Muskegon creates business resource group


The Muskegon Business Resource Team will connect all types of local businesses with economic and workforce development opportunities, training services and resources. Courtesy The Wisinski Group

Four lakeshore-based agencies have launched an outreach program to coordinate the delivery of services offered by resource partners in the state providing opportunities and tools for Muskegon businesses.

Muskegon Area First Economic Development Corp., Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Works! Muskegon-Oceana and Muskegon Community College jointly announced earlier this month the development of a business outreach program — the Muskegon Business Resource Team — to connect local businesses with economic and workforce development opportunities, training services and resources.

The Muskegon BRT is intended as a one-stop resource to assist companies with business needs and coordinate a group of affiliated members with the BRT partners to educate and connect the companies to various local, state and federal resources.

The core team members are the four main entities involved with the development of the resource team and will manage the process of assembling representatives from various agencies to conduct an outreach visit to the specific company.

Ed Garner, president of Muskegon Area First, said the effort is designed to communicate to employers the resources available and is an opportunity to hear them all at one time based on individual company needs.

“Instead of having to come in to hear presentations on what resources are available, the team itself would go out to (the company). We are really trying to mirror sort of what the state is doing with teaming up workforce development with the talent issues and shortages we have in economic development,” said Garner.

“Workforce development, economic development is really playing a key role in moving our economy forward, and training services become important, which is why some of our training and educational agencies are involved with this, as well.”

Members of the Muskegon BRT will meet with company officials and coordinate specific resource partners to meet with the businesses to address identified issues, according to a press release. Muskegon BRT’s partners include Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, an economic development agency providing training and resources for those at various stages of business ownership; Lakeshore 504, a nonprofit corporation providing long-term financing to small businesses; Muskegon Area Career Tech Center; SCORE, an association providing mentorship, tools, workshops and counseling to small businesses; and The Employers’ Association of West Michigan.

Additional organizations involved as resource partners are Michigan Alternative & Renewable Energy Center, Michigan Economic Development Corp., EMERGE West Michigan, Michigan Small Business Development Center, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West and Procurement Technical Assistance Center.

Since Muskegon Area First and Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce are co-located with a central phone line, Garner said the two agencies will field initial calls and requests by companies and identify potential areas the employers would like to explore.

“We will manage the process and that is primarily because most of the time our organizations are already out in the field, they are already visiting companies,” said Garner. “Some of the other entities involved, say like the SBDC folks or SCORE, they don’t typically go out on calls, but through this Business Resource Team Initiative, they may be requested to go out on a call with us if some of their services are needed, or refer a client over for an individual appointment.”

Services provided through Muskegon BRT include business planning, market research, site selection searches, financial assistance, job posting and screening, talent recruitment, customized and in-demand training, business workshops, networking and one-on-one counseling.

“It could be they are looking for networking opportunities, sites to locate on, buildings to locate in, looking for workers, or looking for a specific training program or customized training program,” said Garner. “They could be looking for marketing opportunities or expansion opportunities to diversify their business. One of the resource partners will be able to address pretty much every business out there.”

Although some of the specific services such as customized training programs or free services provided to companies as Chamber of Commerce members may carry some cost for employers, Garner said typically there is no fee associated with basic business services since most of the agencies involved usually provide services at no cost.

“The goal of the program is we don’t want any business to miss out on any business opportunity they can take advantage of to help increase their business or help it to grow,” said Garner. “So whether it is money for training programs … or money out there for market research for companies looking at going international, money out there for apprenticeship programs, we want to make sure businesses are aware of everything that is available.”

The partnership among the four main entities to develop Muskegon BRT was prompted to better coordinate regular visits by the different organizations to the same customers, and to expand the number of companies served.

“We think this is a better coordinated system to do outreach to the business community. Our goal really is to reach more employers than we are currently reaching now,” said Garner. “The second goal is to become a database of information, a good information source companies can turn to in order to learn what is available. Some of the programs roll out and may only last a specific period of time, whether it is a training program or a grant program or another type of incentive.”

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