New membership organization to champion smaller manufacturers

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By Colleen Killen-Roberts

Yesterday the Kinexus Group formally launched the newest addition to its nonprofit family — the Manufacturing Growth Alliance (MGA). Structured as a 501(c)6 membership organization, MGA will focus on our state’s smaller manufacturers — companies that have been largely underserved and unrecognized for their contributions. Along with providing advocacy and giving small manufacturers a greater voice in Lansing, MGA will give members access to services to help them reduce costs, improve capacity and become more globally competitive.

As a MGA board member, I’m both honored and excited to help with its launch. My father was a second-generation automotive worker who spent 40 years making cars, and my brother is third generation, so manufacturing is part of my family’s heritage that I’m very proud of.

Manufacturing is also part of my foundation’s heritage: In 1947 Ed Lowe introduced Kitty Litter, a deceptively simple product that dramatically impacted pet ownership and forged an entirely new industry, one that today generates more than $3 billion in U.S. sales. Mr. Lowe believed that entrepreneurs, and especially manufacturers, were the backbone of our country’s economy. He also feared that entrepreneurs were becoming an endangered species because they didn’t get the support they deserved — which led to the creation of the Edward Lowe Foundation in 1985.

Today our foundation focuses on second-stage companies (those with about 10-99 employees and $1 million to $50 million in annual revenue). Among special services we’ll be offering MGA members is a complimentary one-day leadership retreat at Big Rock Valley, our 2,000-acre property outside of Cassopolis. MGA members will also be eligible for discounted services. This includes our PeerSpectives roundtables and the System for Integrated Growth (SIG). A virtual program, SIG gives second-stage CEOs access to a SWAT team of business experts to strengthen company infrastructure, enter new markets and find new customers.

Working with Kinexus to help get MGA off the ground has been truly inspirational for me. From my first meeting at their offices, I knew these were my people. Kinexus CEO Todd Gustafson works at the speed of small business and reminds me of several CEOs I worked with earlier in my career. The rest of the Kinexus team is equally amazing. Todd invests in talent and surrounds himself with seasoned professionals who know how to get things done.

I’m also honored to work with MGA board chair Steve Jackson and fellow board members Val Harding, Laurie Hasse, John Goodell and Erick Stewart. When you sit at the table with people of this caliber, you’re bound to become a better leader.

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Colleen Killen-Roberts
Divisional Vice President of Entrepreneurship
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“Entrepreneurs need a bridge between their dreams and reality,” says Colleen Killen-Roberts, Divisional Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Edward Lowe Foundation. “And that’s where operational expertise comes in. Operations is about creating the necessary infrastructure to take the entrepreneur’s ideas and make them happen.” In this series of articles, Killen-Roberts shares insights gleaned from more than 25 years of operational and fiscal management experience at second-stage companies.