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9/21/2016 // HOLLAND, MICH – Business leaders are invited to spend next Friday morning connecting with some of over 30 support organizations ready to help move their companies and ideas forward. The Lakeshore Business Resource Connect is a free event hosted by Lakeshore Advantage, the area’s economic development organization, and sponsored by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“I challenge all area businesses, no matter their size, if they’re looking to grow, or are facing an obstacle, to attend the event and leave with the goal of making at least one connection to help them overcome whatever hurdle they’re facing,” said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. 

Lakeshore Advantage is organizing this event to offer all area companies the opportunity to learn about and meet first-hand with more than 30 local and state organizations ready to help them grow. Designed with West Michigan’s small to medium-sized businesses and manufacturers in mind, this event brings service organizations all together in one place, exposing the depth of resources and opportunities available to help area businesses thrive.

Lakeshore Business Resource Connect is Friday, September 30th, from 7:30am-10am at the Pinnacle Center, 3330 Highland Drive, Hudsonville, Michigan. The event will start with an overview of the different service organizations. Business will have an opportunity to briefly meet one-on-one with the service organizations that can help them most, immediately following.

Business leaders are encouraged to register for this free event by September 22nd to have early bird preference for one-on-one meetings. A full list of service organizations attending is available at the event registration link. Most service organizations that will be present fit into these categories:
·       Access to Capital
·       Business to Business Support
·       Entrepreneurial Support
·       Manufacturing Support
·       Talent Solutions
·       New Business Development

Those who plan to attend are encouraged to register before September 22nd at


Skilled Trades Training Fund Changes in 2017

West Michigan Works! held Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) employer sessions this August, and noted below are a few details about the changes for STTF fiscal year 2017 program to secure funds to train workers. 

  • Applications are available on Sept 12th and can start being received on the 13th. 
  • Scoring is weighted (and on the application materials) and all applications will be reviewed by the State starting Oct 15th.  It is possible that the review process will take up to Thanksgiving for companies to know if they have been approved.  November is the target month for awards. 
  • Points are given if a company has never received STTF funds.  No points are given for those who have received funds from this program in the past. 
  • Applications need to be turned in to Michigan Works by Oct 10th to be reviewed and submitted to the State.
  • Max funds allowed are $1,500 per employee for classroom and OJT (wages)
  • Max funds allowed for a DOL registered apprenticeship is $3,000
  • Funds can be matched with federal dollars.


8/26/2016 // HOLLAND, MICH –For the first time ever, the Michigan Economic Developers Association (MEDA) will hold its annual meeting in Holland, MI, August 15-17, 2017. The announcement was made at the annual statewide gathering of economic development professionals this week in Detroit via a video and presentation given by Jennifer Owens, president of the area’s non-profit economic development organization, Lakeshore Advantage. 

“I’m thrilled to be hosting my economic development colleagues here next year, so they can experience first-hand what makes ours such a great place to work, live, learn and play,” said Jennifer Owens, who will also be the annual meeting committee chairperson. “This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how we work together to achieve economic success, particularly as the fastest growing county in Michigan.”

In the past, Holland was not considered for the annual meeting because of its limited centralized hotel room capacity to host such an event. The recent growth of the downtown Holland hotel room inventory allows for the entire MEDA group to be accommodated together for the annual meeting.

“Holland will be celebrating another first when the MEDA economic development leaders come to town and enjoy all our area has to offer,” said City of Holland Mayor Nancy DeBoer, who has agreed to be on the planning committee for the event. “I trust they will be among the first of many organizations of this size who will choose to host annual meetings, conferences and learning events in our great city because of our amenities and expanded, centralized hotel room capacity.”

MEDA's biggest education and networking event of the year is its annual meeting. This three-day conference includes educational sessions covering the most important economic development topics and issues of the time as well as several networking opportunities for the more than 200 annual attendees.

“When we choose our annual MEDA meeting host city, we look for an area where forward-thinking economic development practices are working,” said John Avery, executive director of MEDA. “I’m expecting record membership attendance next year in Holland, because of the beautiful location and the numerous examples of how partners in a region work together to create a viable, sustainable, wonderful community where businesses and residents want to be.”


8/24/2016 // HOLLAND, MICH –Koops, Inc., a systems integrator offering custom factory automation solutions, announced today they will invest nearly $4.9 million in building construction, machinery and equipment in Holland, and create 60 new jobs. Koops, Inc. is an employee-owned company headquarted in Holland, MI.

“Michigan is a great place to live and work. Koops is excited about continuing our growth in Holland with the addition of a new facility,” said Paul Brinks, CEO of Koops, Inc. “This project would not be possible without our strong partnerships in West Michigan.”

