psc.ritchieharrisonphoto.8.23.16Michigan’s Great Southwest Sustainable Business Forum will meet for an Earth Day discussion of how sustainability improvements can be used to leverage social, economic and environmental benefits for local communities.

Ritchie Harrison, co-director of the Great Lakes Leadership Academy and former community planner for the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, will present a vision for Michigan’s Great Southwest based on leadership and collaboration for the common good, drawing on his experiences working in the City of Detroit. He will also highlight the unique value of natural resources in promoting economic development and community prosperity.

fred_upton_official_portrait_111th_congress.jpgA panel of local leaders including St. Joseph Mayor Michael Garey, Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad, and State Rep. Kim Lasata will each introduce their visions for sustainability in our community, to be followed by a roundtable discussion and forum.

Registration is now closed. Walk-ins will be accepted.

Panelists include:

  • Fred Upton, U.S. Representative for Michigan’s 6th Congressional District
  • Michael Garey, Mayor of St. Joseph
  • IMG_3696Marcus Muhammad, Mayor of Benton Harbor
  • Kim Lasata, Michigan House of Representatives 79th District

Matthew Flechter, Recycling Market Development Specialist at Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, will be moderating the panel.

8th Annual Sustainability Issues Legislative Forum
Friday, April 20
11:30 am to 1:30 pm
Wightman & Associates
2303 Pipestone Rd.
Kim LaSataBenton Harbor, MI 49022-2692
$15 online / $20 at event Members
$20 online / $25 at event Non-members

11:30 am Lunch and Networking
12:10 pm Welcome and Introductions
12:15 pm Program
1:30 pm Adjourn







Congressman Fred Upton is proud to represent the common-sense values of Southwest Michigan’s Sixth Congressional District. A diverse section of the state that stretches from the shores of Lake Michigan, the Sixth District is home to key industries that range from agriculture to auto parts manufacturing to high-tech biomedical innovation centers. It includes all of Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties, and most of Allegan County.

Prior to his election to Congress, Fred worked for President Ronald Reagan in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). While at OMB, he learned from President Reagan’s example that it does not matter who gets the credit, as long as the job gets done. That has been Fred’s approach since he was first elected to Congress in 1986 and continues today.

From 2010 to 2016, Fred was selected by his House colleagues to serve as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. This pivotal committee has jurisdiction over matters concerning energy, healthcare, the environment, telecommunications, commerce, manufacturing, and trade, as well as oversight and investigations. Hard work and bipartisan success was a staple during Fred’s tenure as chairman of the committee. In fact, under Fred’s leadership, the Committee passed 354 legislative measures through the House of Representatives and saw 202 of those measures signed into law by the president. Fred currently serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy. This pivotal panel has jurisdiction over national energy policy.

Michael Garey, Mayor of St. Joseph

Mayor Michael Garey was born in Benton Harbor in 1953, and moved to St. Joseph at the age of five. He is a 1971 graduate of St. Joseph High School. He was elected Mayor on November 5, 2013; as Mayor Pro term in 2007; and to the City’s five member Commission in 1999. He is a past president of St. Joseph/Benton Harbor Rotary Club and cites interests in baseball, golf and history. He became the fourth generation in his family’s business when he joined Garey Roofing in Benton Harbor in 1976. That same year, he graduated from Central Michigan University and married his wife, Elizabeth. The couple have three children.

Garey wants to keep St. Joseph moving forward in his work as commissioner. “Progress has been tremendous in the past few years,” said Garey. “I want to help keep the momentum going. I’d like to see our city be a place where our kids want to come back to work and live. I’ve always enjoyed living in this community. I feel if people have enjoyed living in a place they should give back to the community. This is my way of giving back.”

Marcus Muhammad, Mayor of Benton Harbor

Mayor Marcus Muhammad started in politics as part of the Planning Commission, and then ran for Mayor in 2009 and was elected. He was then elected to the city council, where he served for six years. Muhammad moved to Benton Harbor as a young child to live with his father. He recalls fondly his days growing up in Michigan, and a big part of his life included his years as a student in Benton Harbor. A sports career in high school led the Mayor to Chicago’s DePaul University where he continued his basketball career. A Broadcast Journalism and Psychology major at DePaul, he also took an interest in Chicago politics, watching a number of notables rise to power while living in the Windy City. In 2003 he returned to his native Benton Harbor, where he coached basketball at his alma mater and is now the assistant associate coach for the girls basketball team.

And while he spent six years on the city council, he says he never intended to run for mayor. “I wanted to just make a difference, but I saw where some things could be done from the mayor’s office that could contribute, and I decided that after six years I am going to throw my hat in.” After unseating Mayor James Hightower, Mayor Muhammad knew he has a lot of work to do, and set priorities in reconnecting residents with the local government, revitalizing the education system, and addressing crime.

Kim LaSata, Michigan House of Representatives 79th District

Rep. Kim LaSata graduated from Lake Michigan Catholic High School in St. Joseph. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Education and Master’s degree in Literacy Studies from Western Michigan University. Rep. LaSata was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in November 2016. She represents the 79th District, which includes part of Berrien County including the cities of Coloma, St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Bridgman and Watervliet. Rep. LaSata serves on the House Committee on Appropriations. She is Chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, and a member of the Agriculture and Rural Development and Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittees.

Rep. LaSata has taught fifth grade at Lake Michigan Catholic Schools since 2006 and was Teacher of the Year in 2015. Rep. LaSata has also been active in many community organizations, serving as past president of Berrien County Guardianship Services Inc., Women’s Service League, Capstone Center and vice-chair of Child and Family Services. Kim and her husband Charlie and their four children live in Bainbridge Township.

Ritchie Harrison, Co-director, Great Lakes Leadership Academy (GLLA) at the Michigan State University Extension

Ritchie Harrison has led programs targeting neighborhood improvement and revitalization in the City of Detroit. His range of experience and expertise includes community and economic development, urban planning and land-use, and civic engagement. Prior to joining Michigan State University Extension, Ritchie was the community planner for the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy where he led extensive planning and development efforts targeting the Detroit Riverfront. His work demonstrates successful achievements through collaboration, diverse civic participation and engagement.

Ritchie is an alumni of the GLLA, Leadership Advancement Program (2011-12). He has a bachelor of science in urban planning and a graduate certificate in entrepreneurship from Eastern Michigan University. He holds a master of community development from the University of Detroit-Mercy. Ritchie has also completed the Larson Center for Leadership Program through the Michigan Urban Land Use Institute and the Detroit Revitalization Fellows Program at Wayne State University. He is an avid runner and enjoys spending time with his family.​​