Business Leaders Show Support For City

May 31, 2002
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A standing ovation is due Gainey Transportation Services Inc. owner Harvey Gainey, who shouldered the challenge of turning around a debt-ridden operation. It was not another business deal nor an operation by which Gainey would profit directly, but a nonprofit “arts” organization no less important to the greater Grand Rapids community. The indirect “profit” to the community has been underscored by a surge in ticket sales for the Broadway Theater Guild, which ended its season with (a) “Blast” on June 2.

It would be nice if city commissioners indicated in one type of resolution or another their appreciation for Gainey’s turnaround, especially having mean-spiritedly commented one year ago on the metro area’s “pharaohs of fortune” in deference to community benefactors’ sincerity and willingness to support the types of organizations that make Grand Rapids the kind of city one would want to run for office to represent.

Little more than two weeks ago publications and travel editors and writers from across the country were taking notes at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park as internationally acclaimed sculptors dedicated their work. Some among them certainly sniffed about being sent to the Midwest, and acted puzzled that so vast a culturally important collection could be supported in little ole GR. But GR isn’t so little any more, and its continued ability to attract a first-class work force is absolutely tied to such community treasures, and especially to those who work to make it so.

Gainey rolled up his sleeves and used his experience to eliminate nearly the entire $465,000 deficit threatening the demise of the BTG. Rich DeVos, Fred Meijer, Peter Cook, Chuck Royce and dozens of others also have sweat the details of helping to emphasize the “grand” in the city’s moniker. The now apparent skeleton of the new convention center may be the culmination of such effort, though one hopes not.

The city commission, however, still has insisted on wrestling to the ground those who would attempt improvements at another cultural institution, John Ball Zoo, in a financially irresponsible and reprehensible fight with the county, which the city cannot win.

The growing community support for these endeavors and improvements is particularly reflected in Gainey’s ability to raise enough funds to cover BTG’s deficit and “put a few dollars in the bank.” In GR style, reports of the problems actually helped spur ticket sales and rejuvenate support rather than detract from BTG.

Grand Rapids, in fact, has another nice problem: the shared use of DeVos Hall between BTG, the Grand Rapids Symphony, Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet limits the number of performances by any of these entities. Such growing limitations and the concerns it presents for the arts groups is reason to further study a community performing arts center.

The willingness of the business community to step up and work on the resolution of such issues undoubtedly is a gift returned as grown children continue to elect to come “home” to raise their families and contribute in new ways. And the circle of influence grows as a world-class labor force sees opportunity on the banks of Grand. 

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