Setting the Stage for Economic Vitality in 2020 and Beyond

Despite being in separate buildings 1.3-miles apart on opposite sides of the St. Joseph River, the unity and solidarity of purpose between Cornerstone Alliance and the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce are more closely aligned today than at any time in the past five years, and the players on each team are responsible for that renewed collaboration.

In separate comments this morning before their combined 2020 Business Recognition Breakfast at Lake Michigan College, Cornerstone CEO Rob Cleveland and SWM Regional Chamber CEO Arthur Havlicek reflected on the accomplishments and award winners of their organizations, but also set the tone for the year ahead in the community, and a will to win.

Cleveland opened with the news that the first tee shot of the 2020 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship is just 98 days away, but reminded business owners that tickets, hospitality suites and sponsorships are still available.

He recalled his comments of a few short years ago when he told of his time working for professional basketball in America and cited the regimented system that only recognized three kinds of days, “Off Days…Practice Days…and Game Days,” and added, “No matter the day, the goal was always the same and it was simple. It was to win. It was to be better than your opponent each day, whether playing a game, in practice or in the video room.”

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Cleveland says, “The mark of any great team is its killer instinct. It’s commitment to winning. In my experience, ‘winning’ knows no color, no race, it knows no gender, and winning knows no geographic boundaries. Winning knows nothing about those invisible little lines that separate one local community from another. Because of many of you in the room today, our community had many significant wins in 2019.”

He went on, “The impact of some of these projects cannot be understated, like Vail Rubber, which has operated in this community for 100 years. The Hanson Group, United Federal Credit Union, all of these companies had the opportunity to locate anywhere else in the world, and don’t think for a second that other states and communities have not reached out to leaders of these companies and asked them to move to another state. Convincing Vail Rubber to build its next generation facility here was a win not only for Royalton Township, but also for Pearson Construction, all the subcontractors, and Chemical Bank, and all the employees that work there today, and will in the future. These projects create wins for so many in our community.”

Cleveland reminded the nearly 500 people in attendance, “Everything Cornerstone Alliance does is about winning and the bottom line is, our community needs to win more. We want to win more than our fair share of projects. If we want to win more than our fair share, and we certainly deserve it, then we have to be willing to do more than other communities are doing to win projects. Be more creative, more welcoming, and easier to work with.”

Quoting Steven Covey who argued that a key to success is ‘to keep the main thing the main thing,’ Cleveland added, “At Cornerstone Alliance or main thing is to win. Winning has been our main thing for years and it will continue to be our main thing for many more. But it’s so difficult, even in perfect conditions. And it’s why we need a strong Chamber of Commerce, a strong workforce development agency in Kinexus, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, as well as groups like St. Joe Today and others. It’s why we trust and rely on each other when necessary. Because it is difficult to win. If you have an idea or a way that we can do better, please see me, call me, text me. Let me know how we can do better…better for business, better for the community and better for you.”

He welcomed Arthur Havlicek into his new role as President & CEO of the Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber and pledged to continue to work together for the betterment of the entire region.

Havlicek took the podium and told of his career spent working behind the scenes with elected officials, business leaders, and community organizations to affect positive change around the state. He welcomes his new role in a different capacity at the helm of the chamber. He applauded the incredible work of his colleague Sarah Spoonholtz for her passion for the business community and her dedication to creating valuable and meaningful experiences for all chamber members.

He added thanks to those chamber members for their support, adding, “I want to ensure that each and every one of you gets the customized value you deserve out of your membership.”

To do that he outlined five goals for 2020 and beyond at the SWM Regional Chamber:

  • To continue to grow our new regional brand through community outreach and marketing…
  • To improve the quality & delivery of our existing programs and member benefits…
  • To launch new offerings designed to attract talent and advance business in a 21st Century economy…
  • To increase our advocacy efforts, both locally and at the state Capitol…
  • To better connect our communities by increasing collaboration among community stakeholders…

Noting that the last goal embodies the concept of regionalism, he cited the concept as the driving force behind the organization’s formal name change last year, adding, “I applaud the vision of my predecessor and the Board of Directors in taking this step because it has put us in a better position to help our area win the war for new business and talent.” He adds, “They recognized that our new economy calls for a regional approach to build connected, empowered, healthy, and diverse communities that…when viewed in sum…put Southwest Michigan on the map as a beautiful place to visit and an even better place to live.”

Havlicek concluded, “Rob was exactly right…we are always stronger together — and I’m committed to working with every single person in this room to ensure that Southwest Michigan remains a better place to live, work, and raise a family for generations to come.”