Recap of Comparative Communities Looking Forward Forum

Posted in Blog on March 26, 2018

This is a recap of the Looking Forward Forum event on the topic of Comparative Communities, held at Trendway on March 16, 2018. 
We gathered at Trendway’s new meeting space adjacent to their impressive showroom on March 16. We shared progress on identifying eight key economic indicators that Lakeshore Advantage will watch, and five US communities for us to benchmark how we are doing with these indicators in comparison. As Lakeshore Advantage looks forward to ensure long term economic health, our vision for the West Michigan Lakeshore economy is that we are outperforming our peers and competing successfully with our benchmark communities. Here are those economic indicators and comparative communities. 
  • West Michigan Lakeshore Region Economic Indicators: Lakeshore Advantage worked with our Fellows-level investors, staff and board to identify eight indicators we will watch for our region: 
    • Total employment growth
    • Average annual wage
    • Median income
    • Population 25+ with associates degree or higher
    • Total population by age and race
    • Labor force participation rate
    • Income from self-employed workers
    • High school graduation rate
  • Comparative Communities: As the West Michigan Lakeshore region is a top performer in our state, it is important to look nationally for who we truly compete with for business investment and talent attraction. We identified four communities that look like us with the following criteria: high manufacturing employment, element of tourism, population similar to ours, out-of-state investment of primary employers in our region, and a Midwest feel. We also identified one aspirational community that excels in talent attraction, as we know we need to attract talent to sustain our region’s business growth.
    • Comparative Communities:
      • Indianapolis-Carmel-Muncie
      • Cleveland-Akron-Canton
      • Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro
      • Anderson-Greenville-Spartanburg
    • Aspirational Community:
      • Seattle-Tacoma
  • Color Commentary (seeing as it's the start of March Madness): Dusty Duistermars, a global site consultant, offered his insight on the importance of being a top choice for talent attraction, and how that leads to increased business investment. In today’s interconnected business world, an increasing number of companies are looking to rent shared workspace in areas in which their employees want to live. He said what’s important for our region is to physically show our region’s assets off and involve the business community in pitching our region as a strong choice for business investment during site location visits.
  • Next Steps:
    • We will watch and report out economic indicator performance between Ottawa County and a comparative county in each one of our comparative communities.
    • We will hit the road in the next two years and visit these comparative communities. If you have connections with these communities and can help open doors for us to learn best practices in our comparative communities for business investment and talent attraction, we would love your assistance. We’re excited to have already received invitations and ideas from some of you. Thank you!