Recap of the CATALYST Conference

Note: The purpose of this post is not to somehow tie this conference into search engine marketing, or Netvantage. I am writing to highlight my presentation, and frankly the great direction of the Lansing area!

Event Hosts, Doak Bloss and Kat Cooper. Photo Credit: The Fresh Image

Event Hosts, Doak Bloss and Kat Cooper. Photo Credit: The Fresh Image

I had the opportunity to present at the Catalyst Conference – the Capital Region Prosperity Conference on October 23rd. It was a great honor to be selected as one of nine people to present as a “Dreamer.” The audience was compromised of 280 private and public stakeholders from the Mid-Michigan region, all whom have a vested interest in the health and direction of the region.

After being asked to speak at the event, I struggled at first as to what to present on.  The topical groupings were:

PLACE: Placemaking & Transportation

GROWTH: Jobs & Entrepreneurship

TALENT: Education & Retention

CORE: Downtown & Density

GLOBAL: Visibility & Investment

Given my position as the co-founder and co-owner of Netvantage, I chose to combine the GROWTH and TALENT buckets. I presented on the brand of this region being tied too closely to the brand of Michigan State University, which has a ying and yang component to it. While the region is immensely boosted by the brand of Michigan State and all of the academic talent it brings, the Lansing region’s assets are overshadowed by the Big Ten university.

Along the way in my career path prior to founding Netvantage with Adam Henige, I was the Assistant Director of Admissions at the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management at Michigan State. It was there that I actually met Adam during the MBA recruiting process as he applied and enrolled to get his MBA. During my experiences I was recruiting potential MBA students from around the country to Lansing to study at Michigan State.

Photo Credit: The Fresh Image

Photo Credit: The Fresh Image

I was always asked what Lansing was like; was it just a college town? Ten years ago, that was a much tougher question to answer.  Today, we can boast a more diversified economy away from automotive and state government, a vibrant growing downtown core, and more high end urban housing options that offer great work/play/live capabilities.

My presentation highlighted this, but also talked about what our next ten years should look like and the challenges that lie ahead. I centered on the fact that we need to create a brand unique to Lansing, and not just aligned with Michigan State.  For thousands, the Lansing region is just a train stop for which they attain their education and move onto other markets.

We need to continue to establish a brand that enables Lansing to retain both the talented twenty-somethings that graduate MSU and those with advanced degrees from the masters and MBA programs. To do this, we will need to continue to attract small and mid-cap high growth companies to the region to create an ecosystem to retain both the undergraduate and graduate students.

This will not be easy, but with the positive movements such as the Catalyst project, and organizations like LEAP, the Greater Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, and more involvement from Michigan State University we can achieve this goal and cement this brand.  This collaboration will help us recruit one to three small to mid-cap growth companies on a yearly basis that have 50 to 100 million in annual revenue and 50-250 jobs in Lansing that are attractive to the talent emerging from Michigan State. As all of the other place making factors fall into place, suddenly our status and attraction level across the country becomes far more desirable.

At Netvantage, we partner with end clients, agencies, and web development firms all across the country. We have offices in Grand Rapids and recently opened one in Chicago. However, I am proud to say that the Lansing region is our main hub and this was a great region to start and grow a company. If we can continue to take steps to ensure that we retain more talent that leaves our region from our world class university it will vastly improve our quality of life.  Moving forward, I must say that the future for this region from a business and a quality of life standpoint continues to look very positive, and we are happy to be a contributor to this effort and movement!

Joseph Ford

Joe Ford is a Managing Partner at Netvantage Marketing. In addition to overseeing day to day business operations of Netvantage, he directs paid search strategy and management. Ford is on the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Board of Directors, the Marketing Committee for Impression 5 Science Museum, and the Executive Board of the Capital Area IT Council.

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