Proos applauds Southwest Michigan First for hosting idea-sharing forums

LANSING—During the past several years, Sen. John Proos and other Southwest Michigan legislators have had a new opportunity to discuss ways to improve communities in the region and spur economic growth.

“I want to thank Southwest Michigan First for providing an opportunity for all regional lawmakers, community leaders and business advocates to get together in an effort to help create jobs and find ways to enhance our communities,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “Their effort to improve Michigan’s Great Southwest is unwavering and worthy of recognition. I especially want to highlight that Southwest Michigan First has proved indispensable to me and other area leaders when it comes to collaboration and sharing ideas.”

Southwest Michigan First is an organization of privately funded economic development advisors who act as the catalyst for economic success in the region. Founded in 1999 on the principle that the most powerful force for change is a well-paying job, the organization works across all industries throughout the seven counties making up Southwest Michigan.

“At a recent meeting, the need for at least four hundred new aviation mechanics in Michigan was discussed as an opportunity for job growth in the region,” Proos said. “This is a career that pays about $52,000 on average, and Western Michigan University is one of the top schools in this field, and yet, there are only 115 students enrolled in the program. For example, Duncan Aviation in Battle Creek alone has 610 current employees, an annual payroll of $32 million and plans to add 145 new jobs by 2020. Southwest Michigan students should be aware and encouraged to think about aviation mechanics as a possible career.”

According to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), Southwest Michigan First has worked with the MEDC as a part of its economic development outreach in what is now identified as Region 8, which includes Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties. Southwest Michigan First works with site consultants around the nation to encourage job providers to locate in the region, provides advanced manufacturing training to job seekers, runs an internship development program in conjunction with local companies and offers educational sessions for economic developers. 

“As the strength of Southwest Michigan’s manufacturing core is vital to its overall economic strength, we are blessed to have great manufacturers here that lead in their respective sectors,” said Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer of Southwest Michigan First. “In the case of aviation, with a diverse presence of aerospace companies that includes Parker, Vaupell and Duncan Aviation in our midst, Western Michigan University’s School of Aviation provides not only an opportunity for a great education, but a great opportunity to get prepared for a career in Southwest Michigan.”

For more information about Southwest Michigan First, residents can visit its website at or contact them by calling 269-553-9588.

“This organization is committed our communities, families and local job providers,” Proos said. “The group is one of several regional economic development districts in Michigan that are working to attract new jobs providers to our state while also helping current Michigan businesses grow and create jobs. Their comprehensive approach includes promoting Southwest Michigan and working to ensure our workforce has the skills to meet the needs of employers.”


Editor’s Note – Audio comments by Proos are available on the senator’s webpage at Click on “Podcasts.”