Southwest Michigan First

This feature is proudly sponsored by our awesome friends at AmeriFirst Home Mortgage:

Photo courtesy Southwest Michigan First.
Photo courtesy Southwest Michigan First.

The main goal of Southwest Michigan First’s mission is to assist companies in growing jobs; that manifests itself in various ways through employment, innovation, leadership and capital. SWMF’s passion and unique approach to community development has garnered the much-deserved attention of similar organizations across Michigan and throughout the United States. The positive growth in the southwestern region of Michigan has been awesome for many reasons, but Ron Kitchens, CEO, asserts, “The most powerful force for change is a well-paying job.”

Making that powerful force a reality is propelled in several ways, but the overarching themes remain the same. SWMF helps existing companies to grow and expand, assists companies considering the area to clearly understand the benefits of the region, and supports startups in defining and executing a successful business plan. Many groups have similar aspirations and goals concerning regional development, however SWMF is unique in their holistic approach, broad range of services, and numerous industries they serve. Inspiration for growth extends beyond population building, but also extends to measures that will retain the burgeoning community at hand. In awesome fashion, it is clear that what is good for the Southwest region will and does apply to the rest of the state.

Funktion at Catalyst 2013 courtesy Dan Moyle.
Funktion at Catalyst 2013 courtesy Dan Moyle.

SWMF’s concerns reach past the numbers games of economics by expertly supporting and inspiring the workforce to be strong leaders and dedicated community activists. Each year, SWMF administers Catalyst (most recently Catalyst 2013), an annual conference geared toward inspiring participants with leadership stories from around the globe to ignite the spirit of action in southwest Michigan. SWMF is dedicated to empowering the workforce through education measures that are affordable and worthwhile throughout the year as well.

Community growth measures in Southwest Michigan have tangible results that reverberate throughout the state. For the past decade, the region has outperformed the rest of Michigan in gross domestic product reporting and lower unemployment rates. The whole state has benefited from the thriving nature of the region, namely the solid jobs these measures have brought and retained.

SWMF hopes to expand the region’s population to 1 million over the next decade, which will mean the creation of nearly 80,000 jobs. Concurrently, they will be dedicated to continuing to grow and strengthen the already thriving urban cores of the region, and to retain two times more college graduates. Southeast Michigan will be able to support an educated workforce with good jobs, which will translate to being able to successfully support the kind of community infrastructure that SWMF dedicates itself to for the future.

Courtesy Southwest Michigan First.
Courtesy Southwest Michigan First.

The kind of passion the state of Michigan inspires is contagious. It is essential for each of us to care as passionately and as intensely as Ron Kitchens and the rest of his staff at SWMF. Their dedication to the growth and prosperity of the region is not only an attitude worth copying, but also a means (or catalyst) for growth throughout all of Michigan. Each of us needs to engage in these ideas to make a positive space for community growth and create tangible effects.

What do you think about the SWMF agenda? Do you see this kind of growth as contagious? What is going on in your own community to inspire similar aspects of economic stability?

Find out more about Southwest Michigan First: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube.

~Joanna, Feature Writer

I was raised in vacation-land, Traverse City, where I was one of the lucky ones to enjoy the beach in the summer and snowboard through the winters. Then, I went to college and lived in East Lansing and Lansing, where I learned about sports and getting things done. Now I'm quite honestly falling head over heels for Detroit. I solemnly believe that life is too short for bad coffee, yucky wine, and poorly crafted beer. This means that Michigan is the perfect place for me! My spare time is spent reading or exploring the outdoors. E-mail me: joanna@awesomemitten.com.