Lakeshore Advantage played a key role in supporting Koops, Inc. by connecting the company with resources and tools to support their Holland expansion. This partnership was influential in assisting Koops, Inc. with the decision to expand in Holland over a location in another state.

"Over the years, Koops has grown to be a leader in automation solutions,” said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “Koops provides manufacturers throughout the world with necessary tools to allow for efficiency and growth.”

Founded in 1989, Koops, Inc. designs and builds innovative specialty machines and equipment for industries including automotive, transportation, aerospace, construction, medical, furniture and pharmaceutical. Koops, Inc. has experienced substantial growth, reaching capacity at its current location.

The City of Holland has offered support to the project in the form of a 12-year P.A. 198 property tax abatement to support the company’s growth locally.

“We are celebrating with Koops!  Their expansion represents not only their own success, but also the demand in our area for innovative production engineering,” said City of Holland Mayor Nancy DeBoer. “Their expertise in technology, people and process will help manufacturing throughout our region continue to be cutting-edge.”

Koops was awarded a $360,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help offset construction costs and strengthen Koops’ footprint in West Michigan. The company plans to construct an approximately 40,000 square foot facility in Holland adjacent to their current operations on land the company currently owns.

“Koops’ expansion in Michigan rather than other locations means well-paying jobs for Michigan residents and underscores the strength of the state’s manufacturing talent,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which administers incentives and programs on behalf of the Michigan Strategic Fund. “This decision by Koops to invest here offers further evidence of Michigan’s manufacturing leadership and our commitment to helping companies grow and generate new jobs for our residents.”

Koops, Inc. is also receiving a grant from West Michigan Works! for $90,500 to assist with employee recruiting, hiring and training.

"West Michigan Works! is focused on providing our region's employers with a skilled and qualified workforce so that they can meet the demands of a growing economy,” said Jacob Maas, CEO of West Michigan Works!. “We're pleased to support the Koops expansion and continue to provide resources for business growth on the lakeshore."

To learn more about robotic technology, factory automation or employment opportunities at Koops, Inc., visit


8/19/2016 // OTTAWA COUNTY, MICH – At a time when Ottawa County is experiencing the lowest unemployment levels in the state, employee recruiters and human resource professionals have a new tool to assist in attracting workers to West Michigan. The Michigan Smart Coast website at serves to connect early-stage professionals to career and lifestyle opportunities, with cost of living information, community descriptions, products made in the region, links to temporary housing and content and design targeted toward attracting young professionals to the area.

“Regional partners and human resource professionals identified the need for a community platform to communicate with potential out-of-area employees about living in our region, especially for those early in their careers,” said Jennifer Owens, president, Lakeshore Advantage. “This website tells our story that West Michigan is the place to start and further your career while experiencing life fulfillment and connectedness through personal and professional opportunities.”

The Michigan Smart Coast brand is managed by Lakeshore Advantage as an economic development tool to support primary employers in the area. Lakeshore Advantage surveys area businesses each year to identify needs specific to helping them grow here. Talent attraction and retention are top priorities for primary employers in the area, especially now as Ottawa County is the fastest growing county in Michigan, and has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at three percent (May 2016). The Michigan Smart Coast website serves to help fill the talent attraction gap for employers, giving them a tool to share with new recruits so they can get a taste of what life is like along Michigan’s Smart Coast.

The website features duality messaging, such as “Beachtowns. Downtowns,” and “Find Home. Find Purpose,” to show a sense of place and connectedness that research indicated was important to the early-stage professional demographic. The site includes links to temporary housing and apartments, volunteer opportunities, descriptions of West Michigan communities, events, career opportunities, videos and products made in West Michigan.

Research that shaped the website design and content was conducted through five separate focus groups with the targeted demographic, chamber partners and employers. Key research findings that drove features on the website included the desire for new recruits to feel connected to the region, with a place to find recreation, group events and volunteer opportunities. Other options, such as how to find temporary housing, and curiosity about other businesses, including depth of industry in the region to support career growth once the individual moved here, were also important to early-stage professionals. 

In addition to attracting early-stage professionals through the website, the Michigan Smart Coast brand aims to attract and retain college interns and affinity groups with high professional concentrations in our area, such as designers and engineers, through social media and events. A Michigan Smart Coast hands-on experience was attended by nearly 60 practicing engineers at Yanfeng Human Factors Research Lab yesterday, giving engineers a first-hand look into the consumer research that influences product design being done in our region. Michigan Smart Coast and community events are featured in the events section of the website.

About Michigan Smart Coast
Michigan Smart Coast is a brand representing West Michigan with the goal of retaining and attracting talent to the region. West Michigan communities and employers are welcome to and encouraged to adopt the Michigan Smart Coast brand as it suits their employee recruiting efforts. Lakeshore Advantage founded the brand to support area human resource professionals in their efforts to secure talent so that their companies can grow. More at

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