Strengthening Michigan . . . it is a collective effort!

Last week I was invited along with several foundation leaders from around the state to meet with Gov. Rick Snyder who was recently elected to lead Michigan. It was a good meeting and a positive step helping the governor became more familiar with the priorities and ideas from the philanthropic leaders in our state and to provide an opportunity for him to outline some of his goals.

I am a member of the Advisory Committee of the Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL), which is an important entity established to coordinate and connect philanthropy with the Governor's Office and other state departments. It was created by Dave Egner and Dave Campbell, Detroit area foundation leaders, when former Gov. Granholm came into office. I am pleased to see that the OFL will continue its work in this new administration. Rob Collier, president of the Council of Michigan Foundations along with the OFL, arranged this meeting.

The Governor and all the people of the state of Michigan will continue to have a rough ride as we climb out of a recession that has lasted a little more than a decade in our great state. It definitely is going to take all of us to address the economic obstacles and difficult conditions in this state. As noted often by the Center for Michigan and Lou Glazer's Michigan Futures organization, there are many factors that need to be addressed to turn our state around. Using the information from these two organizations may help guide the discussion leading to a vibrant and strong future for all in Michigan.

But statistics, hard facts and compelling arguments aside, one thing that I can only describe as the "je ne sais quoi" of it all is the need for all of us in this state to come together and to avoid funneling a majority of our precious resources in one area or region as the only answer to all the woes facing us. Innovation and entrepreneurial behavior are not exclusive to one area of Michigan and certainly do exist in West Michigan. Gov. Snyder recognized the role of The Right Place, Inc. in his State of the State Address last night (January 19, 2011) thus linking their strengths to other areas of the state. Congratulations to Birgit Klohs by the way on this recognition of the strength of this area's economic development organization. Recognizing and growing robust business clusters throughout the state is going to be critical as well.

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation has a solid history in supporting community development at the neighborhood and city levels as well as helping support efforts to strengthen small businesses, financing micro-loan programs, funding programs to help people avoid foreclosures and add more affordable housing to many areas of our region. We are also investing in more macro level economic development efforts such as the Innovation West Michigan which is an initiative of The Right Place, Inc.

We are playing and will continue to play a key role in strengthening the state of Michigan. It is about job creation, creating a welcoming environment for all and overcoming obstacles making this state great once again!