How GR Will Top The VAI

June 5, 2002
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In the first 10 weeks of each New Year, Grand Rapids Business Journal provides readers with a 10-part series reviewing the accomplishments of the greater Grand Rapids business community, culminating with the announcement of Grand Rapids Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year. The timing of the announcement allows the editorial panel to underscore the most important aspect of the award: long-term significance.

All top 10, culled from a nomination list five times as long, surely depict the diversity and strength of the metropolitan area’s economic base. The accomplishments of the past year include:

   

The Customer Choice and Reliability Act, utility deregulation which serves to encourage outside supplies of electricity and phasing out price controls. Southern Energy has constructed a 1,000-megawatt, gas-fired generating system in Zeeland, and Panda Energy International is ready to build its plant in Ottawa County.

   

The restructuring of Amway, from emphasis on a single portion of the business to four district divisions under the parent name Alticor.

   

The Gentex LED technology development now seen as a gateway for all wireless Internet and navigation items, which will allow the rearview car mirror to open garage doors, make phone calls, read e-mail and check the weather.

   

X-Rite’s announcement of the first venture capital fund outside Ann Arbor or Detroit, already funding emerging businesses across the country as well as in Grand Rapids.

   

The $5 billion sale of 147-year-old Old Kent Bank  to Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bankcorp.

   

The continued consolidation of health care entities throughout West Michigan, fueled by federal reimbursement policies causing shortfalls in hospital budgets.

   

The statewide growth of Davenport University led by retiring President Don Maine, the “Dean of Business Educators.”

   

The construction of a downtown campus by Grand Valley State University which serves as an emerging business center, lead by retiring President Arend Don Lubbers who commandeered the growth of what was a college in the cornfields.

   

The unrivaled Grand Rapids corporate beneficence, which has built strong non-profit organizations from Gilda’s Club to the Van Andel Institute.

The largest philanthropic research effort in history, the Van Andel Institute, is the Newsmaker of the Year, not for the size of the gift but for the incredible, unimaginable size of the impact.

The Van Andel Institute is the spur of the Michigan Life Sciences corridor, a stretch of bio-medical research universities, institutes and businesses stretching from Michigan Street in downtown Grand Rapids through East Lansing, Ann Arbor and to Detroit.

The VAI is now home to more than 80 scientific researchers and scientists, all acknowledged as the best in their fields of study. And more, the VAI is home to an educational institute. This aspect of the Institute not only encompasses graduate level programs, but emphasis in K-12 education, and already has a partner with Grand Rapids’ Alger Elementary School

Some in the community have asked whether the story of the VAI can ever be topped. But that is exactly the idea. It is only the beginning.

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