SPOKES VOL.LXXI NO.31                                                       February 20, 2018

Greeting us this morning were Deb Davidson and Bob Boerma.

President Renner called the meeting to order at 7am. Typically, the timing was off with our “player”, so we proceeded to recite the “Pledge of Allegiance”, which was followed by Art Ayers’ invocation. It was then that the player began, so “My Country ‘tis of Thee” soon followed. One can’t make this stuff up 😊!!


We were pleased to welcome Bob Copping’s wife, Jane, as well as our guest speaker, Todd Gustafson, and two of his colleagues, Molly Morphey and Zach Morris.



Bob Boerma, our Greeter and Program Chair, ALSO served as this morning’s “maestro”. A Rotary hat trick? Larry Wittkop “tamed” our CD player, as we “serenaded” our guests with “You Tell Me Your Dream; I’ll Tell You Mine”, “Bill Bailey”, and “Rotary, My Rotary”.



President Renner provided reminders regarding the golf outing on June 26th, and securing Club Hero applications from Scott Mark.



One of our guests, Molly Morphey, was our “honest and reliable” individual this morning. She drew Larry Wittkop’s ticket, and Larry then drew the #10 card, which translated to a $2 payoff for Ted Weber.


-Paul Hix was reminded that his picture was in the paper, as part of a rather large ad featuring Edward Jones Financial Services. He was ALSO reminded that the size of the ad dictated a bigger fine than usual. Not sure how that ended!

Paul also mentioned that he’d like to see Rotary enter into a partnership with South Haven and Bangor Schools, as well as the ISD, to promote school safety.

-Bob Boerma contributed his $1 with a firm “GO BLUE”.

-Bob Copping was either celebrating or bemoaning our “April showers”.

-Steve Larsen was happy to say, “Only one month til spring”.

-Jeff Melvin announced that there will be a Michigan Blood Drive this Thursday, February 22nd, at the Wellness Center, from 12-6pm.

-Ted Weber provided another steady “GO BLUE”.

-Larry Wittkop indicated how difficult it was for him on Sunday afternoon, because he “had” to actually root for the Michigan Wolverines, since it would benefit the Spartans. He did say that the upset stomach that ensued could best be blamed on his rooting for the Maize and Blue 😊 He completed his statement with a “surprising” “GO GREEN”.

-With today’s temps, along with the rain, Dan Liehr said it “feels like we’re living in the tropics”.

Bob Boerma introduced our guest speaker, Todd Gustafson, CEO of Kinexus, who will be sharing the successful strategy of integrating workforce, and economic and community development into one organization.

Todd received his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, the city in which he was born.

He also has a Certificate in Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management from the Harvard Business School.

He is a Board Member for the United Way of SW Michigan, as well as an Intelligence Officer with the United States Army Reserve.

Todd lives in St. Joseph and has been with Kinexus since 2005.

The Mission and Vision of Kinexus can best be summed up as follows:

“Think of us as a hub of change agents that connect people, investments, and organizations with strategies and services that make our region a great place to live, work and play.

Our non-profit pinpoints challenges and issues that keep our region from thriving, and addresses gaps in workforce, community, and business development.

We work collaboratively with regional organizations to maximize investments that contribute to our economic growth.”


-They serve 600-700 employers and 18,000-20,000 job seekers annually.

-Within communities, they attempt to address housing issues, reduce crime, and improve the quality of life.

-Under a “Youth Solutions” umbrella, they began a Dropout Prevention Program seven years ago.

  -It began with 60 kids; now, there are 2700 state-wide.

  -There are 162 from Van Buren County.

-Kinexus leads the economic development efforts within Van Buren County.

-Kinexus is located in the South Haven City Hall, working closely with Mayor, Scott Smith, and City Manager, Brian Dissette.

-They often collaborate and cooperate with SW Michigan First.

-Three HUGE issues to address:

  -People Leaving (losing 5.5% of working age people) Many attend college and don’t return. Housing for single people is an issue, and not enough is done to promote occupations in SW Michigan. Ease of mobility and lack of public transportation also contribute to the “exodus”.

  -Getting Older (Average age in Van Buren County is 41.1 years, while the state average is 38.3 years) Michigan is the 10th oldest state.

  -Education (13% in SW Michigan do not have a high school education or equivalent.)

     - LMC working to expand programs.

-Challenges Moving Forward:

  -Palisades will EVENTUALLY close.

  -The Van Buren Business Community operates in silos.

  -Lack of high-speed internet connectivity across the county.

  -Key stakeholders in Van Buren County are not organized to support economic development.


Questions were addressed by our guests, and President Renner thanked them for being with us today, presenting each with a souvenir Rotary pen.

We adjourned with the Four Way Test.

Next Week: February 27th

Our greeters will be Tom Rummel and a volunteer to fill-in for Tom Fleming.

Our Program will be a South Haven Public Library update.

  Jim France is the Program Chair.


Art Ayers, stand-in Editarian