GR Significant Player in Michigan Economy

May 7, 2002
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The Michigan Small Business Development Center, responsible for 14 regional offices and 60 satellite offices throughout the state, is headquartered in Grand Rapids. One may wonder why it took so long, but it seems old paradigms die hard.

The Michigan office has been headquartered at Wayne State University for 17 years. As that time has passed, Grand Rapids’ urban renaissance created a storm of renewal and an economic domino bringing new vitality to the core city.

In the past decade the city of Grand Rapids put an abrupt halt to managing or micromanaging business affairs, creating a partnership with The Right Place Program and broadening its view as a city in a region of economic vitality. It has developed a Neighborhood Business Program embraced by neighborhood businesses and adding to their numbers. It has contributed to assist creation of a micro loan program and become the state model of how Renaissance Zones should and do work.

Grand Valley State University has built a business school campus bar none in the heart of the city and vastly expanded its programs. The DeVos Center houses the Seidman School of Business and the Van Andel Global Trade Center on a 20-acre state-of-the art (high-tech) campus. The Small Business Administration district director said GVSU “posses the vision, leadership and necessary resources to take the MI-SBDC to the next level.”

The Grand Rapids region has “made the list” as one of Fortune Magazine’s top 10 Best Cities for Business; Industry Week’s No. 2 rank as a World Class Community and as one of the top five metro areas for number of new entrepreneurs. Even as the nation showed a decline in manufacturing of 2.4 percent, Grand Rapids manufacturing grew by 22.8 percent one year ago.

Will such a pace be maintained? Grand Rapids last fall was lauded by state technology groups as a “hot bed for IT” and is the acknowledged “anchor” of the Michigan Life Sciences Corridor and incubator for bioscience and biotechnology commercial development.

With a total operating budget of $5.78 million, the new Michigan Director for the Michigan Small Business Development Centers, Carol Lopucki, whose previous title was director of the Grand Rapids SBDC office, will share the “how” of the partnerships with which this community is so familiar. Lopucki’s agenda also is filled with e-commerce and exporting strategy initiatives. She intends to expand SBDC services to small businesses and notes that thousands of dollars in federal grant money are available. Lopucki acknowledged filing forms can be daunting but has staff prepared to assist potential and existing small business owners through the paperwork.

The federal officials announcing the move to GR noted that the transfer from east to West Michigan signified the region’s growth as a “significant player” in the state economy. But we already knew that.

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