West Michigan Is Study Subject

May 18, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Economic Development Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, announced yesterday its selection of the West Michigan region for completion of an in-depth analysis of its innovation-based economic development model.

The chair of the West Michigan Economic Development Partnership (WMEDP), Greg Northrup, said the selection could help the regional economy gain national recognition.

“This is a great opportunity for us, as one of only three regions selected nationally in 2004, to further improve our offerings to local, national and international investors,” Northrup said.

The Council on Competitiveness, a Washington, D.C.-based policy association, will complete the analysis and assessment. Last year it conducted similar assessments for the first time in Wilmington, Del., Northeast Ohio and Albuquerque, N.M. Working with the WMEDP’s local members, representing the economic development professionals from the region, the council will look at the opportunities and challenges affecting job creation.

“We are eager to work with the leaders of West Michigan as partners in their efforts to implement an innovation-based economic development strategy,” said Deborah Wince-Smith, president of the Council on Competitiveness. “We are confident this initiative will help catalyze further regional success.”

The West Michigan region continues to benefit and earn dividends from investments made in regional thinking and actions. The West Michigan Strategic Alliance has helped position the region as a leader both locally and nationally.

“This recognition and related commitment of resources positions us to better understand how to channel our innovative capabilities in areas such as design, research and development and engineering,” said Jim Brooks, WMSA chair. “Our economic development professionals are setting the example for regional action and this selection reflects the importance of these types of initiatives to our region.”

The analysis, called the West Michigan Regional Competitiveness Initiative, includes four phases: an analytical assessment of the regional innovation environment; identification of three key regional issues for ongoing focus; convening of a regional summit to explore those issues; and the launch of action teams that will develop plans to address the key innovation issues.

“We are anxious to begin working with West Michigan business and community leaders,” said David Sampson, EDA’s assistant secretary. “This region has demonstrated excellence in job creation results over the past 13 years, based on a recently published study completed by University of Michigan researchers. We hope to identify additional ways to accelerate the creation of new jobs, as changes in our economy occur at a dramatic pace.

“Additionally, President Bush is dedicated to pursuing economic policies where American companies and American workers have the freedom to succeed,” Sampson added. “If American companies and regions remake themselves and successfully meet their customers’ needs, they will create long-term economic growth and new American jobs. As we do, we must protect the flexibility and productivity that have made the U.S. economy the envy of the world and American workers the most prosperous in history.”

Northrup said local participation in the effort would be significant.

“The local partnership is working to identify and obtain participation commitments from many of the region’s top decision makers representing the private and public sectors, who will serve on a regional leadership team,” he said. “They will meet several times over the five-month project timeline, to ensure follow-up and an ongoing commitment to long-term economic development strategies.”

The project will conclude with a summit, tentatively scheduled for September.    

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