Natalia Kovicak was 22 when she met her future husband on a beach in Mexico. She had a bachelor’s degree in human resources and public relations from the University of Palermo and a good job with the Coca-Cola company in Buenos Aires. She had also launched her own event-planning business. “I was not looking to move out of my country,” says the Argentinian native. “The last thing I wanted to do was to move away from my family.”
But the man, an American, stayed in touch, and, two years later, Kovicak moved to Spring Lake, Michigan. “It was the toughest decision I have ever made,” she says. To maintain her independence, Kovicak delayed marriage and secured a visa for high-skilled workers instead. “I wanted to make a life for myself,” she says.
In the 20 years since, Kovicak, in addition to raising two children, has worked to help businesses and workers thrive in the Grand Rapids region, first by providing work skills to Spanish and English speakers through Not So Basic Training & Consulting, and, for the last 10 years, as an executive at The Right Place, an economic development organization.
There, as vice president of conferences and events, Kovicak organizes industry summits, on food, agribusiness, supply chain management, and, critically, in manufacturing. She developed a manufacturing summit, now in its second year, to bring manufacturing and technology leaders together to strategize on how to remain competitive in the 21st century global market. “It’s about understanding that the next industrial revolution is coming, and how to embrace it,” she says.
“It’s just been a great journey for me. It’s been the best place for me professionally, and as a mother.”
West Michigan is home to more than 2,500 manufacturing companies and includes some of nation’s largest manufacturing clusters in automotive, biopharmaceuticals, and metals and plastics. In all, the sector accounts for 15 percent of West Michigan jobs. It is Kovicak’s mission to help those jobs stay in West Michigan.
Although Kovicak’s marriage to the American she met in Mexico did not last, she is happy to have landed in the Grand Rapids area. “It’s just been a great journey for me,” she says. “It’s been the best place for me professionally, and as a mother.”