Focus and Economic Development

Collaboration is the new key to recovery

October 8, 2012
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Sometimes, the logistics industry is saddled with the reputation of being “cutthroat,” so it might surprise some to learn that many of Michigan’s pieces are playing nicely when it comes to transportation and distribution.

Collaboration seems to be the new theme in the Mitten State’s business equation. It might be the only way Gov. Rick Snyder and his band of knights, the appointed Transportation Distribution and Logistics Steering Committee, will reach their destined Holy Grail — the numbers that could tell business leaders how to rebuild the Michigan economy.

“We’re partners in this quest,” said Rick Chapla, vice president of business development at The Right Place Inc., a West Michigan economic development nonprofit. “(Snyder’s) the one who put the charge out there. He’s looking for answers and directions.”

For more than a year now, representatives from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Department of Transportation, Next Michigan Development Corp. and the Grand Rapids and Detroit area chambers of commerce have been collaborating to develop a series of recommendations forto Snyder on Michigan’s transportation, distribution and logistics.

“All of those respective parties come to this quest with different perspectives,” Chapla said. “Representatives of those groups have been meeting for more than a year to formulate a series of recommendations to the governor on how to take advantage of Michigan’s assets relative to Michigan’s logistics and to see what we can do from a policy standpoint to increase the competitiveness of businesses in Michigan dependent on logistics.”

So far, the team has turned to the staff of the Consulate General of Canada, analysts from Business Leaders For Michigan and a consultant team that put together a study on the competitiveness of logistics, Chapla said. They will present their findings to Snyder either by the end of the year or sometime early 2013, he said.

“This depends not on good logistics but excellent logistics,” he said. “How can improvements be made that will improve the competitiveness of Michigan business, especially logistically? It’s a process that needs to be in place.”

This is not the only mass-collaboration process occurring throughout the state. The West Michigan Policy Forum, a bi-annual conference bringing business leaders together from all over the state to collaborate on the rebuilding of Michigan’s economy, has already begun to make waves.

There is also the West Michigan Economic Partnership, a collaboration between the cities of Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Muskegon and Wyoming, Cascade Charter Township, and Kent and Ottawa counties to transform their districts into commerce hubs.

Smaller scale collaboration also is in the works. Last month, Amy LeFebre, director of public relations at Mindscape/Hanon McKendry, hosted approximately 30 business leaders in the Detroit area at an informal gathering to make connections and possibly discuss collaboration initiatives.

LeFebre said Michigan needs to rebuild as a unified state rather than see it itself as separate sides with cross-purposes. By the end of the evening, many of the guests told her they wanted to keep meeting.

“There’s value even in this kind of informal conversation. Obviously, there’s value in the bigger initiatives, but that’s not the only place for these discussions,” she said. “This level of conversation can also play a role … in the grassroots level. Michigan is a great place for business if we work together.”

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