A West Michigan economic development agency created a new division focused on placemaking and tapped an existing executive to run it.
Grand Rapids-based The Right Place said Wednesday, Feb. 23, it established a community development division that will be led by Tim Mroz, senior vice president of community development, a member of the organization’s leadership team since 2008.
Mroz, who has served as vice president of marketing and communications and senior vice president of strategic initiatives, was asked to lead the new endeavor due to his extensive network and personal passion to see the region prosper.
“Great communities don’t happen by accident. Great communities are proactive and intentional,” Mroz said. “I look forward to working together with other passionate people in our community to find ways to partner and make Grand Rapids a region of choice; a top-tier destination where people choose to live, visit, invest, engage and prosper.”
In addition to Mroz, Travis Alden, who recently was promoted to senior director of community development, will take on the new community development initiative. Prior to joining The Right Place, Alden served as president of the Barry County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Alliance.
Together, Mroz and Alden will focus on the following four primary areas aimed at helping the region become a successful, attractive place for high-caliber talent and innovative companies:
- Transformational sites and projects — Provide comprehensive development support for projects and sites that have potential to be a positive catalyst for the local community, including real estate development support, district and corridor development assistance, and public art and commercial/industrial design.
- Infrastructure — Support communities, businesses and developers with innovative and collaborative project-based solutions related to water, sewer, broadband, roads, rail, air, mobility and trails.
- Smart, sustainable communities — Convene efforts to take on smart city-based initiatives such as community based artificial intelligence, sensors, green technology and smart mobility, among others.
- Community growth aspirational strategies — Provide aspirational growth and assistance to communities such as community visioning/planning, commercial/industrial development, infrastructure planning, and leadership and capacity development.
This is the first time in the nonprofit’s 36-year history it will have a dedicated division focused on placemaking. The move is part of the organization’s focus on “people, place and prosperity,” which Randy Thelen, president and CEO, debuted shortly after his arrival in March 2021.
Although the initiative just now is being introduced externally, Mroz, Alden and The Right Place team have been working behind the scenes since August on several placemaking initiatives, including:
- The Transformational 12 — Working with a mix of community, tourism and philanthropic leaders to identify 12 “game-changing” development projects Grand Rapids should consider for investment. The list has helped unify momentum and give support to key projects the organization hopes will accelerate the next chapter in the region’s growth story.
- Site Readiness Initiative — Working alongside various real estate partners, this winter, the organization launched an initiative to identify the next generation of large, job-creating development sites in the area.
- Revitalization and Placemaking Grant Program — Collaborating with economic development and community leaders to maximize the region’s ability to secure the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Revitalization and Placemaking Program funding.