GR Is Four Star

June 5, 2002
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So what is the “quality-of-life quotient” for Grand Rapids? According to Expansion Management magazine, the city falls into the top 30 percent of the nation’s 329 metropolitan statistical areas.

Expansion Management rated the trio of Grand Rapids-Holland-Muskegon as a four-star place to live, work and raise a family. A total of 50 cities were given four stars, while another 50 were awarded five stars. Ann Arbor was the state’s only five-star recipient, while Lansing-East Lansing earned four stars.

The magazine used about 50 quality-of-life indicators to rate the SMAs and then compared the ratings to determine its ranking. Most of the indicators measured the ability of families and individuals to meet their financial needs and desires.

“If your idea of a great place to live and work is based upon a reasonable cost of living, affordable housing, low crime, excellent transportation access, good public schools, community colleges and universities, an educated work force, low taxes and other concerns (that) you, as a potential employer, might have, then our Quality of Life Quotient is worth a look,” said BillKing, editor and associate publisher of Expansion Management.

A few other cities given the four-star rating include Dallas; Boise City, Idaho; Hartford, Conn.; and La Crosse, Wis. Five stars were awarded to Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Columbia, Mo.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and Green Bay, Wis.

King said Expansion Management is read by more than 45,000 top executives who have indicated that they are considering expanding into new markets.

  • Would a new casino have pushed the metro area into a five-star locale?

Not according to some, who lobbied hard for a proposed gambling house south of town to crap out.

The different camps had different takes on the issue, however.

Rep. JoanneVoorhees, R-Wyoming, was the first to get the spin cycle rolling when her office fired off a release mid-afternoon on Thursday with the headline “Vote on Gun Lake Casino Stopped.” Voorhees said she and her West Michigan colleagues “successfully stopped passage of House Resolution No. 167,” which would have allowed a tribal gaming compact between the Gun Lake Band and State of Michigan to open a casino along the U.S. 131 corridor.

“The negative effects of a casino far outweigh any claim of positive effects,” she says in her prepared statement. “Gambling has serious consequences for the moral and economic strength of families in community.”

So, that nasty little problem is taken care of, right?

Well, no.

About an hour and a half later, Rep. JerryKooiman, R-Grand Rapids, sent out his official statement, apparently having had a little more time to think about it.

His headline, “Casino decision off until September,” points out a glaring omission from Voorhees’ camp. It’s not dead; it’s just in cold storage until the next legislative session.

But Kooiman, too, gets his saved-the-day posture in.

“Some sections of our state are virtually overrun with slots, cards and dice,” he says. “We don’t want to introduce the evils associated with these casinos in our backyard.

“We will not stand by and watch families torn apart for a few pieces of silver.”

Ahh, it’s really the silver we’re worried about. This all would have been confusing except that immediately upon the non-decision being made, the GR Chamber’s legislative watchdog, RustyMerchant, used his cell phone to call in the results to the Business Journal.

Having done his sworn duty of guarding his hometown from any evil outsiders who want to spend money outside the target area while keeping every dollar he can here, the Merchant of Grand Rapids sounded a bit tired.

“Call me at the office if you need a quote.”

So despite all the political posturing and rhetoric (and omissions), it still comes down to this: The money and where it’s going to be spent. And if the chamber has its way, the money will be spent at Old Kent Park, DeVos Place, Van Andel Arena, Civic Theatre and a host of other “local” spots.

Apparently, 20 minutes south of town isn’t “local” enough.

Let’s see, two of the three Detroit casinos rake in $1 million a day, and the third’s haul is closer to $750,000 daily. There must be money being spent somewhere

  • Maybe that money’s being spent on the Lakeshore.

Grand Haven’s economic developers have a good idea to get downtown stimulated, but they might want to do a little light homework first.

Their neighbors to the south went through a similar process, and former Advance Newspapers ace reporter MikeLozon chronicled that town’s revitalization in his 1994 book “Vision on Main Street.” It’s worth a look.

Driving the success of downtown Holland’s revitalization was the willingness of governmental and business leaders to unite to breathe new life into the central business district and make it the cultural and commercial focal point of the broader community.

Overall, the success of downtown Holland’s revitalization effort can be credited to an ongoing commitment of time and money on the part of supporters in both the public and private sectors who share a singular motivation. They are determined to help downtown retain its historic status not only as a major retail player in the marketplace, but also as the heart of the greater Holland community,” Lozon said.

That effort didn’t always consist of “deep-pocket” investors such as the Prince family and other prominent business leaders, Lozon said. A large portion of the success stems from the countless number of businesses and business people who gave of their time to strategic planning efforts.

“If you were to sum up downtown Holland’s revitalization in one word, it would be cooperation,” Lozon said. “It really was a collective effort. It really went beyond the people with deep pockets.”

Working collectively for the betterment of an entire region. What a concept!

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