Blended JA Now Carries More Clout

    Two Junior Achievement chapters in West Michigan will become one next month, under a merger that offers students involved in the organization a lesson about today’s business realities.

    The Grand Rapids-based Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes Inc. will absorb the Grand Haven-based Junior Achievement of the West Michigan Lake Shore Inc. as of July 1.

    “We can advance the mission of Junior Achievement much farther together than we ever could separately,” said Mark Meyers, assistant city administrator in Norton Shores who serves on the Lake Shore Junior Achievement’s board and chaired the committee that planned the blending of the two organizations.

    Consolidation comes seven years after the idea was first raised and discarded. The merger was rekindled earlier this year when Dave Hensch, a board member of the Grand Rapids organization and senior vice president for corporate banking at Bank One, approached Meyers.

    Subsequent discussions led to the formation of a “blending committee,” and eventually a decision on both sides to create a broader, regional Junior Achievement organization and fold the Lake Shore organization into the Grand Rapids-based Junior Achievement, which will maintain the Grand Haven office.

    Hensch credits the boards of both organizations with “doing what was right for our kids and Junior Achievement donors.”

    The larger organization resulting from the merger creates the 23rd biggest Junior Achievement chapter in the nation that will serve 42 counties in western and northern Michigan, including the Upper Peninsula, and 55,000 elementary, middle school and high school students annually.

    “Blending with Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes represents the next logical step in improving services to kids and schools that JA serves,” said Amy Kozanecki, chairwoman of the Lake Shore Junior Achievement’s board and a mortgage loan officer at National City Bank.

    Junior Achievement teaches students about the business world and potential career choices through lessons in business, economics and free enterprise.

    The blending of the two organizations will enable Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes to generate operating efficiencies and better leverage financial support and sponsorships, as well as a volunteer base of some 5,000 business people, said William Coderre, president of Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes.

    “It will enable us, over the long run, to make more of an impact on children, do it more effectively and, hopefully, at a lower cost,” Coderre said.

    He likens the two Junior Achievement chapters coming together into a single organization, fulfilling an idea that was first broached in the mid-1990s, to a lengthy courtship.

    “Any time you blend two similar organizations it’s like a marriage. There has to be a courting and a process and you have to become friends first,” Coderre said.

    With consolidation to generate efficiencies being a regular part of doing business, the blending made much more sense today, particularly given the sluggish economy of the past two years.

    “With the tougher economy we’re all looking for ways to run our organizations more efficiently and effectively,” Coderre said.           

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