ALLENDALE — Experimentation is always a risk, but Greg Northrup, the new president of the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, is confident a $15 million Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development grant will bring positive change to the area’s economy.
Northrup, joined by Emily Stover DeRocco,
The grant, known as WIRED, is a part of President George W. Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative.
It is an investment in the area work force, Northrup said, which will not be a quick fix for employment issues but a way to ensure the future of the region’s economy and job.
“We’re the ones who are going to lead the way,” said Northrup, who was recently named president of the alliance after serving in an interim position since October.
Ehlers said while the grant is recognition of the need in
“It’s tough to get that kind of money out of the federal government these days,” Ehlers said. “We have a very tight budget.”
The grants were announced in November, with proposals due on Dec. 27, so there was only a short time for grant-writing. The recipients were announced on Feb. 1 and the process has been moving quickly along.
The West Michigan Strategic Alliance was setting the course for this grant long before it knew of its existence, Hoekstra said.
“The people of
Though Northrup said he is not expecting to have firm results by the end of the first year, or even by the end of the three-year period of the grant, he does expect to set the foundation for work training and economic revival.
“I’m convinced we’re going to have more successes than failures,” Northrup said.
Hoekstra said that whether the programs funded by the grant initially fail or succeed, the process to improve the economy will have begun.
“Innovation will come out of this initially that will fail, and that is OK,” Hoekstra said. “It is well and fine for these folks to say, ‘You know, we tried something and we failed.’ We will have a series of successes and we will have moved this process forward. … That’s exactly what the process of innovation is about.”
Ehlers said while government is not the place to take risks, this grant is an avenue for risks to be taken in hope of finding innovation.
“The outcome is still going to be positive,” he said.
Stover DeRocco said
“You are prepared to change these systems and the way we do business,” Stover DeRocco said. “The reason this project rose to the top of the competition was the really creative array of strategies they were ready to test and demonstrate.”
The alliance also recognized the importance of small business, Stover DeRocco said.
“Small business is the economic engine of the nation,” she said.
Stover DeRocco said though infrastructure such as roads, bridges and broadband access are important, it is the workers that count.
“Without the educated and skilled men and women to put those elements together for economic growth, they’re meaningless,” she said.
“We made the world a smaller place,” she said of the technology that Americans have contributed. “We’re going to do what
Stover DeRocco said she is excited about the grant and working with
“I felt that energy as I walked in the room, and it was just overwhelming,” Stover DeRocco said. “Through WIRED, our team at the Department of Labor will be your partner, support and your cheerleader. We will also be your students. We know that we are going to learn a lot about what you are doing here in
“We want innovations that are going to fundamentally change our systems,” he said. “Half of what we’re going to do is going to change in the process.”
The four categories of innovation that will be addressed by the grant are market intelligence, work-force system transformations, enterprise development and InnovationWORKS, a program in partnership with The Right Place Inc. to “catalyze, support and sustain strategies to support innovation in our regional economy.”
Northrup said the alliance’s collaborations during the past few years have set the groundwork for many future projects in the area.
“WIRED is just one example of what we were able to do, because we were already collaborating.”