Kent County, Michigan, moves forward with sustainable business park plan

County partners with nonprofit to implement plan to reuse, recycle or convert waste.

The Kent County Department of Public Works (DPW), Grand Rapids, Michigan, and The Right Place Inc., a regional nonprofit economic development organization, have entered into a three-year strategic partnership for the planning and development of a sustainable business park.

Under the terms of the agreement, The Right Place will assist with business development and infrastructure planning efforts, as well as managing community partnerships and identifying new sources of funding for the sustainable business park.

Kent County Board of Public Works approved the plan October for 250 acres adjacent to the South Kent Landfill in Byron Center. The plan was created by local and national experts and includes recommendations on how Kent County can transition from a reliance on waste disposal to landfills to a sustainable materials management system where waste materials are either reused in new production processes or products, recovered or converted into renewable energy. 

Kent County DPW processes more than one billion pounds of waste per year and estimates 75 percent of waste could be reused, recycled or converted. Currently, only 6 to 8 percent of waste is recycled. The sustainable business park could generate $500 million in direct private sector capital investment and create 150 jobs in Michigan. As part of the plan approval, DPW formed a business development team to implement the plan, which includes The Right Place.

“The sustainable business park will significantly reduce the amount of trash going into landfills and attract investment from companies that can convert waste into usable products,” Kent County DPW Director Dar Baas says. “The sustainable business park is part of our community’s vision for a circular economy and our partnership with The Right Place will help attract businesses, technology developers, startups and nonprofits from across the country that align with the sustainable business park’s goals.”

The county has a goal to reduce municipal, commercial and industrial solid waste going to landfills by 90 percent by 2030.

“The sustainable business park has the potential to generate investment and create jobs in West Michigan, while serving as a national model of what communities can achieve with a practical, innovative approach towards recycling and upcycling,” The Right Place President and CEO Birgit Klohs says.

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