Terry Vandercook: Talent, business and community equal regional prosperity | Business


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As our region, state and nation continue to navigate through a difficult and uncertain economic landscape, there is one concept of prosperity that remains steadfast and reliable.

This particular concept can be illustrated using one of the most simple and recognizable geometric shapes, the circle. We can all agree that a circle is, in a sense, never ending. Anything placed on the circle and set in motion could be expected to stay in relationship and revolve around the shape while interacting with any other objects that may have also been placed on the circle.

The prosperity of our region, and the economic development tools that support prosperity, can very easily be likened to this movement around a circle. First, let’s establish three key components that are associated with a region’s prosperity. Those three components are talent, business and community.

It’s difficult to engage in a conversation about prosperity and economic development and not address talent. From both a quantity and skill set perspective, we are in the grips of a significant talent shortage. Much has been done, and much more needs to be done, to fill these talent gaps. From a business perspective, few would argue that employers, big and small, are at the heartbeat of a region’s economic prosperity.

Across all industries and sectors, the health of our businesses and prosperity of our region go hand in hand. Lastly, our communities are where it all comes together. Communities are the balance point of what many look to as the optimum collaboration of providing work, live and play opportunities to residents.

If we imagine the circle as the overall prosperity of our region, then we can safely place the key components around the circle. One clear advantage of this concept, it does not matter where you place each individual component around the circle. Nor does it matter if you are inclined to read the circle clockwise or counterclockwise. The result is the same.

When combined together, and establishing that a full circle can be defined by reaching a desired level of economic prosperity and quality of life, it is clear to see that talent needs business, business needs community and community needs talent. Likewise, talent needs community, community needs business and business needs talent.

The apprenticeship services offered by Northwest Michigan Works! can provide us with an example of how talent, business and community come together on the circle. As a U.S. Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeship intermediary, Northwest Michigan Works! serves both job seekers and businesses as they explore, develop and initiate registered apprenticeship programs. In this example, the apprenticeship team at Northwest Michigan Works! directly influences two components on the circle, those components being talent and business.

However, to reach the full potential of the apprenticeship program, and ultimately drive economic prosperity in the region, the component of community must be introduced. By collaborating with community stakeholders, the apprenticeship team can build a better understanding of the resources that are available to support both the apprentice (talent) and the employer (business). Likewise, community partners will gain an increased understanding of the live, work and play needs and desires of the apprentice and the employer.

Common issues such as housing, childcare and transportation can now be addressed collectively. Simply put, the apprentice, the business, and the community have a better opportunity to reach the full potential of the partnership as they collaboratively work their way around the circle.

Northwest Lower Michigan is home to a diverse landscape of talent, business and community partners.

Individually, each component on our economic development circle has the ability to positively impact their immediate spear of influence. However, by working together they create an opportunity to have a much larger, and much more significant, impact on our region. As citizens, business owners and economic developers, awareness of the connectivity between talent, business and community is one of the first steps in moving projects and initiatives forward.

This awareness should be the catalyst that drives us to continually seek innovative solutions while embracing the strength of talent needing business, business needing community and community needing talent.

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