Your Partner in Growing Your Community

The Spring Economic Development Toolbox

22 ST GraphicThis yearly event will be held on Friday, May 6, 2022, at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West, Lansing

This event has sessions on a variety of components for economic development success: new tools and programs, updates to existing tools and programs, best practices, marketing, unique ideas, skill-building, and leadership.

Both state and local professionals join together to take a fresh look at the components comprehensively, from both an informational and implementation aspect.

In order to develop the best conference, a volunteer committee of MEDA members meets regularly to plan The Spring Economic Development Toolbox and other MEDA membership programs. Click here to learn more about the Education Committee.

Thank You Sponsors

Michigan STEM Forward

STEMForward600 1Ann Arbor SPARK and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) launched Michigan STEM Forward, a statewide program that matches students attending Michigan colleges and universities with internship opportunities at the state’s leading innovative companies. Companies do not have to be in a specific industry, but all internships must be STEM-focused. Michigan STEM Forward provides students meaningful career experience and promotes job retention in the state, while providing financial support to companies who hire these interns. Who is eligible: 1) Students attending a Michigan college or university pursuing a STEM-related profession. 2) Companies based in Michigan that can be verified by their local economic development organization and/ or MEDC SmartZone. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Program Manager, today.


8:00 a.m. Registration Opens

8:30 a.m. Facing Michigan’s New Workforce and Talent Realities
The last couple of years has brought about a massive shift in the workforce and talent pool, especially in Michigan. Strategies for finding workers and meeting their needs shifted very quickly, leaving many companies in a span of industries struggling to backfill positions while hoping their best talent sticks with them through the struggle. What strategies will help companies thrive in today’s workforce reality?
Moderator: Britany Affolter-Caine, Executive Director, Michigan’s University Research Coordinator
Panelists: Tom Rzeznik, President & CEO, Danlaw, Inc.
Weisong Shi, Director, Center of Excellence in Mobility, Associate Dean of Engineering, Wayne State University
Kerry Ebersole Singh, Chief Talent Solutions and Engagement Officer, Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

9:30 a.m. Networking Break

9:45 a.m. Following the Startup Frenzy – Nurturing Entrepreneurs in Today’s Environment
According to an April 2021 article in Forbes, the pandemic fueled entrepreneurship, calling it a “startup frenzy.” Panelists discuss challenges and opportunities that entrepreneurs face in today’s environment as well as how economic developers can continue to nurture their growth.
Moderator: Justin Horvath, CEcD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership
Panelists: Wafa Dinaro, Executive Director, New Economy Initiative (NEI)
Ed Garner, Regional Director, West Michigan, Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC)
Eric Roberts, Executive Director, 20Fathoms

11:00 a.m. Networking Break

11:15 a.m. Overcoming Supply Chain Challenges – Lessons Learned
Disruptions in the supply chain continue to inhibit Michigan companies from operating at their full capacities. As some time as passed since the initial stunt caused by the pandemic, some lessons have been learned. Companies from some of Michigan’s top industries will share their strategies for overcoming supply chain challenges.
Moderator: Natalie Chmiko, Vice President, Pure Michigan Business Connect and International Trade, MEDC
Panelists: Bob Filka, Chief Executive Officer, Home Builders Association of Michigan
Justin Winslow, President and CEO, Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association
Representative, Center for Automotive Research (invited)

12:30 p.m. Lunch and Membership Meeting

1:30 p.m. Concurrent Sessions 1

>> Building the Path – Creative Student Talent Programs
These creative talent programs from Barry County give students work experience and certifications before they graduate high school. Hear how the programs were established, how they work, challenges faced, partnerships, and success.
John Chapman, Program Manager, Gilmore Garage Works
Fred Colgren, Director of Education, Gilmore Garage Works
Tom Watson, Founder, TNR Machine
Sara Whisler, Human Resources Manager, Flexfab, LLC

>> Growing the Innovation Hub – Tech and Place Based Entrepreneurship
Michigan is a hub for innovation, and there is a great marketing for tech and place-based entrepreneurs. One enhances technologies that help individuals and companies succeed, and the other solves challenges with the region in mind. What strategies work best for helping these entrepreneurs grow and succeed?
Faris Alami, Founder and CEO, International Strategic Management, Inc. (ISM) 

