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West Michigan CEO Summit at the Amway Grand Plaza

Jake Northey

Jake Northey

The West Michigan CEO Summit is an annual event hosted by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. This year, we were excited to send Business Development Leader Arick Davis, and Social Media Marketing lead Sarah Laman to learn from presenters and panelists from throughout the state. This year’s lineup covered so many valuable topics, including organization culture, mentorship, talent sourcing, and strategic planning, all bound by a common theme: Why Grand Rapids, Why Now.

The Summit Chair Deidra Mitchell, President & CEO of Waséyabek Development Company started off the event by sharing her personal trials and tribulations as a business owner that lived all around the world. She opened up about her experiences facing violence and discrimination, including a moving story about being shot at while trying to start a business in Guam.

Next, Anthony Chang shared about the life-saving technology being developed at BAMF Health. He reflected on teamwork, creating a supportive work environment, and his mantra about making the hard things happen: “We’ll figure it out!”

Nate Koetje, CEO of Feyen Zylstra encouraged us to brainstorm ways to make Grand Rapids a welcoming environment for all people. He led us in roundtable discussions to talk more about how to make our organizations more inviting for new Americans. The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce plans to release a detailed report of our suggestions.

Dr. Philomena Mantella presented next as the President of Grand Valley State University. She stressed the importance of a flexible and reactive education system that can accommodate the ever-changing landscape of workforce needs.

After lunch, Scott Ryan, the Vice President of General Counsel at Gentex shared his insights on tackling the talent issue, including information about the company’s recruiting and retention success by expanding Spanish language offerings and rewarding employee loyalty.

Steve Huizinga, President of Allied Mechanical Services shared personal details of his own journey and how that shaped his mission to change people’s lives through employment. He reflected on the importance of caring for all people and meeting them where they are at, with the goal of making Grand Rapids a place where people can have an equitable chance.

Rabih Jamal of Waséyabek Development Company, Rajesh Kothari of Cascade Partners, and Max Bissell of Bissell Corporation wrapped up the event with a panel discussion about business transitions and how West Michigan continues to evolve.

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