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December 5, 2012

First year with Southwest Michigan First yields “very successful partnership” for St. Joseph County EDC

St. Joseph County Courthouse - clock

“Overall, I’ve got to tell you that I’m really pleased with the partnership.”

These were the words Ken Jones, president of the St. Joseph County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) board, used to sum up the working relationship with Kalamazoo-based Southwest Michigan First in 2012.

The comments came as Jones presented the EDC’s annual report for the period from February 2012 to November 2012 during Tuesday’s (December 4) meeting of the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners.

Ken Jones, president of the St. Joseph County Economic Development Corporation board, addresses the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners during Tuesday’s meeting. Behind him (left to right) are Cathy Knapp, Von Washington, Jr. and Jill Bland of Southwest Michigan First. (Click on photo to enlarge)

Jones introduced the three-person team that is working to foster Southwest Michigan First’s efforts in St. Joseph County – Von Washington, Jr. in Three Rivers, Cathy Knapp in Sturgis and Jill Bland who is based in Kalamazoo.

Jones said, “This is kind of ending our first year with our engagement with Southwest Michigan First as our Economic Development Corporation consultant and we would happily report to the County Commissioners that this has been a very successful partnership in this first year – and keep in mind that we’re still building the foundation for further work and we really continue to have a high level of excitement and a lot of activity and things are really ramping up for 2013 to be just a wonderful year.”  (Ken Jones audio clip – :30)

Jones said that “One of the things that impressed me about the report is the amount of activity that Southwest Michigan First and representatives of our EDC have undertaken in selling our message clear across the country.  There have been a lot of out-of-the-area visits to the east coast, Georgia – just really out there making significant and important contacts with site selectors that are going to bring new business to our corner of the world and having the representation and the team that Southwest Michigan First has brought to St. Joseph County is really helping us to accomplish good things.”

Jones highlighted information in the report showing “458 jobs so far in our partnership in 2012 and over $85 million in new investment in the county and that’s a very good report card for our partnership.”

Looking ahead, Jones said the report projects “a very optimistic outlook for 2013” with around 650 new jobs in the pipeline in St. Joseph County.  And he said, “We expect to see somewhere in the neighborhood of around $236 million in new investment and that’s pretty impressive.”

Jones praised the current EDC board and said, “We’re slowly changing the representation on the board.  We seem to see a lot more interest in private business and we’re hoping that, over the next year, we’re going to see new faces on the board that are representing our local employers.”

Jones said, “We want to thank the commissioners for your trust in us and we’re looking forward to a great year.”

In commenting on the report, County Commission Chairman Rick Shaffer said, “We appreciate the commitment of having a local board that’s been very engaged in the process.”  He noted that the commission went on record a couple of years ago to indicate its desire to “move the county forward economic development-wise,” a direction that eventually led to the arrangement with Southwest Michigan First.  And he said, “We look forward to a continuing, good working relationship.”

To view an excerpt from the EDC Annual Report, a section reporting on jobs and investment, click here.

To hear the Ken Jones presentation to county commissioners, click on the following link:  Ken Jones presentation (5:11 – 4.75 MB).


  1. R&R

    So there taking credit for every new job in the county? I think this is a BIG waste of money by the county. This guy has to talk this way to keep there jobs selling this like a manure spreader of lies.

  2. Ernesto Green

    I agree with R & R. This is a total crock of ****. Add up the tax “losses.” Who got who over the barrel? Is this what cabal looks like, pervasively, locally, regionally? Jones almost sounded like he was making **** up, or perhaps was just intimidated by the two guys on Androgel.

  3. Reconstituted? Perhaps more like Freshly Squeezed

    Manure Spreader is right. How do I as a taxpayer take anything the EDC seriously when the president of our EDC bases his business where again? If you think I am kidding about one of the fundamental flaws in our EDC, cut and paste this link from WNDU south bend to your web browser


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