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The Right Place

Investor Breakfast Series

Exclusive Right Place Investor Benefit

Three times a year The Right Place hosts investors only breakfast events. The events feature an organizational update from The Right Place President and CEO, Birgit Klohs, a feature presentation on a current West Michigan economic development topic, and networking time to connect with key executives from other companies in the Grand Rapids region.

If you would like more information about our Investor Breakfast Series and how to attend, please contact Vice President of Investor Relations, Brad Comment, at bcomment@rightplace.org

Navigate 2020

The West Michigan business community has faced unprecedented challenges as we've grappled with the new economic realities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Right Place was built to guide our region through times of crisis, which is why in May, we launched Navigate 2020: a new monthly webinar series designed to bring you the latest expertise and resources. Each month we will bring in experts to discuss the pressing topics impacting your business as you navigate these uncertain times.

Missed a webinar? Access the full recordings and brief recaps of each session in our Navigate 2020 series here.

Navigate 2020: Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Economic Forecast | U.S. Recovery Path After COVID-19

Navigate 2020: Automotive Industry Update

Navigate 2020: Finding Global Opportunities During Uncertain Times

Navigate 2020: Sisters Who Lead Study Results

Investor Breakfast Recaps

February 5th, 2020

On February 5, 2020, The Right Place, Inc. hosted its first investor breakfast of the year to unveil its 2020-2022 Strategic Plan. After more than a year of work, including interviews with staff, board members and community leaders, The Right Place and its contracted firm, TIP Strategies, Inc., shared the new plan with investors at this morning event.

The new plan explicitly outlined five guiding principles for the organizations: Excellence, Integrity, Collaboration, Inclusivity and Forward Thinking. It also identified the following mission and vision statements:

Mission: To drive sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity for all in the Greater Grand Rapids region.

Vision: The Greater Grand Rapids region will be the most resilient, productive and equitable economy in the nation.

The plan also reaffirmed the four strategic growth areas in which The Right Place's work will focus on: Advanced Manufacturing, Information Technology, Health Sciences and Food Processing & Agribusiness.

Read the full plan here.

November 7th, 2019

The Right Place’s last Investor Breakfast of the year zeroed in on one of the hottest topics for businesses around the world: talent. A panel of experts joined the Vice President of Talent Initiatives for The Right Place, Cindy Brown, as she moderated a discussion where each panelist shared how they were preparing their company and workforce for the future.

The panel included:

  • Shana Lewis-Welch, Executive Director, Talent Acquisition, Mercy Health
  • Steve Heethuis, Training Director, NN, Inc. | Mobile Solutions Group
  • Elizabeth Williams, Corporate HR Manager, Stiles Machinery

President and CEO for The Right Place, Birgit Klohs, opened the discussion with some somber statistics, painting a picture of the talent issues we will face in the decades to come. The 2018 birth rate in Michigan was the lowest since 1941, and that trend was reflected across the country as well. In the U.S., the number of children a woman is expected to have in her childbearing years dropped to 1.76, while the “replacement” rate, or the optimal rate to renew the population, sits at 2.1.

Put plainly, the data indicates that in 18+ years there will simply not be enough people to sustain the current workforce. “We need to engage everyone, to be inclusive in our efforts and make certain that no one is getting left behind as we develop solutions to tackle the challenges posed in the years to come,” said Klohs.

You can find a comprehensive recap of the event on our blog.

June 13th, 2019

In 2015, Forbes named Grand Rapids as the second worst city in the nation for African Americans to prosper. This came as a stark contrast to the long list of accolades the region receives on an annual basis. Our community has been tackling this topic head-on, but there is still a lot more work to be done.

That's why The Right Place recently hosted an Investor Breakfast at the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) on the topic of Supplier Diversity. A panel of speakers provided insight on how and when companies should be diversifying not only their supply chain, but their business operations as a whole

The panel included:

The panel was moderated by Skot Welch, Principal/Founder, Global Bridgebuilders.

Each of these panelists tackle the topic of diversity in different capacities within their organizations and brought unique perspectives to the morning’s discussion. You can find a comprehensive recap of the event on our blog.

February 20th, 2019

The February 20th Right Place investor Breakfast featured an update on the automotive industry. Panelists spoke on the past, present, and potential future state of one of Michigan's most well-known manufacturing sectors. Autonomous and electric vehicles were a hot point of discussion, as the panelists discussed how these disruptions are already shaping the strategies of many automotive manufacturers and suppliers.

