The Michigan Opportunity

Through dynamic discussion, The Michigan Opportunity markets the state and promotes Michigan as a world-class business location. The podcast serves as a forward-thinking voice for Michigan as a conduit to global trends and applications in the new global economy.


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The Michigan Opportunity Podcast Now Airing on WJR’s The Great Voice

The Michigan Opportunity Podcast

Season - 2 Episode 5

Denise Graves, University Relations Director at MEDC

Hear MEDC expert Denise Graves on entrepreneurship, innovation, university tech transfer and much more in this unique space driving Michigan forward for talent, higher education and business creation.

Join Denise Graves, University Relations Director at Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and host Ed Clemente as they dive into the complex but rewarding world of tech transfer. In her role, she interacts with Michigan’s 15 public universities, key entrepreneurial stakeholders and investors, to manage statewide programs that support collaboration and the commercialization of early-stage technology. She shares how university professors and the private sector work together for innovation. Learn about her recent appointment to a key group at Ferris State University.

Season - 2 Episode 4

Gary McDowell, Director of Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development

MDARD Director McDowell breaks down the complex ecosystem of agriculture and rural development across the State of Michigan.

Join Gary McDowell, Director of Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, with host Ed Clemente as they discuss one of the biggest economic industries in Michigan. Gary grew up in the Upper Peninsula and has a family business of hay farming, as well as careers including being a county commissioner, a UPS driver, volunteer firefighter and EMT. He is passionate about the agriculture business and its future growth for talent and economy. Director McDowell also discusses the Office of Rural Development and how it works hand in glove with Michigan’s agriculture future.

Season - 2 Episode 3

Frank Muller, CEO - Exlterra

How do you fix Chernobyl? Exlterra has discovered the answer, plus additional sustainable ways to improve brownfield sites around the world!

Join Frank Muller, CEO of Exlterra, and host Ed Clemente and learn how Michigan-based Exlterra is remediating the brownfield world through their patented process. Discover how they develop, produce and commercialize sustainable technological solutions applied to the environment. They have made great progress at the Chernobyl radioactive site, and have operations in Poland, Japan and Switzerland, with the technology made right here in Michigan. Also learn about the interesting path co-founder and Polish-born U.S. inventor Andrew Niemczyk, CTO took to get to Michigan and America. Plus, learn about what its like to be the Michigan Honorary Consul for the Country of Switzerland

Season - 2 Episode 2

Randy Thelen, President & CEO - The Right Place

From Lake Erie to Lake Michigan, to the plains of Omaha and the Rocky Mountains of Denver, Randy Thelen has done Economic Development throughout, and listen now how he brings that expertise back to the Grand Rapids region.

Join Randy Thelen, President & CEO of The Right Place, and host Ed Clemente as they discuss the myriad of business projects going on in the Grand Rapids region. Hear about how greater Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second-largest city and a hub for research, innovation and a thriving regional economy. Randy has pretty good credentials in the Economic Development world with stints at Monroe’s EDO, MEDC, Lakeshore Advantage, Omaha’s EDO, and most recently in Denver. With all those varied places he has honed in on what it takes attract, retain, and expand commerce, and like-wise, talent. 

Season - 2 Episode 1

Allegra Baistrocchi, Consul of Italy, in the Consulate of Italy in Detroit,

Listen to her fascinating story of the responsibilities and lifestyle of an International Consul, plus learn about the culture and business of Italy as well as her interesting path to Michigan!

Join Allegra Baistrocchi, Consul of Italy, in the Consulate of Italy in Detroit, and host Ed Clemente as they discuss the Italian business relations and trading between Michigan and other Midwest states, and the economic benefit for all parties. The presence of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Detroit was established on the 10th of November 1899. Learn about Allegra’s globetrotting path through her family, education, and work. Make sure to listen to the end because she has some great career advice for young women in the diplomatic corps! For more information on the Consulate, follow at @ItalyInDetroit. 

Season - 1 Episode 52

Michelle Grinnell - MEDC Senior Vice-President & Host Ed Clemente, Senior Advisor for Trends and Development

The Michigan Opportunity Podcast is celebrating it’s one year anniversary! Join Michelle Grinnell, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for MEDC who puts Ed on the hot seat with a ‘year in review.’

Join Michelle Grinnell, MEDC Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications as she grills host Ed Clemente about the 50+ economic development guests over the last year. Though Ed has a very nontraditional background, it “uniquely” compliments MEDC’s The Michigan Opportunity Podcast. Learn the sage advice from the many economic development guests, especially in areas of their unique career paths, their elevator speeches, future trends and disrupters, career advice and what they like best about Pure Michigan. Listen to the many stories of the Michigan geographic ecosystems and trends observed over the year such as: variety small business, connectivity, mobility, talent, higher education, finance, Industry 4.0, digital nomads, supply/block chain, edge computing, international footprints, digital nomads, BIO R&D, infrastructure, CED and what Michigan could look like by 2050! And so much more!

Season - 1 Episode 51

Bobby Hopewell – President & CEO, Mobile Health Resources

Listen to the former Mayor of Kalamazoo Bobby Hopewell, and his unique business in mobile health, plus he knows Yankees legend Derek Jeter!

