The Right Place has focused efforts in the past, but some areas will have a more narrow focus in the coming years.
“Every community has clusters, and you want to make sure those clusters are healthy,” Klohs said. “You want to look in and see what individual strands are growing, and where you should focus your (efforts). Advanced manufacturing is still a really big deal around here, but what parts of that manufacturing sector are growing, and where can we bring them?”
The plan also lays out seven economic development strategies including business retention, expansion and attraction; economic inclusion; regionalism; talent growth and attraction; strategic foundations, such as supporting the region’s economic assets like infrastructure; thought leadership, which involves The Right Place engaging business and community leaders; and business intelligence, or providing education on emerging and long-term business trends.