The conversation also touched on the talent side of the coin. Getting talent to come to Michigan, specifically for the automotive industry, has presented a challenge. Efforts to lead the next industrial revolution in Michigan can only be successful if the state is able to attract skilled talent to the region.This attraction, the panelists noted, will have to come from a holistic and cross-collaborative effort to transform outside perceptions of the region and state as a whole.

Silicon Valley, which is a top competitor for the innovative minds needed in this industry, touts a glamorous and flashy lifestyle that has drawn in these individuals for quite some time. This has resulted in a community that believes it can think outside of the box and develop the next revolution in the automotive industry. Michigan has to create an environment that will nurture this line of thinking for start-ups and disruptions alike if we're going to compete.

The panel was moderated by Glenn Stevens, Executive Director at MICHauto and Vice President of Automotive and Mobility Initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber, and included the following participants:

Special Edition Investor Breakfast: February 13th, 2019

The morning after giving her State of the State Address in Lansing, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer traveled to Grand Rapids for a special edition of our Investor Breakfast series. Nearly 400 members of the West Michigan business community joined us for the early morning event, where the governor shared her vision for the State of Michigan and held a Q&A session.

The governor touched on the topics of infrastructure, education, business growth, and inclusivity. Concluding the event, she emphasized the importance of working together as Michiganders, “We need to start seeing one another as individuals again, not as partisan entities. Coming together and leading the way to solve problems we’re facing as a state is the only way things are going to get done.”

A comprehensive recap of the event is available on our blog.

November 8th, 2018

For our final Investor Breakfast of 2018, The Right Place invited Chief Diversity Officer at Calvin College, Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige, to speak to our investors on the topic of diversity and inclusion.

Her presentation, Creating Effective and Inclusive Talent and Retention Strategies, addressed common struggles and mistakes made by businesses attempting to embrace a more inclusive culture. She began with some statistics pointing to the benefits of prioritizing a diversified workplace, stating that companies which are top ranked for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above the national medians for their industries.

When addressing inclusive recruitment strategies, Dr. Loyd-Paige highlighted some of the following points:

  • Once an employee has finished onboarding, the process is not over. Mentorship is a valuable and vital tool to assist new talent with integrating themselves into the community. Sometimes it’s specific to their job, but it can also be related to life outside of work, like recommendations for salons, grocery stores, and other day-to-day resources they might need in a community they’re unfamiliar with.
  • Realizing implicit bias is a prevalent issue in the American workforce. Implicit bias can be described as the unconscious attribution of certain qualities to an individual based on stereotypes believed of their race, gender, or cultural background. Operating under the assumption that someone can be “lumped” into a category of liking or disliking certain things simply because of association can be damaging to a business attempting to develop a more diverse workforce.
  • The question of why your business would like to become a more diverse entity is an important one. Beginning with senior leadership, your business as a whole should place value on diversity and inclusion. If it’s simply for the “numbers game,” or a desire to appear more diverse to the community, then it is not for the right reasons, Loyd-Paige says.

Visit our blog for a comprehensive recap of the Diversity and Inclusion Investor Breakfast.

You can download Dr. Loyd-Paige’s full presentation here.

June 20th, 2018

The second Right Place Investor Breakfast of 2018 addressed cybersecurity and protecting critical data from hackers.

Three industry experts gave presentations and sat on a panel to discuss challenges for businesses facing security breaches. The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is $7.3 million, a culmination of indirect and direct expenses that arise. With the European Union's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), companies have to take a close look at their plans for handling sensitive information, and responding to a breach.

However, the panelists pointed out that not all solutions are high-tech. The risk of exposure can be mitigated with proper employee training, well-structured policies and procedures, and a closer look at cyber insurance coverage.

The panel was moderated by Jeff Williams, managing partner at Atomic Object, and included the following participants:

Our team can help connect you to cybersecurity resources in West Michigan. Contact Jen Wangler at wanglerj@rightplace.org to learn more.

See event photos here

February 20th, 2018

The Right Place's first Investor Breakfast of 2018 featured a discussion on transportation and mobility, a hot topic for Michigan and its automotive industry.

Kirk Steudle, Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, spoke about continuing the mobility momentum in the U.S. and what it means for Michigan. All freight modes are expected to experience an increase in tonnage by 2040, requiring more focus on highway, rail, and air transportation.

Steudle discussed how the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and the Gordie Howe International Bridge plan to improve these modes of transportation. Attendees also learned about Michigan transportation's integration with emerging autonomous vehicle technology. Overall, the event brought in more than 130 attendees from 93 different companies.