Join Mayor Bobby Hopewell, President and CEO of Mobile Health Resources, and MEDC host Ed Clemente as they explore his current business, his experienced career in the health care field and as a public servant as the Mayor of Kalamazoo, a truly unique city! Mobile Health Resources billing services has allowed Michigan EMS organizations to focus on what they really care about – helping people in their time of need. Learn about the Kalamazoo Promise, the Kalamazoo Foundation for Excellence and a few famous people who went to Kalamazoo Central as well including Yankee Derek Jeter & NFL Receiver Greg Jennings. Also learn about the need for qualified EMTs and what a great career it is.

Season - 1 Episode 50

Dr. Roy Wilson - President, Wayne State University

Hear President Wilson of Wayne State University, and his international path as ophthalmologist, author and his unique background that drives him to push for upward social mobility for all at an R1 U!

Join Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson and host Ed Clemente as they cover a myriad of topics, but most importantly the mission he sees for the university to drive up social mobility so that everyone can benefit from a healthy economy especially at an R1 University. WSU is a preeminent, public, urban research university known for academic and research excellence, success across a diverse student body, and meaningful engagement in its urban community. Dr. Wilson, the ophthalmologist, will discuss his unique international career in the field from the Caribbean to Africa. Also, his exclusive story of his background that is now a in a published memoir!

Season - 1 Episode 49

Menaka Abel - CFO, Request Foods

Lasagna, soups, mac-n-cheese and much more! You’re going to get hungry listening to this conversation with this pleasant CFO and the unique West Michigan headquartered food company!

Join Menaka Abel, Chief Financial Officer for Request Foods, for an epicurean discussion with host Ed Clemente about this unique West Michigan company. Request Foods is a contract manufacturer of frozen foods, with over 600,000 sq. ft. of cooking, blending, freezing and packing capacity; a one-stop resource for R&D, processing and specialty packaging. Their team of top culinary chefs develops custom entrées, side dishes, heat ‘n’ serve portions, and a whole lot more—every meal in every size. Listen to their diversified growth and investment plans, and why they chose Michigan with the help of MEDC, Lakeshore Advantage and many others. This second-generation family-owned and operated business in Holland has a unique culture with a talented and diverse workforce. Hear about Menaka’s exceptional international path from Sri Lanka to Request Foods, and all the stops in between.

Season - 1 Episode 48

Eric Roberts - Executive Director, 20Fathoms

What is an Incubator, a Tech start-up, VC, and do Angels really exist in Michigan? Find out answers to these questions and more with 20Fathoms' Executive Director.

Join Eric Roberts, Executive Director of 20Fathoms for a fast-paced discussion with host Ed Clemente about a Traverse City-based niche industry of helping emerging innovators get started and nurtured. 20Fathoms is a membership organization for the region’s entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, tech professionals, creatives, and other innovators. They provide services, resources, support, and a robust support network to help their members accelerate careers and businesses. Eric also shares discusses Northern Michigan Angels, what it’s like working in Silicon Valley, as well as why he chose to come back to Michigan near his Yooper roots after living all over the country. Eric also clears up any confusions between the terms venture capital, incubator, tech start-up, SmartZones and more!

About the Host: Ed Clemente

Ed Clemente joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in 2020 as the Senior Advisor for Trends and Development.

From 2012-2020, Clemente served as a two-term governor appointed Hearing Commissioner for the Michigan Liquor Control Commission (MLCC). Executing over 7,000 judicial Orders/Decisions, over the tenure of service. Prior joining the MLCC, Clemente launched Michigan’s Energy Innovation Business Council (EIBC) establishing it as 501c3 and 501c6 entity and serving as its first President.

Ed Clemente was elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 2004 representing parts of southern Wayne County. During his three terms in the State House (2004-2010) he led task forces on electric vehicles, biosciences, film industry, Brownfield restoration, economic development, quality of life and advanced energy. Before his tenure as a public official, Clemente held several leadership roles at the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber of Commerce, including President and Director Economic and Business Development. He also previously chaired the Economic Development Committee of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and was elected as a Trustee for Wayne County Community College District, serving four terms.

Clemente has earned degrees from Ferris State, Michigan State University and Sienna Heights Universities. Clemente was awarded with a prestigious fellowship to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and The National Judicial College for Administrative Law. He graduated from several political leadership development programs, including Leadership Detroit, Michigan Political Leadership Program, and Leadership 21. He is a previous small business owner and has taught at Northwood University. Additionally, he hosts a “Critical Conversations” podcast and is a member of the Workforce Advisors for Wayne County Community College. Ed serves on the Board of Directors for Global Ties Detroit and the Motor Cities National Heritage Area. An avid traveler, Ed has visited more than 80 countries and territories, 150+ UNESCO World Heritage sites, many to play rugby tournaments, others for professional exchange and some for just intellectual curiosity.

The Michigan Opportunity is brought to you by Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). In collaboration with more than 100 economic development partners, MEDC markets Michigan as the place to do business, assists businesses in their growth strategies and fosters the growth of vibrant communities across the state.