The agency that spearheads economic development in Kalamazoo has made a big hire, luring away a development professional who’s had major success in Las Vegas in recent years. It’s an unusual professional move and probably speaks well of the potential for Kalamazoo’s economic growth. We get the details in this report from WWMT-TV NewsChannel 3 in Kalamazoo (WWMT.com):
Jonas Peterson, the current president of the Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, said he can recreate the job generation success he’s had in the desert southwest in southwest Michigan and it’s a gamble he is willing to make.
Peterson will take the reins at Southwest Michigan First in early January and said Kalamazoo is well positioned for growth.
“We need to position the market, southwest Michigan, to be attractive where that next generation of worker wants to live and where companies want to be located,” Peterson said. “That’s a part of the work that’s a passion area for me.”
While COVID recovery could take a while, Peterson said a more immediate goal is talent retention.
He said the Kalamazoo area needs to recruit more recent college graduates to stay and more companies to take an interest in the area.
“We know that high value companies tell us, no matter what market you’re in, the single most important factor in where they locate their business is the presence of talent today and your ability to have that talent in place five years down the road,” says Peterson.
Peterson also said that exploring new development projects like a downtown Kalamazoo arena or events center, and increasing Southwest Michigan First’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion are top priorities.
The agency’s most recent CEO, former Republican state Rep. Lee Chatfield, resigned within days of accepting the job, after some elected officials and locally based businesses threatened to pull their funding based on Chatfield’s conservative voting record in Lansing.
“I’m committed to the work of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Peterson said. “For me, economic development is about creating opportunities that lift up everybody in the community, in the region. That includes those groups that have been historically under-represented.”
Peterson, who is originally from northern Minnesota, will move to Kalamazoo with his family in December.