Holland Michigan: Beyond the MEDA Annual Meeting

holland tulips In January when the committee began planning for the MEDA Annual Meeting, our common goal was to ensure a meeting platform that fostered connection and relationship building. It was my pleasure to chair a committee with so many engaged and hard-working members who understand that successful economic development professionals seek peer connections and industry leaders to learn valuable information on how to build a strong organization and community. This conference will allow you to Connect with other economic development leaders from throughout the state.

Our community is excited to host this conference in Holland; a city known for its tulips, state and county parks, and voted the #1 small city to start a business by Wallethub.com two years in a row. As the conference finishes around noon on Friday, I would invite you to extend your stay through weekend. Go from economic development professional to tourist in one of the best beach towns in the country. Stay through the weekend and bring your family to enjoy:

  • Vibrant arts and culture scene

Musicians, caricature artists, face painters, jugglers, magicians and even aerial acrobats are all a part of the street performer series each Thursday night, right downtown. At the edge of the town is the vast Windmill Island Gardens where you can tour a replica of the 14th century Wayside Inn and see the antique Dutch carousel which features hand-carved and painted wooden horses. You can find all about downtown Holland here. The farmers market at the end of 8th Street is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and reflects the agricultural abundance in our region and ethnic diversity of our residents.

  • Microbreweries and distilleries

New HollandCoppercraftBig LakeMacatawa Ale. Our alluring breweries expertly cater to distinguishing palates and some serve options only found in West Michigan.

  • Parks and beaches

Paddleboarding. Sand castle building. Sunset viewing. Sun bathing. Lake Michigan beckons with each wave and calms the soul. Sneak away to one of our state or county parks to refresh your soul and spend time with those you love. The new playground at Holland State Park was funded by the MEDC’s Patroncity program. You can find the complete list of county parks to visit here.

The MEDA annual meeting will be content- and connection-rich. Once you are done learning, go ahead relax and explore. For more information about the Holland region, click here.

Authored by MEDA’s 2017 Annual Meeting Committee Chair: Jennifer Owens, President, Lakeshore Advantage

Educational Attainment Delivers Economic Returns

ImageIt has become known that education is the most important engine of economic growth and individual financial gain. There is little doubt that our success in growing a stronger economy and lifting incomes will depend on getting better results in education, from cradle to career.

Helping to address the regional goal of 60% educational attainment by 2025, I have the privilege of working with leaders at all levels in the education, nonprofit, community, civic, and philanthropic sectors to tackle some of the most pressing challenges and take advantage of some of our biggest opportunities. There are a variety of programs that track outcome indicators across the cradle to career spectrum with the ultimate goal of higher educational attainment at all levels.

Because this is such an important element in the future of our region, together we have evaluated the latest educational attainment data for our region, looking at both local progress and how we compare to other peer areas. Specifically, there is a clear positive relationship with median earnings and an inverse relationship with the unemployment rate at a national level.

Educational Attainment in the Urban Core

With the release of the American Community Survey (ACS) 2005-2009 5-Year estimates, Educational Attainment data are available for smaller geographies for the first time outside of the decennial censuses. The data are based on a rolling annual sample survey mailed to about 3 million addresses between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2009. By pooling several years of survey responses, the ACS can generate detailed statistical portraits of smaller geographies. The Census Bureau will release a new set of 5-year estimates every year, giving communities a powerful tool to track local trends over time. In the urban core, the low hanging fruit is educational attainment for the 25-35 age group that has some college and the City of Grand Rapids knows that supporting the completion of a certificate program or a college degree in this age bracket will produce quick and meaningful results.

Educational Attainment in the Region

Educational Attainment is a key indicator for our region as a whole. Educational Attainment data from can be found for the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), as well as by county, in the new census data portal. Data are provided on Percent of the Population 25 and Older with an Associate’s Degree or Higher, along with other indicators.

There is, of course, data to show multiple levels of attainment. MSA and peer region data related to the Percent of the Population 25 and Older with Bachelor’s Degree or Higher is something economic developers should evaluate and consider when determining what work still needs to be done.  

The data can also be broken out by other levels of attainment and by age. It is important to look at all the data and help ensure that our region is moving up at all levels. The data can also be broken out by age and this is where we see some positive movement for your region.

I challenge you to compare your city, county, village, township, region to others in the state and peers outside the state to determine how competitive you are now and what work is needed to make you more competitive in the future. The future of our state is our talent and if we don’t have a talented workforce we can’t attract the economic activity.

Authored by: Kara Wood, Economic Development Director, City of Grand Rapids. Kara serves as Treasurer on MEDA’s Board of Directors.