Making A Case For Local

October 11, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — After working at the state level for two years, Brent Case, The Right Place Program's new business development manager, has decided to bring his experience home.

The native West Michigander has come to The Right Place, so to speak.

Case grew up in Grand Rapids and after a tour of duty in the Gulf War, some work as an engineer and his last job with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) in Lansing, he has decided to work with some of the state programs on a more focused level.

In his new position, Case hopes to encourage local businesses in West Michigan to reach outside of the area and work with some of their counterparts in education, state agencies and military groups in hopes of maximizing efficiencies.

Over the years Case has developed a strong contact base and will utilize that to help leverage local businesses in advanced manufacturing.

He said the state loosely defines advanced manufacturers as companies that have a more strategic view, diversified product and product line, intellectual portfolio and strategy, and really look at technology as a means of competitive advantage.

"And to build West Michigan's image as a technology area instead of a smoke stack type of manufacturing area," he added.

To accomplish that, Case spreads the word on the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Council (MMTC) housed at The Right Place Program. And by targeting small to medium-sized manufacturing companies and demonstrating the benefits not only in the state and the region but also on a global level, Case will work to link area manufacturers to a network of technical resources.

Case believes his experience will make it easier for him to encourage businesses to take advantage of the MMTC's services and to demonstrate their value.

"Not all of these services are free, but some are — and we do have one to kind of get the ball rolling," he said. "It assesses where they are and gives them some quantitative numbers so they can see where they are in relation to other companies, and we can kind of develop a strategy or training plan from that."

Case went into the Army and active duty for four years straight out of high school, after which he attended Central Michigan University and received a bachelor of science degree in industrial management and manufacturing. He is currently finishing up his master's at CMU in industrial technology, with a concentration in supply chain management.

An internship in college for a Tier 1 supplier gave him a taste of automotive manufacturing and a job with MSX International in Benton Harbor as a quality engineer at a Ford facility. Case next joined Mount Pleasant's The Delfield Co. as a product engineer. It was there that Case truly experienced the diversity of manufacturing.

Having learned the ropes and broadened his knowledge of manufacturing, Case decided to extend his reach a little further — to Johnson Controls in Holland, where he took a job as a Master Scheduler, attaining another perspective on manufacturing.

However, a turn of events while living in Holland caused Case to move east. He met the woman who would become his wife: Mindy.

"She lived in Lansing and I lived in Holland, so we looked for opportunities for her in Holland and for me in Lansing," Case said. "I answered a classified ad in the paper for a job at the MEDC, and then became the business development manager in manufacturing for them, which really leveraged my past experience in the different areas of manufacturing."

After two years in Lansing with the MEDC, Case's background made him a perfect fit to take on the position of business development manager for The Right Place Program.

"The Right Place Program is pleased and fortunate to have found such an experienced and technically adept individual for our advanced manufacturing retention strategy," said Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place Program. "Brent Case's economic development background and technical knowledge of manufacturing will make him a valuable resource for our customers."

In his new position Case looks to serve as an advocate for small to medium-sized manufacturing companies in dealing with local municipalities. On a day-to-day basis, Case says 75 percent of his time is spent visiting with area manufacturers to identify needs and match those with solutions.

In an ironic twist, Case now visits most companies with an MEDC counterpart, actually a friend from his days there, and together the two boil down what the state has to offer, how that relates to a local company and what both can do to connect those businesses to the proper resources.

"We are really looking to bring the technology focus from the state level here to the local level and really round out the experience," said Case. "Through that I think we can help Greater Grand Rapids become a healthy and sustainable place to do business."

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