West Michigan Recognized Internationally for Regional Collaboration

Posted in News on October 03, 2016

Zeeland, Michigan – Leaders from Lakeshore Advantage, the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids’ Start Garden presented “Building a Regional Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” at the International Economic Development Council Annual Meeting this week in Cleveland, OH. The team was chosen to present methods and lessons learned to a gathering of international economic developers that included how to combine efforts to grow and retain entrepreneurs with long-term sustainability and private sector participation. 

“To successfully support new businesses and ideas, you need to be nimble like a new business. This means working together, building on strengths, filling gaps and using resources efficiently.” said Jennifer Owens, president, Lakeshore Advantage. “We’re honored to have been chosen to present our model on a global scale, so that other regions can apply what will work for them for the benefit of their entrepreneurs and communities.”

The West Michigan regional model for supporting entrepreneurs and innovation includes the Holland SmartZone, a satellite of the Grand Rapids SmartZone, and the programming, resources and lessons learned each share. The City of Grand Rapids SmartZone has contracted with Start Garden to lead West Michigan innovation and entrepreneurship efforts. The organizations work together to create entrepreneurial programming and events, while efficiently deploying resources and eliminating effort duplication through systems and communication. The Holland SmartZone is administered by Lakeshore Advantage. 

“Simplification is key in creating an ecosystem in which entrepreneurs are supported in achieving their next milestone. With regional resources working together, we can focus on providing startups needed services for their success,” said Mike Morin, CEO of Start Garden. “When business ideas come to life, it’s a win for everyone.”

Kara Wood, economic development director for the City of Grand Rapids, presented on the importance of public/private participation to achieve long-term sustainable growth and how innovation knows no boundaries, despite the SmartZone’s geographical tax capture. Owens and Morin discussed their working relationship, including how to achieve regional cooperation and how to leverage service providers to grow a healthy ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs at all stages of business development.