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Economy

Hey Chicago, Grand Rapids is trying to take your businesses

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courtesy Tiberius Images and The Right Place Inc.
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Michigan’s second-largest city is taking aim at the Second City.

Leaders for The Right Place, Inc., a non-profit economic development firm for the Grand Rapids area, announced a new three-year strategic plan on Wednesday. The plan sets a goal of supporting more than half a billion dollars in new investment and more than five thousand jobs. One way the organization hopes to reach those goals: by attracting businesses from Chicago.

“We really wanted to focus on it because we think there are opportunities there,” says Birgit Klohs, Right Place President and CEO.

Klohs says The Right Place has tried to attract Chicago businesses before, but now the firm plans to be more targeted.

“I would say we have done some work there in the past,” Klohs says. “But it was not really a key strategy that was called out in our plan.”

"We have a mini Chicago here, a much more affordable version of Chicago," says Brent Case, VP of business attraction for The Right Place, Inc.

The new head of business attraction at The Right Place previously worked in Chicago, recruiting businesses to invest in Illinois. Brent Case is originally from Michigan, and moved back to Grand Rapids last fall to work at The Right Place. He says he’s been traveling back to Chicago to meet with business officials there.

“We have a mini Chicago here, a much more affordable version of Chicago,” Case says. “There’s talent available, we have lots of institutions, lack of congestion, affordable housing, so many things that greater Grand Rapids has.”

The Right Place unveiled its latest strategic plan during an “investor breakfast” Wednesday morning in Grand Rapids.

The plan sets new economic development targets through 2022. Those targets include $458 million in new capital investment for the region and 5,050 new jobs. The Right Place also set a wage target of $26.35 for the new jobs, 20% higher than the current median wage for the region, according to Right Place executives.

The Right Place plans to attract and keep jobs in four main areas: advanced manufacturing, information technology, health sciences and food processing & agribusiness.

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Credit courtesy Tiberius Images and The Right Place Inc.
Birgit Klohs, President & CEO of The Right Place Inc.

It also listed “economic inclusion” as one of seven strategy statements for how it will pursue the development of those fields.

“This is a new area for us to be honest,” Klohs told the breakfast audience, in response to a question about the inclusion strategy. “Economic development organizations across the country are struggling – in a positive way – on how to be much more inclusive in our growth. And we’re learning on how to do this.”

In January, the organization announced the creation of a new fund to “promote ethnic and racial diversity in business ownership” in the region. Leaders of the New Community Transformation Fund have a goal of raising $15 – 25 million this year, and plan to launch the fund next year. 

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