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West Michigan counties expand partnership to drive economic growth

Mason County
Russell Climie
courtesy of The Right Place, Inc.
Mason County is one of eight West Michigan counties joining the expanded partnership for economic development in the region.

The economic development firm for the Grand Rapids area is expanding its plans to drive investment in surrounding counties.

The plans involve partnerships with eight counties to attract new businesses and more jobs to the area.

Randy Thelen is CEO of The Right Place , Inc., an economic development firm that helped formulate the plan with other leaders in the eight counties. He says it makes sense for communities within a region to work together to land investments.

“You know this is an environment now where we compete region against region,” Thelen says. “That means Grand Rapids against Columbus Ohio, against Indianapolis, against Nashville. Those are the communities that we really have to stand out and compete against.”

Thelen says expanding regional cooperation could also help drive investments in smaller communities around West Michigan, which haven’t gotten as much attention as Grand Rapids in recent years.

“I think there’s an opportunity though now as you think about the impacts of COVID and people wanting a little bit more space to stretch out, little bit maybe return to family even,” he says. “I think there’s a window of opportunity for smaller, more rural communities to have their moment and so we’re going to put that to the test.”

The expanded cooperation and partnerships involve Kent, Ionia, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, and Oceana Counties.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Radio’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Radio since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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