Business Input Imperative As Politicians Shrug It Off

May 29, 2002
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Grand Rapids Mayor John Logie and city administrators have come a long way in removing impediments to doing business in the city, especially when contrasted to the bureaucratic  “just say no” policies of the 1980s, illustrated by the stalling and then loss of the Spaghetti Factory’s want to locate in the entertainment district.

There are more than 2,000 neighborhood businesses operating in the city, the vast majority of them small businesses, from manufacturers to service and retail. It is therefore incongruent to hear sitting city commissioners say business is not “a constituency” or that “most business owners do not live in the city.” Incredulously, one of these commissioners (to date, running unopposed for re-election) “represents” the Eastown neighborhood, which is indeed packed with a dazzling array of businesses, whose owners certainly live in the city. Or perhaps the commissioner does not represent owners like Les Allen whose businesses are on South Division, Wealthy and Franklin. Or Pat Pulliam who untiringly runs the Grand Rapids Times with her husband. Irma Rodruiguez at La Loma Restaurant or Fausto and Paula Rosario at Santo Domingo Grocery. West Side businesses are among some of the oldest in Grand Rapids, but it matters not into which neighborhood one ventures. Whether it’s Leonard, North Park, Monroe or Michigan, to say business owners, single-shingle attorneys among them, are not a constituency may be the height of ignorance — or worse — an aloofness that would give any resident pause. The taxes paid by these owners and the income taxes paid by innumerable employees working and/or living in the city evidently matters little compared to the number of votes in a particular ward on Election Day.

So it is imperative that business owners take heed and take part in the city’s ongoing solicitation of input for its new master plan. Monarch Hydraulics President John Jackoboice has worked many additional hours on the city’s “Plan Grand Rapids,” and compiled specific concerns of business owners.

The chief worry is that “a healthy business area is one in which new businesses replace outgoing businesses.” And it may become a bigger worry if such “anti-business” attitudes prevail among city commissioners.

Other concerns include the priority of public transportation and infrastructure, as well as building code issues and parking. The story on page 3 includes a full list of specific concerns. All told, these are likely to be representative of the same issues concerning residents.

Perhaps Mayor Logie’s new business initiative lies in educating those seated at his table in commission chambers. As many other cities know, business owners most often vote by leaving.

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