The West Michigan Prosperity Alliance will put up more than $230,000 for five projects in a 13-county region of West Michigan, each deemed to be of “significant regional economic importance.”
The WMPA was formed in January 2014 as part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s Regional Prosperity Initiative to identify development projects that have significant long-term impact and sustainability, affect the entire region, provide employment, recognize regional strengths and challenges, and promote public/private partnerships.
“These projects focus on key private sector needs: infrastructure, talent, entrepreneurship and the environment. They will be a catalyst for public-private partnerships in our region, and it is great to see them moving forward with defined action plans,” said Andy Johnston of the West Michigan Chamber Coalition.
The five projects are:
Port of Muskegon Regional Logistics Hub
A group of regional public and private community leaders are working together to further the development of the Port of Muskegon as a regional logistic hub and an economic asset to the region. The WMPA will support this effort by helping to fund both an infrastructure analysis of port assets and an organizational analysis of port governance structures. WMPA also will provide other supportive services.
The WMPA grant totals $31,250, added to private donations of $31,250 and an EDA grant of $62,500. The total project is estimated at $125,000.
Protecting Lake Michigan Water Quality
WMPA will help to fund the establishment of a dedicated revenue source for watershed management. Local watershed organizations will establish a West Michigan Regional Watershed Collaborative to develop a regional water quality plan and a program to generate sustainable financial resources to protect the water quality of Lake Michigan. The WMPA will help to fund the establishment of the collaborative and a consultant to assist with identifying potential sustainable funding models, and will provide other supportive services.
The WMPA grant is $89,000, with private donations of $15,000. The total project is $104,000.
Technology Action Plans
WMPA is funding a Connected Community Engagement Program and Technology Action Planning through Connect Michigan, a nonprofit entity that helps interested communities identify their technology needs and opportunities. Connect Michigan will complete the Technology Action Plans to address local broadband and technology issues in the region’s counties.
The WMPA grant is $40,000, added to other funding of $90,000.
Michigan Work Ready Communities
The Michigan Work Ready Communities initiative helps employers find work-ready individuals. MiWRC focuses on enhancing fundamental credentials of young people who are ready to enter the workforce, as well as adults who have two years or less in a post-secondary education. The WMPA will support this effort by helping to fund a marketing and public relations campaign to increase employer engagement in the MiWRC and certify all counties in the WMPA as a Certified Work Ready Community by September 2016.
WMPA will also provide other supportive services, with the grant totaling $35,000.
Emerge West Michigan Web Portal
Emerge West Michigan is a group of public and private organizations working to provide services to entrepreneurs. The WMPA will support this effort by helping to fund a web portal that helps entrepreneurs get the right resources at the right time, and the Mentor Connect Program that matches mentors with entrepreneurs. WMPA will also provide other supportive services.
The grant totals $35,000, added to other funding of $430,000.
“As the deepest water port along Michigan’s west coast, the Port of Muskegon has the potential to move a variety of goods such as manufacturing and agricultural products through the port reaching the Midwest, North America and the world. Support and financial assistance from the West Michigan Prosperity Alliance will help provide the groundwork to develop the Port of Muskegon as a multi-model regional logistics hub including access to roads, rail, air, and water,” said Erin Kuhn, executive director, West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission.
The Michigan Work Ready Communities grant “comes at a time when it is becoming more and more difficult to find qualified job candidates for the many good-paying jobs in the manufacturing, health care and construction sectors. The grant will accelerate efforts by Michigan Work Ready Communities to build awareness of National Career Readiness as a tool for employers to help them identify individuals with the foundational skills for employment,” said Kevin Stotts, president of Talent 2025.
The West Michigan Prosperity Alliance covers one of the largest regions in the state, with 130 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, more than 90 school systems, 13 colleges and universities, 431 units of government and a geography roughly the size of New Jersey. The population exceeds 1.5 million, and the region has more than 10,000 employers who create $5.7 billion in economic output.
The organization’s 31-person steering committee includes representatives of work force development, economic development, higher education, adult education, transportation and regional planning, business and area foundations. All geographic areas in the 13-county region are represented.
Through a series of regional meetings, the WMPA developed a Regional Prosperity Plan. At a meeting last March at the Governor’s Economic Summit in Grand Rapids, 180 regional representatives established the project criteria.
John Weiss, executive director of Grand Valley Metropolitan Council, said this is the “type of collaboration and cooperation that helps West Michigan lead our state’s economic revival.”