Michigan Greenforce Initiative Summit a Success

Martin Dober, Senior VP, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Yesterday at Lansing Community College- West Campus, 90 participants from across the state of Michigan participated in the first Greenforce Initiative summit. With 15 community colleges represented, state agencies, non-profit organizations, foundations and small-to- large green businesses the excitement in the room was hardly contained. 

Although it was day of sharing success stories, understanding the state of Michigan’s green jobs initiatives and showcasing strong partnerships between community colleges and business/industry- the underlying message was one of creativity, cooperation, and innovative collaboration.

Community colleges are finding unique and exciting new ways to partner with industry, community based organizations, research institutions and the state of Michigan.  One exciting new partnership is between Grand Rapids Community College and Rockford Berge on a new global wind safety training program.  Also, the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, has exciting new partnerships with their green skills alliances- which are bridging the gaps between education, training, and green businesses. 

The keynote speaker for the day, John Austin, President of Michigan State Board of Education and Non-Resident Fellow for the Brookings Institution challenged the participants to consider changing the culture of Michigan from our historical polluting past to a more sustainable economy.  He asked the question “How do we change the culture of our communities and economy…how do we move to an entrepreneurial society?” 

Gerald Ryan, KGR Services has heeded to Dr. Austin’s call to become an entrepreneur.  After being laid off from the auto industry, Mr. Ryan retrained as an energy management specialist at St. Clair County Community College and now own’s his own LED lighting company.  Mr. Ryan’s story, which he shared with us yesterday,  is inspiring and highlights how entrepreneurship can help lead the “next” economy in Michigan. 

The Greenforce Initiative is continuing it’s work in Michigan to create strong networking and collaboration between community colleges in order to develop green career  pathway programs and strengthen sustainability initiatives on campuses across the state.