Now for Next

Posted in Blog on August 22, 2019

Now for the Next

By  Beth Blantion, Vice President of EngagementLakeshore Advantage

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A lot can happen in ten years. Consider this; it was about a decade ago that the iPhone, Uber and Airbnb made their debuts and have since disrupted their respective markets and become not only household names but products and services that have transformed the way we live our lives.
 
Ten years ago, a global recession made its way to West Michigan driving our unemployment up to almost 13%. But there was hope and a bright spot for our region, a game changer for our regional economy. At the time it was referred to as the HEDCOR Fund, a source of anchor funding to Lakeshore Advantage and a catalyst fund which in 2009 provided a loan to launch New North Center for Design. During its operation, the Center graduated 170 leaders and impacted over 250 area companies by providing business leadership with new tools focused on design thinking, creative process and innovation. The list of graduates is impressive and includes many who now lead at our flagship companies. What a swing we’ve seen in our economy in ten years, we are now the fastest growing region in the state and clipping along at less than 3% unemployment. We’ve been named the best place to start a business by Wallet Hub four years in a row. 
 
Over the last decade the fund had served our economy well; providing capital to establish the Holland SmartZone to accelerate early stage high tech companies, delivering critical seed money to the MSU Bioeconomy Institute to advance new technologies and provide research and wet-lab space that up to that point didn’t exist locally. In 2018, conversations began about the future of the dwindling HEDCOR Fund. The question was; now that the fund is nearing the end of its balance, should we work to replenish this fund? Will we need this fund in for opportunities and challenges that are sure to come between now and 2029? 
 
The resounding answer was ‘yes’ but now, it needed to engage the next wave of business leaders; leaders who would be making decisions well into the next decade and beyond. Thus, the Now for the Next campaign was launched. Without hesitation, many stepped up and gave generously bringing the balance of the Now for the Next Fund to $1.7 million dollars. 
 
In May, Lakeshore Advantage brought together its Lakeshore Fellows, comprised of our Founders, past and present board members and major donors, to update this group on the history and trajectory of this fund. We captured their advice as to how the fund should be used, what projects should be avoided, and gauged interest from those who had invested in the fund to serve as advisory board members. From here, this 18- person advisory committee will meet quarterly to review projects and provide guidance. 
 
Today, the Now for the Next advisory committee held its first meeting.  The committee agreed the priority of the fund will continue to be funding strong economic development operations currently led by Lakeshore Advantage.  Other potential areas of investment opportunity include talent development and attraction, community revitalization, education and advanced infrastructure.The goal for the Now for the Next fund is $2million by 2020. While we have come impressively close to crossing the finish line, there is room for more supporters of this fund. If you are interested in learning more, please reach out so we can get you engaged. There are opportunities on the horizon, and this fund will enable those opportunities to become reality.  
 
To learn more about the fund and how to invest, contact the Community Foundation of the Holland Zeeland Area