January 1, 2016 to March 27, 2016
Southwest Michigan First’s Activities Focused in St. Joseph County

Business Retention, Expansion and Attraction

Company Consultations:
We conducted 70 visits with St. Joseph County companies during the first quarter of 2016, to understand company needs, wants and desires. In response to these conversations, we provided a number of solutions including:
• Pure Michigan Ag Summit, Pure Michigan Regional Summit and Hannover Messe Global Industrial show
• Executive housing options and executive recruitment ideas
• MIX design networking events
• 269 Magazine
• Workforce development programs including the Employer Resource Network, virtual career fairs and successful culture examples
• Catalyst University
• Vocational education
• Internship partnerships and funding programs
• Expansion project and incentive assistance
• International business development services and STEP grant funding
• Wage & benefits comparisons
• Financing programs including the Great Lakes Trade Adjustment Assistance program and the County revolving loan fund
• Building/site location assistance
• Training resources and grants
• Utility efficiency studies and rebates
• Networking and supplier connections
• Property tax abatements and Personal Property Tax Reform
• Zoning and permitting assistance
• Brownfield program advice and funding
• Succession planning

Manufacturer/Business Events:
We organized and/or promoted events featuring programs to accelerate existing companies:

• January 28: Catalyst University leadership event
• February 9 and March 8: Southwest Michigan Tooling Coalition
• February 23: Civic Leaders Economic Council
• March 23: Pure Michigan Agricultural Summit

Attraction Initiatives:
Southwest Michigan First focused its attraction efforts in the first quarter of 2016 on several key markets with high concentrations of site selectors. We interacted with 59 site consultants during the following events:
• January 21-22 Atlanta Summit
• February 12-13 Dallas Summit
• March 23 Food Processing Site Selector Fam tour during Pure Michigan Agricultural Summit • March 24-25 New York City Summit

Attraction, Expansion and Brownfield Redevelopment Project Pipeline:
During the first quarter of 2016:
• 1 Expansion project was announced: o Freeman Manufacturing: 10 new jobs and $400,000 investment • 7 projects have been opened.
• Project Stitch – announced; Freeman Manufacturing
• Project TTS – existing regional company expansion investing $1 million and creating 8 jobs
• Project Buzz – start-up food processing company
• Project Spoons – attraction project with investment TBD and 65 new jobs
• Project Underground – existing regional company expansion investing $4.2 million and creating 10 jobs
• Project Glass Foam – attraction project investing $20 million and creating 40+ jobs
• Project Distribution – attraction project; investment and new jobs TBD
• 25 open projects are currently being worked through our pipeline.
• 4 projects received assessment grant assistance from the St. Joseph County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority • 2 are complete:
• Mike Oxender, Inc.: $150,000 investment and 3 new jobs
• A&K Printing: $165,000 investment and 1 new job • 2 are in process:
• Project Firestone: $150,000 investment and 27 jobs retained
• Project Firestone 2: $50,000 investment and 6 jobs retained


Entrepreneurial Assistance:
• Makers’ Mart – At the January, 2016 Catalyst University event, small Michigan businesses entered the Maker’s Mart competition where they sold their products to the Wings Stadium crowd of 2,000+ people and the winner was awarded $2,500 cash and $2,500 worth of legal, marketing and accounting services.

Southwest Michigan First promoted MIINTERNSHIP.com, a one-stop source for employers to post internship, apprenticeship, fellowship and co-op positions in the Southwest Michigan Region yearround and at no cost. The purpose is to retain our young talent in the region. It is being marketed to regional students via college newspaper ads, social media and at college job fairs. It is also being marketed to faculty advisors and career offices.

Local Educational Community Support:
• Monthly attendance at Trojan Manufacturing Solution Center meetings
• On February 10-11, 5,000 8th and 9th graders from Kalamazoo-area public and private schools attended MiCareerQuest for hands-on career demonstrations led by over 100 regional companies. Southwest Michigan First partnered with KRESA, Michigan Works! and the companies. Our Jobs Team is now in discussion with leadership in Branch and St. Joseph Counties considering similar events.

269 MAGAZINE launched in January to tell the positive stories surrounding business expansions, entrepreneurship, leadership, philanthropy and quality of life in Southwest Michigan. Through a partnership with the Center for Michigan, information is included that will allow regional organizations to make data-driven decisions about major trends. The magazine is designed to build a culture of positive change in our seven-county region.


• The Civic Leaders Economic Council met February 23rd and is composed of government leaders in Southwest Michigan who are passionate about working together to drive the regional economy forward. Leaders on the council are willing to share best practices, identify areas of opportunity and commit to stay up-to-date on the regional economy to ensure we are all rowing in the same direction. All city managers as well as the county administrator and board chair are invited to participate in this group. Joe Bippus, Mike Hughes and Pat Yoder attended our inaugural meeting.
• On March 24, our Public Policy Director and Jobs Team made a presentation to the St. Joseph County Township Supervisors regarding pertinent legislative topics and economic development activities.

Policy Priorities:
• Tax Increment Finance Reform – Our Public Policy Director has been active on the MEDC TIF workgroup as well as with other groups who are working on TIF reform at the state level. TIF is an important tool for economic development and the revitalization of downtowns. The Public Policy Director has been keeping leaders in St. Joseph County up to date on changes to the TIF act.

• Michiana Border Incentives- Our Public Policy Director and Committee continues to look for solutions to keep the Michigan side of the border competitive in economic development incentives. We are working with legislative leaders to potentially craft legislation to create an incentive unique to this area of the state.


• Catalyst University: On January 28, our Catalyst University event was attended by 2,016 leaders for a full-day inspirational event featuring speakers such as Jon Gordon, Scott Harrison, Wes Moore, Shelene Bryan, Scott Belsky and many more.

Board Membership and Community Service Involvement:
• Three Rivers Industrial Development Authority Board member
• Sturgis Rotary member, Past President
• Serving as staff for St. Joseph County Economic Development Corporation, facilitating full board meetings and Executive Committee meetings
• Sturgis and Three Rivers Area Chambers of Commerce member and events participant
• Sturgis Improvement Association participant