Editorial

Small business outreach could be a model to replicate

April 4, 2014
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The city of Holland has an often unappreciated richness of diversity that likely could hold some type of “best of” rank, especially for the creative class generation of millennials.

The city’s population of 33,000, including its 22 percent Latino community members, is well represented in the small business community of West Michigan. A new nonprofit group is creating an opportunity for further collaboration in the community, girded by decades of ministerial church leadership in the community that assimilates rather than differentiates.

That should be a central part of the “new think” of community attributes — after all, we already know about the tulips.

The new group, Cultivate Holland, is creating opportunity for the diverse business community to epitomize “local first” initiatives through a program that focuses on “hiring local.” Co-founders Ray David and Sergio Reyes are using the template from Partners Worldwide for a business curriculum to strengthen existing businesses and expand opportunities to hire the unemployed or underemployed in the city. The ultimate goal is lifting residents out of poverty.

David told the Business Journal, “During the course of (a 12-week training session), we encourage these businesspeople to look first at adding staff from the inner city, or the core city, before they go through their normal sourcing. We understand that not everybody will be qualified for all the positions, but we can certainly make a dent.”

Such effort should be a centerpiece for chamber-like community attribute proclamations.

Cultivate Holland also should invite the tremendous resources available from such entities as the Michigan Small Business Development Center headquarted at Grand Valley State University with outreach at GVSU’s suburban campuses. The group is well versed in funding resources and opportunities. An inclusive network also should contain the Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW) resources with long practice and far reach in West Michigan, especially for female entrepreneurs.

The collaborative training program has seen a consistently growing number of participants since its start last month. With additional collaboration the group may initiate a model to replicate.

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