PAW PAW — Zach Morris, executive director of Market Van Buren, has been named one of the nation’s 2021 Economic Development 40 Under 40 award winners.

He received the honor March 16 during a virtual red carpet ceremony.

The awards program is hosted by Development Counsellors International (DCI), a New York-based integrated marketing firm that works with economic development and travel organizations around the globe, and Jorgenson Consulting, a leading national executive search firm serving organizations in non-profit, economic, and community development industries.

An independent selection committee of six economic development professionals and site selection consultants evaluated a record-number of 200-plus nominees.

“This past year has demonstrated the importance of economic development in building and sustaining resilient communities,” said Julie Curtin, president of DCI’s economic development practice. “I’m especially impressed by the diverse perspectives and skill sets of this year’s winners as they lead communities to prioritize new ways of thinking, building inclusive and equitable economies, and bringing an attitude of fresh new ideas to the challenges in the industry. The economic development future is bright with these young leaders.”

“On behalf of the Market Van Buren Board of Directors, we are very proud of Zach and the work he is doing in our community. The network and momentum he is building will pay dividends for our region,” said Market Van Buren Chairman of the Board, Tom Stanek.

Morris holds a bachelor’s degree in Business from Davenport University and is a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional (EDFP). Most recently, he graduated from the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute (OU EDI) in May of 2019. OU EDI is a 117-hour certificate program which provides a broad spectrum of advanced education for the economic development professional.

His previous experience includes serving as a business services manager at Kinexus Group, where he worked with businesses throughout Southwest Michigan on workforce and economic development challenges. After working with Kinexus Group, he went on to work in the private sector for the utility and medical device industries where he led initiatives that solved workforce issues and transformed how they attracted and retained talent. He returned to Kinexus Group in 2016 as the executive director of Market Van Buren to lead economic development.

Since being hired in 2016, along with his board of 16 community and business leaders, Morris formed Market Van Buren, Van Buren County’s first ever economic development organization.

The organization has brought in 248 news jobs, $35.2 million of new investment and is credited with fostering an overall economic impact of $62.87 million. In two years, Morris has also grown the organization’s investors from one chief investor, Van Buren County, to now more than 30 investors from both the public and private sectors.