Area Has Cause For Celebration

June 14, 2002
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As the third quarter of the year draws to a close Grand Rapids is seeing historic milestones. The activity is so varied a revolving door is required for passage; revolving because the world will be coming to GR, as business leaders head out to the world.

Kent County will dedicate its new courthouse this week, an event that will be capped by the dedication of Maya Lin’s installation of Ecliptic at Rosa Parks Circle and the start of Celebration on the Grand.

Lin accepted the challenge of designing a sculpture for Grand Rapids because, she said, it was exciting to be involved in and contribute to the city’s renaissance. She told sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine that she was surprised and delighted by the “invention” of partnerships between the Frey Foundation, the city, county and private investors with an artist in the middle. The national and international attention Lin brings with her attaches a Grand Rapids dateline to the story, even as area companies strategize international business relationships.

Her use of the term “invention” is especially interesting because it describes what businesses headquartered in this metro area are planning the future, even while some local media are drowning in pessimism and self-annointed guardianship of corporate spending.

As this quarter closes, it marks the worst recorded period in the history of office furniture manufacturing profits. Profits are down, layoffs are one part of necessary immediate corrections but quite the opposite of closing down, the companies are prepared to market, advertise and diversify the business. Steelcase has purchased other businesses to aid that diversification. A previously announced plan to begin office building construction (and office furnishing) certainly makes the company less reliant on the ebb and flow of plans by other businesses. Both examples show that the company is making investments to drive growth.

Herman Miller’s ability to take the Olympics by storm provides the company with an unequaled venue to all ancillary business opportunities.

Trendway has signed a joint venture with a German seating manufacturer, and its new plant will employ 75 individuals as it starts up.

The diversity of the local economy comes to bear in these times. Bissell Inc. is celebrating its 125th anniversary this month with new product inventions awaiting Federal Drug Administration approvals. Wolverine World Wide is rejoicing in record sales, especially through its Harley Davidson line and 350 new retailers. Hastings Manufacturing has a tremendous 96.7 percent increase in the first half of the year, crediting its move to lean manufacturing principles.

In the e-business sector Adtergrity reports a return to profitability, Manatron government information systems, largest contract in its history with Cuyahoga County, Clevland’s home. iBeleive.com has re-engineered its business plan for a comeback and Sagestone last week opened in Ann Arbor the first of its four satellite offices.

At the top of the fourth, those who hold real degrees in the world of economic analysis see the signs of rebounding and no wish to rehash what new reports show has already occurred.

In all, this month offers many historic markers — and reason for Celebration.

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