Published in Economic Development

The Right Place expands economic development reach to Mason, Mecosta counties

BY Sunday, November 21, 2021 06:50pm

Regional economic development organization The Right Place Inc. is expanding its services to two new West Michigan counties while working with existing partners to develop full-time business attraction efforts.

Under the leadership of President and CEO Randy Thelen, who joined The Right Place at the start of the year, the organization has formed new strategic partnerships in Mason and Mecosta counties. The Right Place currently contracts to provide economic development services in Kent, Oceana, Newaygo, Ionia, Montcalm and Lake counties.

“We’ve been a regional economic development organization for the better part of 35 years,” Thelen told MiBiz. “Over the last 10 years or so, we’ve had a series of contracts with surrounding counties to provide services to support their growth.”

Adding Mason and Mecosta counties to the portfolio allows The Right Place to “continue what we’ve done, refine it and make it better,” Thelen said. 

As well, Ionia, Montcalm and Oceana counties will move to have full-time economic development directors while still partnering with The Right Place, Thelen noted.

“We had a lot of half-time, part-time staffing support for our surrounding counties. The fact of the matter is there’s more opportunity and potential there going unmatched. Reworking the partnership model to allow a full-time effort will allow a higher level of service and outcomes,” Thelen said.

Brandy Miller, president and CEO of the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce, which does the economic development work of Mason County, said her organization is “thrilled” to be working under the new partnership.

“The backing and firepower of The Right Place coupled with our local leadership, insight and passion for the community, is a very exciting reboot to our economic development efforts in Mason County. We can't wait to get started,” Miller said in a statement.

Adding Mason and Mecosta counties brings a similar but new set of economic development dynamics. Mason County includes a strong tourism base along the lakeshore and in Ludington, job training at West Shore Community College, and a “manufacturing base that would surprise many,” Thelen said.

“They have a lot of assets we can build upon and support and connect to the broader region,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mecosta County is the home of Ferris State University in Big Rapids, which can serve as a major asset for employers.

“Our employers here in the region can leverage both (counties). There’s a lot of connectivity, employees travel to and from these locations, and training occurs pretty consistently,” Thelen said.

Thelen described The Right Place’s approach with neighboring counties as an “80/20 strategy,” in which most of the economic development and business attraction activity is consistent across the region “around people, place and prosperity.”

“It’s the last 20 percent that every county has to put its own unique twist to this,” he said. 

While Mason County may be more centered around tourism, Oceana County to the south has a strong food and food processing focus. Ionia County may act as a bridge between Lansing and Grand Rapids, while Montcalm County has community college, training infrastructure and a “pretty strong manufacturing submarket,” Thelen said.

“Every county has that last 20 percent to make their own assets unique,” he said.

The new partnerships will be rolled out on Jan. 1, a year after Thelen took the helm at The Right Place. Thelen was the CEO of Lakeshore Advantage Corp. before taking an economic development role in Omaha, Neb. He then served as senior vice president of economic development at the Downtown Denver Partnership. 

The Right Place’s new approach mirrors best practices in the economic development industry, he said.

“This is the model around the country, frankly. The regional partnership model is what you see happening in the best of the best regions in the country,” Thelen said. “We certainly have been delivering this over the last 10 years or so. This takes it to another level, expands our reach and coverage area, and continues to build.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement from the Ludington & Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Read 1750 times Last modified on Monday, 22 November 2021 10:16