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County Leaves SW Michigan First

Andy Robins

Kalamazoo County commissioners have voted to suspend payments to Southwest Michigan First.

That's even though former State House speaker Lee Chatfield has resigned as CEO of the regional economic development agency after only two weeks on the job. He came under fire for his opposition to adding protections for LGBTQ people to Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The County cut $75,000 in funding but will only get $40,000 back because its refund will be prorated. But Board Chair Tracy Hall says discussions are already underway to mend fences.

"I feel really confident and strongly about this that, by the end of this year, Southwest Michigan First and the Kalamazoo County government will be better partners.

Officials from Southwest Michigan First are expected to give county commissioners a presentation about the issue soon. After the controversy over Chatfield's hiring, the agency issued a statement saying it supports LGBTQ rights.

The City of Kalamazoo also withdrew its support for Southwest Michigan First. But City Commissioner Eric Cunningham says it's also talking with the organization.

"Due to the dynamics of what took place, we just wanted to ensure that all interests of each party were being taken into consideration."

The city canceled $10,000 in annual support earlier this month after Chatfield's hiring was announced.

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