Editorial

This partnership transcends blockade of political boundaries and egos

July 31, 2015
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In the not-too-distant past during the Great Recession, counties and cities were battling for any drop of economic development within each jurisdiction while property tax revenues and income tax revenue bled red, soaking municipal budgets. The business partnerships created for community projects and the Grand Rapids business/public partnerships long established offered strings by which to hang on.

A new partnership of 15 total organizations, including seven municipalities in Kent and Muskegon counties, transcends boundary lines and political egos to create a unified effort that underscores a shared vision. It is a unique partnership — and unique, too, for its targeted audience.

Seven governmental units in (and including) Kent and Muskegon counties and The Right Place Inc., Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Muskegon Area First have joined to create The West Michigan Economic Partnership and a “Greenlight campaign,” specifically targeting site selection professionals by appointment rather than an information bombardment of individual governmental effort.

The governmental units selected six specific, strategic properties for development; the economic development agencies are presenting those properties as a package to targeted site selection professionals, real estate agents and a subset of Fortune-level companies managing their real estate internally.

Tim Mroz, Right Place Inc. vice president, emphasized the collaboration and marketing the properties as a region, which makes the region stand out from other competing sites. He also noted it is unique in that the partnership leveraged private dollars from property owners, public funds from the municipalities and were matched by MEDC, “giving everyone skin in the game.” Mroz said the economic development groups only provide administrative support and guidance and that the municipal representatives assure all actions and meetings are open to the public.

That a site-selection professional will not have to battle through political boundary quagmires offers a tremendous advantage.

Ben Swayze, Cascade Township supervisor, told the Business Journal during an interview: "It has been really refreshing in West Michigan seeing the collaboration that can go on. Cascade Township realizes that a development project on the port of Muskegon is good for us and good for West Michigan, and the city of Grand Rapids recognizes that there is significant development in the surrounding communities that is good for the entire area.

“So we really go into these types of partnerships with the idea that it may not generate a development project on a parcel in Cascade Township, and that is OK, because if it generates it on a parcel in Muskegon or on a parcel in Wyoming, it is going to be good for everyone in this region."

Swayze also noted the properties selected offer site developers sought-after multiple transportation modes — highway, rail, port and air. No singular governmental unit would be able to package all multi-modal options.

Working together and the uniqueness of such a partnership offer an “appeal” all its own: It offers significant economic opportunity for West Michigan.

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