>> Supply Chain at Your Fingertips – CONNEX Michigan
Our partners at MMTC have developed a robust tool to connect Michigan’s manufacturers and suppliers to the products, equipment, certifications, services, etc., that they need. Connected to the National Manufacturing Alliance, companies can network with a wide range of like-minded individuals to share solutions. It even has a segment for connecting to minority suppliers! Learn how it works and companies in your area can CONNEX.
Rebekah McCarter, CONNEX Michigan, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC)

2:30 p.m. Networking Break

2:45 p.m. Concurrent Sessions 2

>> Empty Spot at the Top – Finding Executive Level Talent
Much attention has focused on issues with the workforce in retail and hospitality, but there are also a lot of companies in need to strong leadership for C-Suite positions. What strategies have been best to fill the void left when those that provide strategic direction are hard to find?
Amy Cell, President and CEO, Amy Cell Talent 

>> It Started with an Idea – How the First Path Program Guides Budding Entrepreneurs
Southwest Michigan First (SWMF) has partnered with Plywood People to offer a course to individuals with an idea that could be turned into a business. Plywood’s course goes through the self-guided discovery process and the SWMF team then provides the tools needed to get business off the ground shall the idea be viable for the market. The SWMF team will provide insight on the experience.
Kelsey McKague, Director, Southwest Michigan First
Petey Stephanak, Partner, Southwest Michigan First

>> Taking an Entrepreneurial Approach to Managing EDO’s Through EOS
Economic development organizations (EDOs) have been helping their local economies make it through the Covid-19 pandemic. In doing so, they have experienced significant challenges themselves, many working longer hours while operating on reduced budgets. This session will cover how an Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) can help EDOs manage stress while still being high functioning and cover how an EOS was implemented with great success at the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership.
Justin Horvath, CEcD, President and Chief Executive Officer, Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership
Brent Jones, Vice President, Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership

3:45 p.m. Adjourn

You Can Sponsor This Event

The Spring Economic Development Toolbox Sponsorship Package ($1,500)

  • (1) Free Registration
  • Excel List of Attendees After the Event
  • Exhibit Table
  • Logo on Event Emails – 2 to 3 emails sent to over 4,500 contacts. Logo is linked to your website.
  • Logo on Mail Piece – Mailed to About 5,000 contacts
  • Logo on Rotating Spring Toolbox Banner on MEDA Homepage
  • Opportunity to Address the Audience
  • Social Media Post Recognizing Contribution
  • Sponsor Spotlight in MEDA Newsletter for 1 Week – Includes Logo, Description, and Contact Information. Logo is linked to your website.
  • Webpage Profile - Includes Logo, Description, and Contact Information. Logo is linked to your website.

Contact Cassandra at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested in being a sponsor for the event. Limited to 4. You can request a tentative agenda.


Early Rates - MEDA Members $125*/Non-Members $195** 
Regular Rates - MEDA Members $140*/Non-Members $210** (Starts April 29th)

*MEDA Members, if you joined in the last 12 months, you may still have a New Member Coupon that you can use to attend this program for free. Ask This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

**If not a member of MEDA, ask This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. how you can attend this program for free by joining MEDA.


There are a limited number of rooms available for $139++/night. For a guarantee of that rate, reserve before April 5th. To reserve, call 877-322-5544 or visit and use code EST. 

Recertification Credits

This event has been approved for (1) continuing education credit for Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP) certification from the National Development Council (NDC). Use the form on this page to claim your credit.

We have applied for this event to be recognized by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) as a professional development event that counts toward the recertification of Certified Economic Developers (CEcD).


Cancellations must be received in writing to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 24 hours in advance of the start time in order to receive a full refund. Those who do not cancel and do not attend will be charged the full price of registration.

Corporate Sponsors

Bedrock Clipped consumers-energy
DTE Logo Small  MEDC 2020 Resized

Website Sponsor


Contact Us

Michigan Economic
Developers Association
P.O. Box 15096
Lansing, MI 48901-5096
PH: 517-241-0011