Osceola County board considers partnership to assist with economic development | News

REED CITY — The Osceola County Board of Commissioners were presented with an opportunity to expand their economic development during their committee of the whole meeting Tuesday. Senior Director of Community Development for The Right Place, Travis Alden, approached the board to discuss the possibility of partnership.

Right Place is an economic development corporation based in Grand Rapids working within local counties to advance their economy. Alden had prepared a presentation that outlines what Right Place does, which counties they’ve worked with before and what their strategic plan looks like.

According to Alden, the organization’s CEO Randy Thelen started his career in Osceola County and that the area is “near and dear to his heart.” Over the last decade, Alden said Right Start has been leaning in to the regional focus when it comes to serving Western Michigan. That intention was pushed even further when Thelen joined their staff.

“Our mission is to drive sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity for all ages,” Alden said. “And that’s something that, since Randy joined the organization about a little over a year ago, he has definitely walked the walk, not just talked the talk about being a true regional entity.”

In the first few slides of Alden’s presentation, he shares Right Place’s five guiding principles, which are excellence, integrity, collaboration, inclusivity and being forward-thinking. Continuing, he highlights the organization’s focus on people, place and prosperity.

To demonstrate to the board the impact a partnership with Right Place could have on the county, Alden references a few of their successes with nearby counties. While working in Lake County on a part-time basis for 2020, Right Place completed 127 business assists, and brought in over $60,000 in grant awards.

When it came time for questions from the board, Osceola County Board of Commissioners Chairman Mark Gregory offered the first. He asked whether their designated Right Place staff member would be living in the area, if the county were to begin a partnership. The short answer from Alden was, yes, but it would depend on the partnership’s full time or part-time status.

This led to a discussion of cost difference. If the county were to partner full time, Alden estimated that it would cost them about $100,000, but part-time would land somewhere around $35,000, depending on the hours.

Commissioner Timothy Michell also weighed in by asking Alden how closely a Right Place representative would be working with communities across the county. More specifically, in regard to grand and funding opportunities.

“You’re talking about a very specific, I’d say, flow through of dollars. I would say, what you said in terms of not wanting to miss out on opportunities to bring into the county, that’s sort of what our goals are in the counties that we serve, no matter what the situation is,” Alden replied. “Whether it’s a private sector business expansion, or grant opportunities or matching funds like you’re talking about, we want to make sure that those opportunities aren’t missed out.”

After the period of questioning ended, the board accepted a few business cards from Alden, and Michell said he would like to reach out to him for additional information and examples of work being done in other counties.

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