KALAMAZOO — Southwest Michigan First and the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce Friday announced a strategic alliance designed to take advantage of regional dynamics and improve the overall competitive position of the region.

The organizations have aligned missions and services to better meet the needs of small business and advocate public policy to improve the region’s overall competitive position in the state and nation. The individual identities of the organizations will be retained, but now represent one cohesive brand for the region.

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“Strategically, we will reduce duplication of programs and services, take advantage of regional dynamics and provide maximum value to our members,” said Chamber board chair Jeffrey Hawkins, who is president of Envirologic, a Kalamazoo-based environmental investigation and remediation firm. “This partnership provides us with an advanced platform to grow business around the region.”

“This issue is about impact,” added William U. Parfet, Southwest Michigan First chairman and CEO of chairman and chief executive officer of MPI Research, a Mattawan-based contract medical research organization. “We maximize impact when we collaborate, create alignment on economic development issues and create a robust region.”

In the interest of leveraging the strengths of these two organizations, Southwest Michigan First and the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce will collaborate on educational programs and services focused on improving efficiencies and building strong small business. The new effort will be led by Tim Terrentine, who will serve as president of the chamber as well as continue as a vice president with Southwest Michigan First.

“Together, we are committed to making the region a place where families choose to make their home and a place where our children choose to stay when they are ready to go out on their own,” said Ron Kitchens, CEO of the Southwest Michigan First Group of Cos. “Jobs are one of the chief determining factors in that choice. Tim Terrentine is an engaged leader who has spent his life committed to the community. It is a tremendous honor for me to serve alongside him as we continue to grow small business and ensure we are a region of choice for families.”

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Added Blaine Lam, interim president of the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber: “Under the leadership of its executive team, Southwest Michigan First has gained a national reputation for organizational capacity, influence and experience to understand the needs of small business, which is our sweet spot.”

Southwest Michigan First has established a proven track record for providing services through similar agreements. Recently named the overall national winner in the small business category of Best & Brightest Companies to Work For, the group has successfully executed on service agreements with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Kalamazoo County and St. Joseph County Economic Development Corp. Recently, it signed a three-year agreement with the city of Kalamazoo to handle business retention, expansion, attraction and innovation/entrepreneurial services as well as small business coaching for the city. In addition, the organization operates the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, the Michigan Medical Device Accelerator and the Southwest Michigan First Life Science Fund under its group of companies.

“In all business sectors, private and public, collaborations are now necessary for strengthening an organization’s ability to operate competitively in today’s global economy,” Kitchens said. “As we work through this change, I envision a stronger chamber strategically positioned to grow small business in our region and serving as a model for communities around the nation.”

Founded in 1903, the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce represents more than 800 members that employ nearly 70,000 people. Learn more at www.kazoochamber.com.

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Founded in 1999, Southwest Michigan First is an organization of privately funded economic development advisors who act as the catalyst for economic growth in Southwest Michigan. More at www.southwestmichiganfirst.com.