Vice President of Southwest Michigan First in Kalamazoo. Southwest Michigan First is an organization of privately funded economic development advisers who encourage economic success in southwest Michigan. Owens leads the firm's attraction efforts. The entrepreneurial skills she developed as the co-owner and founder of a Michigan-based business selling private label barbeque sauces and spices allow her to understand the needs of companies that seek Southwest Michigan First's consulting services. Previously, Owens was vice president of business development at Ann Arbor SPARK. Prior to that, she spent 10 years at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. in leadership roles concentrating on job retention and growth and business development. Recently, Owens was named one of the 40 Under 40 in Economic Development from Development Counsellors International (DCI). Under her leadership, Southwest Michigan First has aided several business expansions as well as relocations to the region. Additionally, the firm was named one of West Michigan's Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in 2012. It received the same honor from the National Association for Business Resources as the overall Elite winner in the category of Small-Size Business. Also, Southwest Michigan First was named by Priority Health, Crain's Detroit Business
, and MiBiz as one of the five overall Michigan's Healthiest Employers in 2012 for its wellness program. Owens earned the designation of Certified Economic Developer in 2012. Her bachelor's degree in journalism is from Michigan State University.