Newsmaker Nominees Define Diversity Of West Michigan’s Economy

April 18, 2002
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Is today the second day of a new millennium, or the 367th?

If Florida State wins tomorrow, can the Seminoles really be considered national champs?

Is Bush really the president, or will recounts by media outlets across Florida show Gore should be in the Oval Office?

See, a good debate (or argument) almost always is entertaining.

That's why the nominees for the Grand Rapids Business Journal 2001 Newsmaker of the Year Award should make for some interesting discussion.

As in years past, the top 10 nominees will be revealed week by week leading up to the March 8 announcement of the winner during a meeting of Downtown Rotary. (Hint: The first nominee appears today on Page 1.)

But this year, maybe even more so than in years past, the Editorial Board had a difficult time culling a list of approximately 50 nominations to just 10. In fact, some were combined to appease board members.

The award, which was started in 1992, annually recognizes the top person, business or event that had the most impact on West Michigan during the previous year.

With such little direction, it's no wonder the Editorial Board had such a difficult time.

Some nominations, like the demolition of the Velvet Touch, were fairly easily dismissed. But others, like everything that went on in the field of health care during 2000, required far more scrutiny and some tough choices.

The Editorial Board already has made its decisions for 2001 Newsmaker of the Year. Those will become evident over the next 10 weeks.

But just for the sake of argument, let's look at all 50 nominations again.

It should make for some lively discussion.

  • Spartan Stores Inc.'s acquisition of Toledo-based Seaway Food Town Inc. and its effect on the grocery industry in West Michigan.

  • The brave new world of electric power deregulation and its economic impact on West Michigan.

  • Van Andel Institute's grand opening and its ability to draw some of the top scientific minds in the world to Grand Rapids.

  • Expansion of the Grand Center.

  • The impact of the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor on development in West Michigan.

  • Creation of the Downtown Improvement District and demise of the Downtown Management Board.

  • Merger and/or affiliation activity involving Borgess, Metropolitan, Spectrum and Hackley hospitals.

  • The birth – and subsequent death 10 months later – of the world's largest Christian Internet site, iBelieve.com.

  • Spectrum Health's plans for a nine-story (since reduced to eight) cardiovascular medicine tower.

  • Senator Glenn Steil's proposal to have businesses help rebuild some failing school buildings.

  • The Grand Rapids Police Department's search for a new headquarters building and subsequent arrival at the former City Centre.

  • Drubbing of the statewide school voucher ballot proposal.

  • The closure and ahead-of-schedule reopening of the downtown S-Curve.

  • Renovations and remodeling, including plans for reconstructing the east-west runway, at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

  • Transformation of the sprawling Berkey & Gay Building into a multitude of downtown housing units.

  • The flash appearance of Jato Communications, which three weeks after completing staffing for a Grand Rapids office pulled out of Michigan and the Midwest entirely.

  • Choice One buys US Xchange for more than $300 million.

  • Gemini Publications launches GRBJExpress.com, a national prototype for online business publications.

  • The "home rule" initiative, ballot Proposal 2, is soundly defeated.

  • Gambro Health Care Inc. is sued for antitrust violation and agrees with the Attorney General to divest some of its West Michigan kidney dialysis operation.

  • Ralph Baldwin's contributions to the military, paleontology and entertainment industries, not to mention publishing, with his inventions.

  • Monroe North boomed, and business owners told city officials they would need parking for more than 1,000 vehicles.

  • The tiff over the logo/advertising sign on the side of the Brass Works Building.

  • Grand Rapids Magazine Medical Hall of Fame's inaugural class.

  • Opening of Steelcase University and the new learning procedures available to manufacturers.

  • The city's effort to piece together one large site in its Renaissance Zone at the former American Laundry and Cleaners.

  • The Grand Rapids Furniture Hall of Fame's inaugural class.

  • The restructuring of the Amway family into Alticor.

  • Frederik Meijer Gardens' significant sculpture acquisitions and meeting space expansions.

  • Fifth Third Bank's purchase of Ameribank and Old Kent.

  • The Michigan Economic Development Corporation's proposals for Smart Parks.

  • Soaring fuel prices and their effect on transportation.

  • Grand Valley State University's significant campus construction in downtown Grand Rapids and the leadership of Arend Lubbers.

  • X-Rite's Corp.'s creation of a locally based venture capital arm, XR Ventures.

  • Grand Rapids Community College's M-TEC center in Holland.

  • Opening of the Steil Youth Commonwealth Center.

  • Business sector's community investment in such projects as Gilda's Club.

  • The rapid expansion of Davenport University under the direction of Donald Maine.

  • Jack Loeks' efforts to bring an IMAX theater to Grand Rapids.

  • Faith Inc.'s tremendous impact on employment opportunities for the economically disadvantaged.

  • The renovation of the former Ferguson Hospital into an entity that would meet the needs of downtown's population in several different areas.

  • The gypsum mines become home to a whole new industry: data storage.

  • Universal Forest Products' progress toward reaching its ambitious five-year goals.

  • DP Fox's diversity as the future of business in West Michigan.

  • Berlin Raceway's sale to the West Michigan Whitecaps.

  • The establishment of the Convention and Arena Authority to oversee the Grand Center and the Van Andel Arena.

  • Competition for cable TV comes to town in the form of Everest Connections.

  • Gentex Corp.'s technology breakthrough in the use of automobile mirrors.

  • Revitalization of the long-dormant Amazon Building in downtown Muskegon.

  • Dwelling Place's contribution's to the revitalization of South Division Avenue in Grand Rapids.

These stories combined to make 2000 the year that it was, but only 10 of them have been selected by the Grand Rapids Business Journal Editorial Board as the top news stories of the year. Watch for them to be profiled over the coming weeks. And remember, debate can be a very healthy exercise (which would be in keeping with your New Year's resolution).           

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