05.05.16 – Luncheon Notes and Photos
SPOKES Notes written by Dan Durkee
Our meeting was opened in song with ‘You Are My Sunshine’ led by Grace Shearer, followed by Nick Kroeze with our invocation. Guests and visiting Rotarians were introduced by Ben VerWys. President Derek Aten then announced that Neil Marchand was recently elected as our club’s Third Vice President and there are currently two positions available on the Board of Directors and encouraged those interested in serving to apply before the May 13th deadline. A number of club members contributed a ‘happy dollar’ to share good news in their lives and Dawn Smith was presented a bouquet of flowers on her five year anniversary as executive director in appreciation for her hard work and devotion to the club. Bob Stark then provided an update on our Rotary International Foundation fund contribution and need to raise an additional $12,409 before July 1st in order to meet our annual goal of $21,900. The club is again offering members in good standing the opportunity to receive a Paul Harris fellowship with a new contribution of $350 and hoping 40 members will take advantage of this unique opportunity to help meet our goal.
President and CEO of The Right Place, Birgit Klohs, was introduced and opened her presentation with an overview of the economic development organization formed in 1984 when 14 local leaders came together to create the first public/private partnership for economic development in the state and provide ‘one-stop’ for businesses looking to locate or expand in West Michigan. Funding is provided through three sources, 80% from private contributions, 10% from public funding, and 10% from foundations. The current board of 38 are in the process of updating a three year strategic plan which involves several foundations for economic growth including business support systems, infrastructure, work ready talent, and quality of life. Strategic growth areas for our area include smart manufacturing, agribusiness and food processing, life sciences and biotech, technology and communications, and commercial design.
Accomplishments since 2014 include the creation of nearly 4,000 new jobs contributing over $135 million in payroll, and $500 million of investment, which excludes the anticipated investment connected with the Switch data center. Interestingly over 80% of The Right Place efforts are focused upon the retention and expansion of existing West Michigan businesses, with the remaining 20% devoted toward attraction of new businesses. Although The Right Place was originated in and focused upon Kent County, it is now a part of a regional collaboration effort which includes 13 counties throughout West Michigan. Birgit closed by describing a few recent success stories including Plasan Carbon Composites and Notions Marketing, which have contributed to a substantial return on investment for the Grand Rapids and entire West Michigan community. During questions she also invited those interested in learning more about The Right Place or specific statistics to contact her office or visit their website at www.rightplace.org which is regularly updated.