KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan’s former House speaker is taking over the helm of an economic development engine here in West Michigan.

Southwest Michigan First says it’s hired Lee Chatfield as its new chief executive officer.

“We believe he has the right vision and work ethic to partner with our team to take us to new heights. We couldn’t be more exited,” stated Southwest Michigan First Chairman Aaron Zeigler in a Thursday news release.

The former Republican lawmaker echoed similar sentiments.

“There’s so much more we can do to grow and assist people in these challenging times. I’m ready to get to work with a very talented team that’s already serving on the frontlines and impacting people’s lives daily. I can’t wait to be in this community with my family and serve alongside this incredible team,” Chatfield stated in the news release.

Chatfield served in leadership roles for four of his six years in Michigan’s House of Representatives. As a lawmaker, he paved the way for a new arena in Kalamazoo by supporting the Regional Event Center Financing Act, according to Southwest Michigan First.

Southwest Michigan First focuses on privately funded developments to drive economic growth in seven counties, including Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren.