Top 10 Newsmakers Provide Real Perspective

April 26, 2002
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It has not been uncommon in the past few weeks to hear most everyone comment with relief that 2001 is over and should be buried along with any related conversation. If one regards last year's mainstream media headlines, it might seem appropriate. Last year Old Kent Bank sold out to Fifth Third, and the early layoffs were just the tip of the iceberg, as an economic slowdown became a full-scale recession especially cruel to area manufacturers and retailers. Flying in the face of that, Grand Rapids Business Journal this week names the top 10 business stories of the year. The definition for such inclusion is the person or business that made the greatest, long-term economic impact in this metro area.

—Gerald R. Ford International Airport achieved its goal of early completion of its new east-west runway, furthering economic development in the region's most populated employment sector, even as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks resulted in a complete halt in business and $2 million in additional spending.

—The development of the Muskegon Lakes Mall not only filled a retail void but also helped prompt millions of dollars in new commercial investment.

—The world's Big 3 furniture makers saw the worst sales year on record, but each maintained the mission of diversification that lays an important foundation for future earnings potential and cost savings.

—The health care landscape will change significantly as "pill hill" develops with more than $100 million in new projects, including Spectrum's "heart hospital" and Grand Valley State University's Center for Health Professions.

—Muskegon and Grand Rapids are winners as the Michigan Economic Development Corp.'s two SmartZones complement and incubate new businesses, especially in the technology field.

—Swift Printing is the epitome of small business and small business owners, earning both local and state recognition for its duration, and especially its community commitment.

—The decades-long fight of the Grand Rapids Art Museum to work within its confining space as collections grow ends with Peter Wege's enormous gift of $20 million for a new home.

—Kent County in 2001 achieved a Triple A bond rating, was given national recognition for its use of recycled materials, constructed a new courthouse, established a health care insurance plan for low-income, uninsured residents and completed a study of health care access for minority residents. It's $86 million bond package for the new convention center sold in a matter of days.

—DP Fox: Its Arena Football League team, the Rampage, won the national title soon after the company managed a wholesale hockey league blowout, even while beginning several new business ventures including car dealerships, commercial and residential property development and creation of a new advertising and marketing firm.

—John Loeks provided $25 million in new construction and a new chapter in the entertainment industry with the long-awaited opening of Celebration! Cinema, featuring the first IMAX theater in the region.

With perspective, 2001 may instead be looked upon for its seeds of good fortune, planted to further diversify the greater metro area business landscape. The Newsmaker of the Year nominees, however, are the real goldmine, having given significant time and leadership not only to their institutions, but also to this community. For real perspective consult GR native Rich De Vos, who announced his sale of the Orlando Magic two weeks ago as the city again stymied progress on a new arena. During a speech here last May, DeVos noted the inability to form public and private partnerships in Orlando, and business leaders who refused to part with any amount of personal fortunes for charitable public causes.

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