Ensuring generations want to live, work and play in our vibrant economy


Earlier this month, Lakeshore Advantage and similar organizations throughout the country celebrated Economic Development Week, designated by the International Economic Development Association. This week is designed to highlight the importance of economic development and the good work that economic developers do every day.

Our community, built on a foundation of business collaboration, has much to celebrate. Lakeshore Advantage was created in 2003 by a group of private sector leaders with a sole focus to ensure current and future generations want to live and work in our vibrant economy.

Our founders recognized the competition for business investment and talent is fierce. There are thousands of communities competing for business investments and ready to roll out the red carpet for top talent. Our goal is to ensure our community can compete and win. Last year, that meant us assisting with 27 business expansion projects, resulting in over $235 million in private investment and more than 750 jobs in Allegan and Ottawa counties.

What goes into creating that economically vibrant future today may be very different 10 years from now. There is one constant: It will take the partnership of our public, private and nonprofit sectors for our economy to thrive.

Our team often brings those partnerships together or participates as a key player. Just last month, we worked alongside the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District to help 1,200 high school seniors chart their career paths. We also adopted best practices in supply chain management to make connections to improve the in-demand talent pipeline for employers. These are two of the many ways our team works to compete to keep the next generation choosing to work and live in our community.

We must ensure our region has a broad range of industry and employment choices to compete for top talent. This includes doing the things that make our region home to the “Best Small City to Start a Business,” four years in a row, as ranked by Wallethub. Daily, we coach, connect and counsel business leaders at primary employers that export goods and services out of our region to help them achieve milestones and remove barriers to growth. We also lead efforts and collaborate regionally to nurture a culture of innovation to be a place where the primary employers of tomorrow get their start. These long-term relationships help lay the foundation for a continued strong and diverse employment base now and for the future.

If you weren’t aware of our work, it is because we would rather lead the standing ovation than receive it. For Economic Development Week, we will make an exception and stand up and cheer with gratitude for our investors and partners who enable our work to ensure current and future generations want to live, work, play, learn and grow a business in our vibrant economy.

Jennifer Owens is president of Lakeshore Advantage.

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