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KALAMAZOO, MI-The economic development agency that promotes the Southwest region of Michigan has a new CEO. Southwest Michigan First has hired Ronald Kitchens. For the past five years, Kitchens had served as president and CEO of a similar organization based in Corpus Christi, TX.

“Ron has tremendous passion for economic development and has a demonstrated track record for bringing jobs to Corpus Christi,” says William D. Johnston, SMF’s board chair and the president of Greenleaf Cos. “Our entire board is very excited to have him join ourorganization.”SMF began its national search for the top position in January when former SMF CEO Barry Broome announced that he had been recruited to serve as president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. When asked about a move to a seemingly smaller community, Kitchens said Southwest Michigan is actually larger than Corpus Christi and has the potential to lead a national trend toward regionalism in economic development.

“Kalamazoo is within 60 miles of more than two million people, and it is poised to be a leader in economic development at a national level,” Kitchens says. “The potential for us as a community to grow and prosper is unprecedented. I’m honored to have been asked to lead this effort.”

In 2004, Site Selection magazine ranked Corpus Christi fourth in the nation for highest level of new investment, behind New York City, Chicago and Detroit. Prior to working in Texas, Kitchens served as president of the Moberly/Randolph Economic Development Corp. in Moberly, MO. “Ron brings a very strong job attraction and retention focus to Southwest Michigan First,” says Craig DeNooyer, SMF board president and the president of Treystar Holdings LLC. “That’s a great complement to our successes in new business creation.”

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