GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of economic development experts led by Gov. Rick Snyder will leave Wednesday for a trade mission to China. Accompanying him will be Birgit Klohs from The Right Place.
On his trip, Gov. Snyder will tout tourism, agriculture and, perhaps most importantly, Chinese manufacturing locations in Michigan. He, along with state and local economic developers, will try to expand on an already burgeoning relationship with one of the world’s largest trading partners.
“My going has to do with a project we just located in Greenville,” said Klohs, the president and CEO of West Michigan economic development agency The Right Place. “To finalize that project.”
A Chinese wheel manufacturer is taking over the Greenville property that used to belong to United Solar Ovonics, a once-promising but now bust alternative energy business.
Klohs, a veteran of such recruitment trips, said the commitment to attract new businesses must be solid.
“You cannot go just once. Either you have a long-term commitment to foreign direct investment or don’t go,” she said. “The most important thing that we have to remember is to be consistent and to go back consistently and make and to build those relationships, because they pay off in really strange ways over a long period of time. You have to bring patience.”
You also have to bring a plan, she said. Competition from other countries and states to attract trade a jobs is fierce.
Klohs thinks West Michigan is attractive to foreign investors because it has a good culture and is open to people from other countries who relocate.
But she was also frank about an issue pending in Lansing: Funding to improve Michigan’s infamously poor roads. When trying to attract business, even from overseas, it appears Michigan’s roads are a concern.
“We have in the past when we’ve had a client in — doesn’t matter if the client is an American client, a local client or a foreign client — have pre-driven the roads to look for roads with the least potholes. Honest-to-God truth.”
Funding for roads is expected to be a main topic of discussion at the capitol when the lame duck legislature is called back into session in two weeks.