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What We Can Learn from Strategic Goals: The Right Place Inc. and Neo-Liberal Capitalism in Grand Rapids

February 10, 2020

At the beginning of a new year, it is common for organizations and businesses to set strategic goals for the future, whether that would be the next 6 months, 12 months or 2 years.

You can learn a great deal about any entity, non-profit or business, by looking at their strategic goals. We recently came across the 2020 strategic plan for the Right Place Inc, and thought it would be useful to dissect. The Right Place Inc is one of the primary business-centered entities in the greater Grand Rapids area, along with the GR Chamber of Commerce, even thought they have significantly difference goals.

The Right Place Inc. works with thousands of businesses in West Michigan, offering to connect them to a variety of services, but primarily to assist those businesses with accessing assistance programs. These assistance programs consist of connecting businesses with local and state governments to find ways to reduce investment risk, which is just a fancy way of saying, how to utilize public money and allow businesses to expand their profit margins. One recent example was when the Right Place Inc put together an incentives package for the City of Grand Rapids with the intent of trying to get Amazon to build a major facility in this community. However, most of what was crafted to lure Amazon to Grand Rapids, was not made public, even though roughly a billion dollars in incentives was offered

It’s also important to look at who makes up the Board of Directors at the Right Place Inc. It is a mix of some of the largest companies in the area, with several colleges/university leaders and local government representatives. 

The 2020 Strategic Plan of the Right Place Inc., also provides a window into their short and long-term goals and how this fits into the larger Neo-Liberal Capitalist agenda. You can read the strategic goals here, which is a 5-page document and only 3 pages of content. 

The strategic plan of the Right Place Inc includes:

  • Business Retention, Expansion, and Attraction
  • Economic Inclusion
  • Regionalism
  • Talent Growth and Attraction
  • Strategic Foundations
  • Thought Leadership
  • Business Intelligence

In addition, the Right Place Inc also lists 4 Strategic growth areas: Advanced Manufacturing, Information Technology, Health Sciences and Food Processing & Agribusiness. Health Sciences is included, mostly because several universities have committed to creating career tracks for the growing medical industrial complex in Grand Rapids, as can been seen on the Medical Mile. Food processing & Agribusiness are included, because Grand Rapids now likes to see itself as a major food hub in the state, despite the fact that a great deal of the labor done in the food industry in the area is done by immigrants (documented & undocumented), with poverty wages.

Talent Growth and Attraction is another interesting strategic goal, which is why there are several college/university presidents on the board of the Right Place Inc. So much of local education now caters to the business community’s desire to fill the “talent gap.” This dynamic also includes K-12 education, as is evidenced in a 2017 report by the DeVos-created and funded Believe 2 Become project, which puts an emphasis on developing talent for the West Michigan business community. A more recent example is the GRPS creation of a variety of job training classes that will be hosted at Ottawa Hills High School, such as the Hospitality & Tourism Academy

It is significant that the Right Place Inc. identifies talent growth as part of their strategic plan. Talent growth is really just another way to use public funding, in this case for education, to train and incentivize students to be directed towards filling employer needs in West Michigan. Essentially, we (the public) pay for the Neo-Liberal Education and the business community will reap the benefits with a trained workforce. This is exactly why the Right Place Inc, the Chamber, Talent 2025 and the West Michigan Policy Forum want to influence the education system, since their members will financially benefit from business-influenced curriculum. It is one of the main components of Neo-Liberal Capitalism, which we should be rebelling against. 

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