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Southwest Michigan First forms alliance with Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce


KALAMAZOO (WKZO) – Effective almost immediately, the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce will now collaborate with Southwest Michigan First on all its future engagements.

Read below the announcement released Friday morning by Southwest Michigan First:

Southwest Michigan First and the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce announce a strategic alliance designed to take advantage of regional dynamics and improve the overall competitive position of the region.

The organizations have aligned missions and services to better meet the needs of small business and advocate public policy to improve the region’s overall competitive position in the state and nation. The individual identities of the organizations will be retained, but now represent one cohesive brand for the region.

“Strategically, we will reduce duplication of programs and services, take advantage of regional dynamics and provide maximum value to our members. This partnership provides us with an advanced platform to grow business around the region,” said Jeffrey Hawkins, president of Envirologic and Chamber Board Chair.

“This issue is about impact,” added William U. Parfet, chairman and chief executive officer of MPI Research and Southwest Michigan First Chairman. “We maximize impact when we collaborate, create alignment on economic development issues and create a robust region.”

In the interest of leveraging the strengths of these two organizations, Southwest Michigan First and the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce will collaborate on educational programs and services focused on improving efficiencies and building strong small business. The new effort will be led by Tim Terrentine who will serve as president of the Chamber as well as continue as a vice president with Southwest Michigan First.

“Together, we are committed to making the region a place where families choose to make their home and a place where our children choose to stay when they are ready to go out on their own. Jobs are one of the chief determining factors in that choice. Tim Terrentine is an engaged leader who has spent his life committed to the community. It is a tremendous honor for me to serve alongside him as we continue to grow small business and ensure we are a region of choice for families,” said Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer of the Southwest Michigan First Group of Companies.

“Under the leadership of its executive team, Southwest Michigan First has gained a national reputation for organizational capacity, influence and experience to understand the needs of small business which is our sweet spot,” said Blaine Lam, interim president of the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Southwest Michigan First has established a proven track record for providing services through similar agreements. Recently named the overall national winner in the small business category of Best & Brightest Companies to Work For, the group has successfully executed on service agreements with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Kalamazoo County and St. Joseph County Economic Development Corporation. Recently, it signed a three-year agreement with the City of Kalamazoo to handle business retention, expansion, attraction and innovation/entrepreneurial services as well as small business coaching for the city. In addition, the organization operates the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, Michigan Medical Device Accelerator and Southwest Michigan First Life Science Fund under its group of companies.

“In all business sectors, private and public, collaborations are now necessary for strengthening an organization’s ability to operate competitively in today’s global economy. As we work through this change, I envision a stronger chamber strategically positioned to grow small business in our region and serving as a model for communities around the nation,” continued Kitchens.

About the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce
The Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to help members grow and prosper through leadership, programs and services focused on competitiveness, community improvement and regional cooperation. Founded in 1903, the organization represents more than 800 members that employ nearly 70,000 people. Learn more at www.kazoochamber.com.

About Southwest Michigan First
Southwest Michigan First is an organization of privately funded economic development advisors who act as the catalyst for economic growth in Southwest Michigan. Founded in 1999 on the principle that the most powerful force for change is a job. For more information about Southwest Michigan First, please visit us at www.southwestmichiganfirst.com, or call 269.553.9588.