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MLIVE: Southwest Michigan First: Job creation has to be an 8-county effort

2/2/12

KALAMAZOO – Regional economic development organization Southwest Michigan First is making a big push for a region-wide effort to work toward job creation.

“If we just sell this county,” said Ron Kitchens, the organization’s chief executive officer,said of Kalamazoo County, “we’re selling 400,000 available people in the population. If we look at growing the entire region – the entire eight counties – that’s 900,000 people.”

The bigger part of the effort he said will be to give smaller communities more  opportunities – as well as the know-how and resources -- to pitch themselves to businesses.

As businesses look to expand, he said, many look at areas with at least 1 million people, and a region with that many people working together is attractive.$4,500 over the last 10 years, Kitchens said he would like to see it grow by $20,000 over the next 10 years, and he would like to see the area's population grow by 110,000 people.

To do that, he said, "We really have to look at population centers, not at artificially drawn, geocentric boundaries."

He said populations centers attract people from 30 or 40 miles away.

He said 36 organizations have identified themselves as wanting to be involved, including Battle Creek Unlimited and, in Benton Harbor, the Cornerstone Alliance.


He said a second round of five meetings with those businesses and others will begin in March to start to find ways to pull together their resources, including volunteers.

He said the effort will involve being good at more than business, because companies look at communities that are strong in education, arts, local government, faith-based organizations and many other areas.

A tangeble part of the effort will be Southwest Michigan First opening satellite offices soon in Sturgis and Three Rivers.

"It's really an opportunity to build a collaborative, economic powerhouse," Kitchens said.

 Contact Al Jones at ajones5@mlive.com and 269-365-7187.

 


 


He said a second round of five meeting with those businesses and others will begin in March to start to find ways to pull together their resources, including volunteers.

 

He said the effort will involve being good at more than business, because companies look at communities that are strong in education, arts, local government, faith-based organizations and many other areas.

A tangeble part of the effort will be Southwest Michigan First opening satellite offices soon in Sturgis and Three Rivers.


"It's really an opportunity to build a collaborative, economic powerhouse," Kitchens said.


Contact Al Jones at ajones5@mlive.com and 269-365-7187.

 

He said 36 organizations have identified themselves as wanting to be involved, including Battle Creek Unlimited and, in Benton Harbor, the Cornerstone Alliance.


He said a second round of five meeting with those businesses and others will begin in March to start to find ways to pull together their resources, including volunteers.

 

He said the effort will involve being good at more than business, because companies look at communities that are strong in education, arts, local government, faith-based organizations and many other areas.

A tangeble part of the effort will be Southwest Michigan First opening satellite offices soon in Sturgis and Three Rivers.


"It's really an opportunity to build a collaborative, economic powerhouse," Kitchens said.


Contact Al Jones at ajones5@mlive.com and 269-365-7187.

 

He said 36 organizations have identified themselves as wanting to be involved, including Battle Creek Unlimited and, in Benton Harbor, the Cornerstone Alliance.Kitchens and his staff have been meeting for the past six months with business, people and business organizations in Allegan, Barry, Berrien, Cass, Calhoun, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties to begin trying to set an “aspiration agenda” for growth in the region.
 

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