GRAND RAPIDS, MICH — Regional economic development organization, The Right Place, Inc., has launched a 10-year tech strategy to grow the Greater Grand Rapids region into a major tech hub of the Midwest.
This vision calls for the tech sector to grow to 10% of regional employment and 20,000 jobs over the next decade.
“Tech hubs have become the modern engines for economic growth, spurring advancement and prosperity within their communities,” said Randy Thelen, President and CEO of The Right Place, Inc. “Our regional businesses are driven by technology, and we believe it is our next big opportunity. This collaborative plan offers a detailed roadmap to achieve our community’s bold vision and make it a reality.”
The newly launched strategy is the product of more than six months of intensive research and strategic planning with hundreds of business, community, education, and other leaders across the region. The initiative was led by Technology Taskforce co-chairs Steve Downing, CEO of Gentex, and Dr. Richard J. Pappas, President of Davenport University, both of whom bring a blend of industry and academic expertise.
“Businesses across our region have significantly ramped up the pace of digitalization throughout the past few years,” Downing said. “As business leaders create and integrate cutting edge digital technologies into their products and manufacturing processes, the collaborative initiatives in the Tech Strategy will pave the way to strengthening our tech community and economy at large.”
“Creating a robust and highly-skilled talent pipeline is critical to the economic growth of our region,” Pappas said. “We’re committed to providing students with the skills necessary to stay ahead of the curve and pursue meaningful and impactful tech careers in our region.”
The strategy and corresponding recommendations have been segmented into three categories: Talent, Ecosystem and Growth.
- Talent — Increasing the tech talent pipeline is fundamental to the successful execution of the overall strategy. The region must attract, reskill and educate 20,000 people in the next 10 years to meet the rising demand for talent. Detailed tactics to achieve these goals are available in the report.
- Ecosystem — Innovation requires a cohesive ecosystem in which entrepreneurs, startups, and corporations are empowered to commercialize their projects and scale their companies. Creating a robust ecosystem will involve several key objectives: Launching tech events, growing incubators and accelerators, supporting entrepreneurs, increasing density and expanding broadband. Tactics are detailed in the report.
- Growth — The Grand Rapids regional business community can lead future technological innovation and cultivate a larger digital transformation in the community via the connection of businesses and tech, attracting and growing existing tech companies, and marketing the region as a tech hub. Tactics to achieve these objectives are detailed in the report.
Early momentum and Grand Rapids Tech Week
Although the plan is only just being released externally, community members have been working behind the scenes to begin the development and implementation of initiatives included in the strategy. These include scouting trips to other tech hubs, marketing the region nationally and internationally, and the launch of Grand Rapids Tech Week Sept. 21-24.
The first annual Tech Week will be a multiday event series designed to showcase the region’s tech community. Events will be hosted in locations across Grand Rapids by a collaborative of community partners including the City of Grand Rapids SmartZone, Confluence, Midwest House, The Right Place, The Right Place’s Technology Council, Spartan Innovations and Start Garden.
Prior to the launch of the strategy, The Right Place conducted a 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 key findings emerged which indicate the strategic importance of strengthening the region’s tech cluster:
- 72% of respondents plan to increase tech hiring over the next five years.
- Respondents plan to hire a total of 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 tech training and recruitment budget over the next five years.
- Cybersecurity, cloud-based computing and artificial intelligence were the top 3 emerging technologies noted by respondents.