Entries by Ron Kitchens

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.

LEADER2LEADER: Jamie Clark — President of Clark Logic

Define leadership in 10 words.
Thinking, understanding, listening, developing, working.

Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?
My dad, because I got to work with him every day, I got to have lunch with him every day, and dinner with him too, if that worked out. He taught me more than I even understood, and I didn’t look at it ever as leadership but, when I look back, it’s more leadership and wisdom than I could have gained from any book, tape, function, or leadership forum.

More Than an Apple a Day

Not much says “Michigan” better than a crisp apple in the fall or, increasingly, a craft brew. Fortunately for the region, the Schultz family has found a way to provide both and a whole lot more.

Schultz Fruitridge Farms is owned by a third-generation farm family out of Mattawan. The grandparents of the current co-owner, Bill Schultz, started the farm back in 1951. Today, the family grows a variety of crops—from asparagus and cherries to sweet corn, peaches, grapes, and apples. The farm even has a small herd of bison, a few of which they slaughter for meat each year. “We are farmers by trade, and it’s our heritage,” said Bill. “We work the farm every single day of the week.”

The Human Capital

BusinessDictionary.com defines talent as (1) a natural ability to excel at a duty or action or (2) a group of people who have a particular aptitude for certain tasks.

Albert Einstein spoke to talent in a more plain-spoken way, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

However you describe talent, it will be the defining factor in determining which regions globally grow and which cease to be relevant. As Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup, unveils in his recent bestseller, The Coming Jobs War, “that of the seven billion people in the world, there are five billion adults of working age of which more than three billion say the most important desire in their lives, above food, shelter, and safety is the desire for a full-time job.”

A Culture of Excellence

Every executive and business owner sets out to achieve immediate results for accelerated performance and lasting change. A few make it big, some lose what they gain, and some never even come close to achieving desired results.

The Talent Journey

People are not your greatest asset. Talented people are! When your company or organization is ready to face the “talent” issue, you must decide whether you are building a house, doing an extreme makeover or putting on an addition—meaning you have something great in “one room” and are ready to expand to another “room,” department or location.

The Sound of Music

Walking by a restored historic building in downtown Marshall, Michigan, you just might hear a few mandolin chords coming from behind the closed doors of Northfield Musical Products. Its storefront on W. Michigan Avenue is home to the company’s Marshall headquarters, which features a workshop area and showroom. This is no ordinary music store. Here you will find racks of specialty woods for use when master grade mandolins are commissioned, a full selection of instruments for trying out the various Northfield lines, and lots of charm and history to soak in while sitting in the front room.