Entries by Ron Kitchens

The ‘Powerful Weapon’ Needs Sharpening

South African President Nelson Mandela might have expressed it best: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Exchange “the world” for “Southwest Michigan” in that sentence, and the point remains just as valid. Education—especially the foundation of early childhood and K-12 education—is critical both to the children and future of this region. After all, businesses of all types depend on employees with full skills and knowledge to do their jobs—whether the college-educated software engineer or the operator of computer-controlled machine tool.

Career Lesson Plans

When he was named president of Humphrey Products in April 2016, Dave Maurer inherited the desk of his recently retired predecessor. Within its drawers, Maurer found a sheaf of papers from 1998 describing a group of industry partners trying to solve a labor shortage. To Maurer’s eyes, the problem read painfully familiar.

LEADER 2 LEADER: Sydney Parfet Attorney/Partner LAKE, PARFET, & SCHAU, PLC

Define leadership.
Learning from others. Guiding others. Mentoring others. Listening to others.

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My grandma, Martha Parfet. She is a modest, quiet leader, and she has made a tremendous impact in the community and continues to so every day in a caring way.

What excites you most about the future of Southwest Michigan?
The growth and the development that’s occurring here. I think it’s really becoming a place for young professionals to establish a family and to create a life.

LEADER 2 LEADER: Troy Clay President & Chief Executive Officer MNO-BMADSEN

Define leadership.
Establishing trust among a group of people that you are doing the best you can to carry forward under a given vision.

Who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
There’s no doubt at all that it’s Jesus Christ. I’m a person of faith. First and foremost, that’s who I answer to and it’s who leads me. I have been blessed with some mentors and people who have influenced my life and we have great leadership within the tribe that influences what I do, even on our board of directors as well.

What excites you most about the future of Southwest Michigan?
I see a real commitment in terms of planning and action by leadership to inspire more leaders and to do what we can to make the best of this area.

The Blueprint for Economic Growth

If there is a blueprint for economic growth, a look at trend-setting regions around the nation tells us this: talent, education, and quality of life are key drivers.

In that respect, the news is both encouraging and cautionary for Southwest Michigan.

Among peer regions, Southwest Michigan has fewer high school dropouts than most—but it also has too many with some college education, but no degree. That can be problematic for employers seeking the best talent.


Define leadership in 10 words.
A leader is committed to an organization’s goals and vision.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My grandfather was a civil rights leader in Chicago. When I was growing up, he had a talk show, and I would watch from the background as he interviewed community leaders. They talked about desegregation in Chicago and about other community issues. I didn’t realize my grandfather’s impact on me for many years. From listening to him, I learned the importance of being involved in community work, and I passed this lesson on to my kids.