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Kent County awards $1.1 million in ARPA funds to help region's workforce and business community

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Kent County announced Wednesday it’s awarded $1.1 million in federal ARPA funds that are aimed at improving workforce and business development in the region.

Both the West Michigan Construction Institute and the Wyoming-Kentwood area Chamber of Commerce received a combined total of $1,138,000.

Kent County Administrator Al Vanderberg said the projects will provide a large number of people with the skills, training and education to be able to land better jobs.

“Not only give them more money, but more money will turn over in the economy and we’re hoping that this has just an overall positive economic impact in Kent County,” he said.

The West Michigan Construction Institute will use the $1 million it received to expand its facilities to offer two new trade programs for high school students, adult students, and commercial construction industry professionals.

According to a Kent County press release, the project, with a total cost of $3 million, is planned to launch in late 2024 and is expected to be completed in early 2025.

“There is a huge demand for new skilled trades professionals in the construction industry, and since opening our doors just over a year ago, we are overwhelmed with interest in our programs from people across our region,” Jen Schottke, the president of WMCI said in the same release.

“Commercial construction continues to be a driving force in West Michigan’s economy. To give you an understanding of the need for construction professionals, nearly half of Kent County’s ARPA-funded projects are construction projects, which will require a skilled workforce that WMCI helps provide. We are honored to be selected by the Kent County Board of Commissioners and are grateful for the opportunity to make a greater impact in our region.”

Meanwhile, the Wyoming-Kentwood area Chamber of Commerce will use its $138,000 to launch a monthly series for the region’s small businesses, entrepreneurs and start-ups. The series is scheduled to launch this year and run through 2026 with the support of Kent County.

“We’re pleased to receive this ARPA grant because it will help the Wyoming, Kentwood and surrounding community businesses continue to grow and sustain jobs,” Keith Morgan, the president and CEO of the Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce, said in the release. “Many small-business owners and people just starting businesses need additional support to help grow, especially after the pandemic. This grant will help drive our community’s economic growth.”

The Kent County Board of Commissioners voted to fund both projects last December along with 28 others using the county’s $127 million it received from the American Rescue Plan Act. The board has allocated $108 million for the approved projects and the remaining funds have been placed in a contingency fund.

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