West Michigan leaders to speak on Manufacturing Month panel


Four leaders from the west side of the state have been tapped to lead a Manufacturing Growth Alliance panel discussion on attracting and retaining talent.

Benton Harbor-based MGA said Friday that it is kicking off a series of events to celebrate Michigan’s $105 billion manufacturing industry during Manufacturing Month.

The first event of the series, titled “Attracting and Retaining Talent,” will be hosted virtually from 11 a.m.-noon Tuesday. In this roundtable discussion, manufacturers will hear about talent acquisition and retention best practices from experts and other manufacturers.

The discussion will be led by Lily Brewer, executive director of Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties’ Michigan Works! branch in Benton Harbor. Brewer has served in the workforce development space for about 20 years. She oversees multiple programs at her Michigan Works! branch, including Benton Harbor YouthBuild, Region Eight Offender Success, Adult Education and the Michigan Works! Bridge Academy.

Panelists for the first event

Ellington Ellis, co-founder of Global Battery Solutions in Holland. Global Battery Solutions focuses on providing innovative technology and battery remanufacturing while sharing creative technologies with its customers to help increase its bottom line. Ellis is focused on innovating, developing and delivering better solutions.

Ken Flowers, dean of career and workforce education at Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor. Flowers has a 20-year background in the development and administration of academic programs, services and policies. His mission is to meet organizational and student needs and build dedicated teams focused on quality and service.

Sandra Gaddy, CEO of the Women’s Resource Center in Grand Rapids. She has over 20 years of leadership experience in finance and nonprofits, and brings extensive expertise in team development, strategic planning, forming collaborative partnerships and fundraising. Gaddy began her leadership of the Women’s Resource Center, an organization that empowers and educates women to achieve greater economic independence through meaningful employment, in March 2017.

Derek Knuth, director of offender services at Michigan Works! Berrien, Cass, Van Buren counties. Knuth oversees the Offender Success Program that increases public safety by reducing the regional offender return-to-prison rate through an employment-focused plan of services and supervision. Under his leadership, the program has served over 2,700 returning citizens since 2017.

The remaining three events in the MGA’s Manufacturing Month series include “Automation and Industry 4.0,” “Small Manufacturers Voice in Lansing” and “Managing a Multigenerational Workforce.”

All four events are free. Registration is at mgalliance.org/mfgmonth.

Manufacturing Growth Alliance

Founded in 2019, the Manufacturing Growth Alliance’s mission is to champion, serve and advocate for Michigan’s small manufacturers. The nonprofit provides services to drive solutions that will make manufacturing in Michigan the most competitive and prosperous in the nation.

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