GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the beginning of the pandemic shutdown final March, The Proper Place, Inc., President & CEO Birgit Klohs was working from residence on a Saturday morning when she bought a name from Spectrum Well being.
The hospital system that’s West Michigan’s largest employer was in want of medical swabs that needed to be produced at an federally-approved facility. Klohs known as the Proper Place staffer who offers with medical units.
“He mentioned, ‘Yeah, there isn’t anyone making them, however I wager I can discover anyone who can.’ And at this time, Keystone Options in Kalamazoo is making swabs,” Klohs mentioned.
She mentioned it’s only one instance of the effectiveness of the relationships that the financial growth group has constructed.
Extra requests led different firms, with the assistance of the Proper Place, to start manufacturing vital private protecting gear. A digital database to match firms and organizations that wanted PPE to the businesses making it was launched. It has helped the Proper Place rise to the COVID-19 problem.
“As onerous because it was, and nonetheless continues to be, it was in all probability certainly one of our proudest moments in 35 years,” Klohs mentioned.
Klohs, the German-born financial growth architect who helped steer West Michigan’s financial system by good occasions and unhealthy for greater than three many years, is retiring.
“Thirty-three years is an effective very long time and I believe the indicators of a great chief is to know when to get off the stage,” Klohs mentioned.
BUILDING WEST MICHIGAN’S ECONOMY AS WE KNOW IT
She got here to Michigan within the Seventies and located her calling working in financial growth in Southwest Michigan. She went on to affix Grand Valley State College as a enterprise advisor. Then in 1987, The Proper Place got here calling.
“By no means regarded again. Neatest thing that ever occurred,” Klohs mentioned.
She grew to become a kind of ambassador for companies recruitment in West Michigan, touring the globe and convincing firms to relocate right here.
“I believe one of many keystones of that success was one of many very first firms, Behr Industries (now NBHX Trim Group) up on Alpine and seven Mile, that we have been capable of land and actually present the group what this group is all about,” Klohs mentioned.
That deal began the momentum. Since then, The Proper Place has been credited with $5 billion in financial funding within the area and generated greater than 50,000 jobs in manufacturing, meals processing, the IT sector and, in what has change into a part of Grand Rapids’ id, well being care.
“What occurred with the well being providers sector in 20-plus brief years is mind-boggling,” Klohs mentioned.
It started 21 years in the past with the opening of the Van Andel Institute and the start of the Medical Mile. VAI was simply the beginning.
“You might have the (Spectrum Well being) Lemmen-Holton (Most cancers) Middle. You might have the Meijer Coronary heart Middle. You might have (Grand Valley State College) constructing, what, their third constructing? You might have Michigan State’s medical faculty constructing their third constructing,” Klohs listed.
It’s a profitable effort that has created jobs.
“And that improves the well being care,” Klohs added. “That improves lives.”
She credited West Michigan’s tradition for facilitating the speedy tempo at which the Medical Mile and different developments grew to become a actuality.
“Thirty-three years is a very long time. And but within the life span of a metropolis, it’s not that lengthy,” Klohs mentioned. “The need of each the non-public sector, our public sector leaders and the philanthropy group to work collectively to widespread targets, I believe does make this distinctive.”
There has additionally been an elevated effort from The Proper Place for extra financial inclusion.
“In our strategic plan we’re engaged on, it’s certainly one of our key pillars,” Klohs mentioned.
In January 2020, The Proper Place joined with others to announce a new venture fund to assist minority-owned companies. And later this month, The Proper Place will announce the outcomes of a Brookings Institute research on workforce growth in communities of shade. The research checked out boundaries to employment within the minority group and methods to overcome these boundaries.
Klohs mentioned that whereas the financial system got here roaring again after the Nice Recession, many individuals within the minority group have been left behind. As firms began to put money into automation and different technological developments, many staff who had good-paying jobs earlier than the adjustments lacked the abilities they wanted to maintain working. Klohs sees the identical situation popping out of the pandemic.
“All of these items will make that firm extra profitable and resilient,” she mentioned. “However what about these individuals over right here who labored in these companies earlier than and now want an schooling on this versus this?”
It’s two-sided dilemma: Employers will want expert staff and folks in minority communities want jobs.
“If we wish to achieve success sooner or later, we should interact our communities of shade and those that want extra schooling and coaching, whether or not that’s on the group school and even beginning a lot earlier in center faculty and highschool,” Klohs mentioned.
Klohs is ready to retire on the finish of January.
She’ll get replaced by Randy Thelen, who most not too long ago served as vice chairman of financial growth on the Downtown Denver Partnership. Thelen isn’t any stranger to West Michigan. He was the primary president of Lakeshore Benefit, the financial growth group for Allegan and Ottawa counties.