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The Right Place starts effort to grow tech industry – grbj.com


The Right Place assembled a Technology Taskforce to craft a strategy to position Grand Rapids as the leading technology cluster in the Midwest.

The regional economic development agency’s initiative launched Nov. 16 at an assembly of nearly 100 business, academic and community leaders, who were invited to outline the process of designing a plan to position the Grand Rapids area as the leading technology cluster in the Midwest by 2031.

Randy Thelen. Courtesy The Right Place

“By gathering input from a broad array of stakeholders, the taskforce will develop a detailed roadmap to further strengthen our tech cluster into a magnet for innovation and growth,” said Randy Thelen, president and CEO of The Right Place. “We believe this is our region’s next big economic opportunity, and we’re confident that with the expertise and determination we’re assembling, our vision can become a reality.”

The Right Place recruited Steve Downing, CEO of Gentex, and Richard Pappas, president of Davenport University, who bring a blend of industry and academic expertise, to serve as Technology Taskforce co-chairs.

The taskforce will be divided into three committees focused on talent, the innovation ecosystem and business growth. Each committee will have a cross-section of stakeholders who are tasked with making recommendations to The Right Place board of directors for action. 

The goal is for the committee work to conclude next spring with the development and launch of a 10-year strategic plan.

Technology survey

Prior to the formation of the taskforce, The Right Place conducted a fall 2021 survey of local businesses to assess the community’s technology-related needs and potential for future growth. Over 100 businesses of varied size and a variety of industries responded. 

Several findings emerged indicating the strategic importance of strengthening the region’s tech cluster:

  • 72% of respondents plan to increase tech hiring during the next five years.
  • Respondents plan to hire 3,200 tech workers in the next five years.
  • 78% of respondents noted technology as “highly important” to their business strategy.
  • 69% indicated intent to increase their tech training and recruitment budget in the next five years.

Cybersecurity, cloud-based computing and artificial intelligence were the top three emerging technologies noted by respondents.

The taskforce committees

Talent Committee: Their job will be to satisfy the demand for tech talent by accelerating training for current workers, developing a strong pipeline of new tech talent, and attracting the best and brightest tech workers.

Innovation Ecosystem Committee: Their goal will be to develop and maintain an ecosystem that fosters innovation, entrepreneurship and tech sector growth.

Business Growth Committee: This group will seek to cultivate the region’s tech economy across industry clusters by identifying technologies, trends and best practices that enable area companies to obtain and increase competitive advantage, expand market opportunities and grow their business through technology.





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