Economic Development, Nonprofits, and Technology

Right Place to up its focus to five industries

Technology and design will join manufacturing, food and life sciences.

January 24, 2014
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Now that its five-year plan is up, what will The Right Place do next?

It’s a question that has long been on the mind of Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place, a regional economic development nonprofit. It also is a question Right Place leaders addressed Wednesday at the JW Marriott at an event that reflected on the agency’s last five-year plan and announced a new three-year plan.

After all, “If you don’t measure it, you don’t do it,” Klohs said.

The Right Place’s five-year strategic plan of 2009-2013 was a triumph, she said. It focused on three industry sectors with high-growth potential: smart manufacturing, agriculture and food processing, and life sciences and biotech.

“As a result of The Right Place’s business retention, expansion and attraction efforts over the past five years, over 11,000 West Michigan citizens now have full-time, quality jobs today, injecting over $370 million in new disposable income into West Michigan retail businesses, restaurants and other local establishments,” said Michelle Van Dyke, Right Place board chairperson and president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank-Michigan.

The Right Place normally engages in five-year plans, said Klohs, but given the rapid change of pace in the business world, the organization’s team settled on a three-year plan instead for 2014-2016.

The new strategic three-year plan’s goals are to create in West Michigan 5,500 new jobs, $390 million in capital investment and $183 million in new payroll, she said. Additionally, The Right Place will continue to focus on its key three growth-potential industries, while adding two major-growth potential industries to that roster: technology and communication, and commercial design.

The alternative energy industry, although important, will not be a major focus in the three-year plan, as The Right Place’s resources need to be spent on industries currently seeing more success, she said.

There are a lot of high-tech companies being added to the area, Klohs said, marking it as a new industry to keep an eye on. The commercial design industry, however, is not new to West Michigan but part of a rich legacy that needs to be marketed, she said, making the community attractive to commercial designers.

“We have a 100-year-old design industry that we need to build on — market the community as a commercial design hub,” she said. “And we have one of the best schools in the country in Kendall College of Art and Design here. Why not market it as a talent pool?”

There also are four foundational elements of economic growth for West Michigan that The Right Place plans to focus on in the next three years: business support systems, infrastructure, work-ready talent and quality of life.

“As investors in The Right Place and West Michigan, we are proud to support this new strategic plan, and we urge you to join us and invest in this plan,” said Dan Gaydou, president of MLive Media Group and co-chairman of The Right Place Campaign Cabinet.

“Working together, we are confident West Michigan will continue to experience economic growth over the next three years and beyond.”

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