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MLIVE: Southwest Michigan First announces new partnership with The Charter Group

1/31/12

KALAMAZOO -- Southwest Michigan First and Grand Rapids-based The Charter Group have formed a new partnership that will bring the mergers and acquisitions advisory fund to Kalamazoo.

The Charter Group, which was founded in 1989 and concentrates on transactions ranging from $5 million to $50 million, will be expanding into Southwest Michigan. The firm, whose investment banking arm includes the Michigan Accelerator Fund I, will be working out of Southwest Michigan First's offices.

"Why Kalamazoo? Because there are tremendous opportunities in the mergers & acquisition space and the venture capital space," said Dale Grogan, managing director of the Michigan Accelerator Fund, which turned one year old Jan. 27. "Why now? Because the markets have started to open up, and I think there is real receptivity on the part of business owners and investors to look above the trench line."

Kalamazoo's wealth of life sciences knowledge is what made it attractive, Grogan said.

"Given that the Michigan Accelerator Fund is largely life sciences, there is terrific fertile territory in Kalamazoo," said Grogan. "There is wonderful community and financial support and brilliantly gifted scientists down there. If we can add a little bit of money and a little bit of management ... that's beautifully attractive for investors."

To start, the Charter Group will hold office hours at least three days a month in Kalamazoo, but Grogan said they are open to expanding if circumstances warrant it.

The partnership will mark the second such capital-investment collaboration for Southwest Michigan First. Last March, the organization formed a partnership with Open Prairie Ventures, which is based in Illinois and has offices in Kansas and Kalamazoo.

"This partnership is a natural progression of Southwest Michigan First's efforts to expand the region's capital investment options. Our relationships with regional employers and investors have made evident in the current economy the need for the types of services offered by The Charter Group," said Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer of Southwest Michigan First and general partner of the Southwest Michigan First Life Science Fund, a $65 million fund established in 2005, in a press release.

"This partnership will help us to match, better serve and produce successful outcomes for strong companies and qualified investors," Kitchens said.

By Yvonne Zipp | yzipp@mlive.com

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