Economic Development and Government

Snyder’s 2014 Economic Summit arrives in GR

The first one, in 2013, was in downtown Detroit.

March 14, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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Gov. Rick Snyder’s second annual two-day Economic Summit kicks off this morning at DeVos Place, and at least 700 people from throughout Michigan are expected to attend.

A spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which is putting on the meeting, said he was not sure if Snyder would be in attendance today, but the governor is definitely scheduled to speak Tuesday during the general session from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Featured speakers at the general session this morning are Michael Finney, president/CEO of the MEDC; Doug DeVos, president of Amway Corp.; Fred Keller, CEO of Cascade Engineering; and George A. Erickcek, senior regional analyst at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

Snyder’s first Economic Summit was held at Cobo Hall in Detroit one year ago. 

“The original idea was to move it around the state each year,” said Carsten Hohnke, senior vice president of strategy and policy at the MEDC. 

Last Wednesday, in an interview with the Business Journal, Hohnke said the number of people signed up to attend this year was “approaching 700, about on par with where we were last year.”

According to the MEDC website, the fee to attend is $215 per person.

Shelley Irwin of WGVU Broadcasting is the emcee of the summit, which began with a reception Sunday evening.

In a bulletin put out by the MEDC in late February, Amy Cell, MEDC senior vice president of Talent Enhancement, said the summit “will continue an important statewide conversation on critical talent issues,” adding that attendees will include business and government leaders, regional economic and work-force development experts, educators and other key partners.

The Economic Summit will be followed by the governor’s Education Summit in April in East Lansing.

The Right Place economic development agency in Grand Rapids will have staff members in attendance at the Economic Summit, and Grand Rapids developer Sam Cummings of CWD Real Estate Investment also will speak, welcoming attendees to Grand Rapids. Cummings was involved with both of Snyder’s economic and education summits last year, at the governor’s invitation. He said the 2014 Economic Summit is “a great opportunity to talk about the future of our city and state.”

From 6-8:30 p.m. Monday, the agenda lists “Placemaking Upclose,” showcasing three regions of downtown Grand Rapids.

This morning, the general topic of discussion is “Scaling Innovation,” according to the agenda, and there will be panel discussions covering “Best Practices for Talent Retention” and “Investing in Talent Development: Internships.” There will also be a “pitch session” focused on “Sharing Best Practices for Regional Economic Development and Connecting Talent.”

This afternoon is comprised of facilitated breakout sessions: “Converting Best Practices to Common Practices for Regional Collaboration” and “Converting Best Practices to Common Practices for Talent Connectivity.”

On Tuesday morning, in addition to an address by Snyder, there will be a presentation by Jeff DeGraff, a professor of management and organization at the University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross Business School.

A consultant to many of the world’s largest corporations on innovation, DeGraff focuses on innovation for business growth and positive change.

The topic of a panel discussion Tuesday is “Regional Reports on Taking Action to Collaborate, Create and Connect,” and there will be Peer Awards regarding collaborate, create and connect, according to the agenda.

According to Andy Johnston of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the chamber will be attending the Economic Summit.

“We are happy that they decided to host their second one in Grand Rapids,” said Johnston.

Johnson said the “regional prosperity committee” for Region 4 also will meet at the summit on Monday “and everyone in the region is invited to that.” The intent is to develop future projects “of regional economic significance that we should all get behind and support.”

Last summer Snyder announced his plan to encourage better organized regional economies throughout the state, with Michigan divided into 10 Prosperity Regions. Region 4 centers around Grand Rapids and includes 13 counties of West Michigan. Under Snyder’s plan, public, private and nonprofit groups that join together in economic development plans could receive state funding to help reach their goals. 

The Snyder administration said collaborative efforts in the Traverse City region were a good example of what can be accomplished, and Snyder asked for a $5 million allocation for the Prosperity Regions initiative in 2014. However, the Legislature only approved half that amount.

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