Leaders at Bank of America, the Consumers Energy Foundation, and The Right Place, Inc. will be developing the New Community Transformation Fund. This will be an investment fund based in Grand Rapids, Michigan to support diverse business owners. The fund aims to increase ethnic and racial diversity in business ownership in West Michigan. In addition, it will focus on businesses that intend to provide multi-generational wealth creation within historically disadvantaged groups.

Bank of America and the Consumers Energy Foundation have each provided $200,000 in initial startup capital. These funds will support the design and development of the fund, including creation of the fund’s legal structure and operational systems, and establishment of a management team, advisors, a board of directors, and securing local and national portfolio growth partners.

Left to Right: Skot Welch, Birgit Klohs, Garrick Rochow, Renee Tabben, Kwame Anku

An experienced consulting team will lead design and development of the fund:

  • Skot Welch, General Partner. Recognized as a leader in utilizing the principles of global quality standards for the development and implementation of sustainable, systematic and measurable diversity initiatives.
  • Kwame Anku, Fund Consultant. The CEO and Chairman of the Black Star Fund. His responsibilities include fundraising, portfolio building, portfolio management and strategic partnerships.
  • Birgit Klohs, Senior Advisor. The President and CEO of The Right Place, Inc. a position she has held since 1987. The Right Place, Inc. is the regional economic development organization for West Michigan.

“West Michigan has one of the strongest performing economies in the nation,” said Birgit Klohs, President and CEO, The Right Place, Inc. “Yet, this economic growth has not been shared by all members of our community. By investing in companies that will create long-term economic prosperity in communities of color, this fund will increase upward mobility and ultimately build a more diverse and globally competitive economy.”

The fund will focus on scalable early to mid-stage businesses and transitioning succession companies in the industries of advanced manufacturing, food processing and agribusiness, life sciences and medical devices, and information technology. This fund will invest in both current and prospective West Michigan companies, but will require founders and portfolio companies to locate and operate in West Michigan.

“The goal of this fund is to increase ethnic and racial diversity in Grand Rapids’ business ownership,” said Renee Tabben, Grand Rapids Market President, Bank of America, who sits on the Board of The Right Place, Inc. “Bank of America strives to help local economies prosper and one way we do that is by supporting business ownership to create sustainable, financially healthy and diverse communities.”

“While the West Michigan economy is booming, communities of color have not shared fully in our region’s success,” said Garrick Rochow, Executive Vice President of Operations for Consumers Energy and a member of The Right Place, Inc. Board’s Executive Committee. “In order to truly ‘win’ as a West Michigan community, our success must be collective. And to do that, we must go beyond talking about our good intentions and take action.”

In 2020 the fund consultant team will focus on the design and development of the fund, including the goal of raising $15-$25 million in capital. The team will primarily be seeking family offices, institutional investors, and corporate partners. The fund is aiming to launch in 2021.