See photos from the event here.

November 8th, 2017

The Right Place's final Investor Breakfast of 2017 featured a panel discussion on the future of mobility and its impact on West Michigan.

The way people and freight travel from point A to point B will transform dramatically in the coming decade and beyond. Advances in autonomous vehicle technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), and big data are revolutionizing the transit experience. A revolution that has the potential to impact every business and community in the U.S.

Several industry experts participated in the panel discussion:

  • Elizabeth “Betsy” Fretwell, the Senior Vice President of Switch Communities
  • David Carlson, US Manufacturing and Automotive Practice Leader, Marsh
  • Gene Hawkins, Vice President, Engineering, ADAC Automotive
  • Glenn Stevens, Executive Director, MICH Auto and VP of Automotive and Mobility Initiatives, Detroit Regional Chamber

The event brought in over 170 attendees representing 113 different companies.

June 8th, 2017

Investor Break panel discussion

The Right Place’s second Investor Breakfast of 2017 focused on the newly launched West Michigan Regional Dashboard, an online tool that tracks the region’s overall growth and prosperity using a common set of social, economic, and environmental indicators.

Although several organizations are collecting, tracking, and sharing valuable data within the region, a common set of shared indicators for the entire region is needed. Thus, the West Michigan Regional Dashboard was created; a measurement tool empowering communities in the region to begin strategic change and build collective action.

Attendees learned how the dashboard was developed, who participated in its development, and how it will be used to drive future regional prosperity initiatives. Brian Walker, president and CEO, Herman Miller, Carla Roberts, president and CEO, Fremont Area Community Foundation and Claire Khouri, Deputy Director of Strategy, Office of Governor Rick Snyder participated in a panel discussion on ways to engage with and use the dashboard.

See photos from the event here.

February 8th, 2017

Brian Walker Presentation

Our first Investor Breakfast of 2017 featured the unveiling of The Right Place 2017-2019 Strategic Plan. This three-year plan, developed in partnership with PwC, identifies a system of economic strategies that will lead to long-term economic prosperity. The plan focuses The Right Place’s efforts to improve the region’s economic foundations and spur growth in several strategic areas.

During the next three years, The Right Place will continue to advance the West Michigan economy by retaining and attracting premier companies, jobs, and investment. As investors in The Right Place and West Michigan, we are proud to have your support in this new strategic plan. Working together, we are confident West Michigan will experience continued economic success.

See photos from the event here.

November 1st, 2016

Photo from the Investor BreakfastOur final Investor Breakfast of 2016 took place November 1st at the Loosemore Auditorium on Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus in Downtown Grand Rapids. The breakfast’s featured speaker was Ann Harten, Vice President of Global HR at Haworth and current Chair of Hello West Michigan.

In January, we announced a new strategic partnership with Hello West Michigan, the region’s premier talent attraction and retention organization. Through this partnership, we are playing a key role in retaining and attracting the talent our region needs.

Ann Harten discussed Hello West Michigan’s efforts to elevate the region and assist companies with their talents needs. She also spoke about how the organization is proactively marketing to and attracting new talent to the region. Learn more about Hello West Michigan at their website.

June 14th, 2016

The Right Place investor breakfast took place at the West Michigan Aviation Academy. Bill Payne, Vice Chair, Amway Corp., and Chair of the Regional Air Alliance provided insight into the expansion the airport is currently undergoing, including the Gateway Campaign; the changes in governance at the airport; as well as the growth the airport is experiencing due to increased air service and demand.

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport is critical to the future growth of our region. It is more than just infrastructure, it is the “front door” to our community; and its importance is increasing for business attraction and retention; as well as the attraction of conventions and visitors.

Photo from the Investor BreakfastThe investor breakfast also included special guests Dick Devos, President, Windquest Group, along with Pat Cwayna, CEO, West Michigan Aviation Academy. Their presentation provided a thoughtful overview of the West Michigan Aviation Academy. The West Michigan Aviation Academy is a tuition-free public charter high school and is preparing students; through an aviation focus, for unlimited opportunities, including college achievement, career success, and engaged citizenship.

The event brought in over 120 investors representing 72 companies, local government, and organizations. For a list of those companies represented please click here.

Photo Gallery
To view photos of the breakfast, please click here.

If you're interested in obtaining the presentations, please connect Brad Comment, Vice President of Investor Relations at The Right Place: bcomment@rightplace.org or 616.771.0560