Southwest Michigan First (SMF) is a Kalamazoo based organization established specifically to stimulate economic growth in Kalamazoo and across the Southwest Michigan. SMF became the trendsetter for science innovation during the Pfizer exodus from the greater Kalamazoo area. The creation of Southwest Innovations Center and Business Technology and Research Park (collaboration between City of Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University) provided the ‘kind of support and resources that are vital for the growth of entrepreneurial, forward-thinking technology and life sciences firms; a major resource for young companies.’ Kalamazoo is now considered the “Silicone Valley” of life science and bioscience technology. The State of Michigan has modeled its economic future prospectus from the SMF concept.
The State of Michigan is embarking on a program that will encourage cutting-edge technological entrepreneurship throughout the State. The 21st Century Jobs Fund will help diversify and grow Michigan’s high-tech economy by investing in basic research at local universities and non-profit research institutions. The Fund invests in companies that show tremendous promise and growth in four specific industries – alternative energy, life sciences, homeland security and advanced manufacturing. One local firm, ProNAi Therapeutics Inc., and a group of WMU researchers were the recipients of the funds. More than $101 million is expected to be granted to companies throughout the State, which is projected to generate approximately 3,200 jobs.
Economic Development Job Training grants are used throughout lower West Michigan to secure the jobs of more than 1,200 workers through cutting edge training in advanced automotive and manufacturing applications. Not only will these funds keep employees competitive, but it will enhance the productivity of the companies.