Economic Development, Education, and Government

City loses another director

Kara Wood to join Western Michigan University as associate vice president for community partnerships.

September 27, 2019
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The city of Grand Rapids is saying goodbye to another mover and shaker in the community.

Kara Wood, managing director of economic development services for the city of Grand Rapids, will join Western Michigan University as its new associate vice president for community partnerships, according to WMU. Her first day on the job will be Oct. 7.

"I'm certainly excited to support my alma mater and build on the professional experience that I've gained over the last 20 years,” Wood said.

Wood is a graduate of WMU's master's degree program in public administration. She’s returned to her alma mater to teach graduate students in the School of Public Affairs and Administration for about two years. 

She has spent the past 12 years working for the city of Grand Rapids. She started as economic development director and was promoted to managing director of economic development services in 2016. Her leadership in developing and implementing new economic development programs generated increased investment in the city, boosted revitalization efforts and bolstered job retention and creation.

“Ms. Wood has been an instrumental part of a decade of economic development in our city,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “I am thankful to her for creating and overseeing many economic development programs and initiatives that have resulted in business recruitment, retention and expansion. I wish her the very best in her future endeavors.”

Wood previously worked for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, allowing her to give students insight into both state and local government finance and economic development.

She will now lead the university's efforts to engage and develop collaboration with key community partners, both locally and regionally.

Wood will work closely with university leadership to advance corporate engagement in areas including research, economic development and talent development. She will replace Bob Miller, who retired in July.

As Wood leaves for the education sector, her former second-in-command, Jono Klooster, will step in as acting director of economic development services.

Klooster is a familiar face in the city’s economic development department. He has been an integral part of the team for more than eight years, most recently as a senior economic development coordinator who has helped to deliver such projects as Studio Park, The Rowe apartments, Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center and the newly constructed Warner Building and Hyatt Place hotel.

Most recently, Klooster has managed the city’s brownfield redevelopment program, completing more than 50 projects that have resulted in more than $1 billion in investment. He also has managed the city’s real estate acquisition and disposition, resulting in more than 15 acres of riverfront property to support the river restoration project and tax-foreclosed properties for affordable housing.

He has assisted new and existing businesses in locating and expanding in Grand Rapids, completing more than 50 business development projects that have resulted in more than $400 million in investment.

Klooster began his new role Sept. 25.

“I am committed to ensuring Grand Rapids continues to have a prosperous, vibrant and equitable economy,” Klooster said. “I look forward to leading our talented team of economic development professionals to make sure this happens.”

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