One Year Later A Time To Rebuild Legacies

September 9, 2002
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Considering the immense sense of vulnerability felt one year ago this week, there is no better tonic than knowing now that the attacks by foreign terrorists only served to check and strengthen a free market. Grand Rapids Business Journal wrote here last year “the creativity and ability of entrepreneurs here and throughout the country may have been represented in the World Trade Center towers, but it is only a representation. The heart and soul of American ingenuity is, in fact, everywhere.”

Indeed, it was not foreign terrorists who turned the market upside down, it was “us:” educated, affluent, intelligent corporate officers whose unchecked greed and decided ignorance of integrity and the arrogance of perceived power. These are the real terrorists, and Grand Rapids is not isolated from them. They can be identified in the media, in politics, health care and any of the industries also making national headlines.

Grand Rapids Business Journal this year has reported on dozens of executive and economic presentations, awards and speeches, nearly all noting “bad apple syndrome” and beseeches of audiences not to paint all executives with one broad brush. Two such events come to mind as examples of integrity: the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, co-sponsored by the Business Journal, and the Grand Rapids Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year.

Entrepreneur of the Year Awards were received by such outstanding business community leaders as Fred Keller, Cascade Engineering; Jerry Engle, CPR Inc; Lyle Labardee, Crisis Care Network; Carol Burgess and Carol Smith of Great Lakes Script Center; John Kennedy, Autocam; Dan Driesenga, Driesenga & Associates and Dick Haworth, Haworth Inc.

As the year began the Kent County Board of Commissioners and staff were recognized as Newsmaker of the year for many accomplishments including a model health care program, studies of access to health care by minority community members, its health insurance program, preservation of land for parks, environmental efforts, it’s building programs and ability to stay focused on the big picture, especially in county building programs, rather than political fights. One may predict the County is likely to end the year in such a way, having already committed to additional contributions to cover the shortfall in convention center construction funding and its patience in overcoming problems related to the zoo expansion.

And there are other examples upon which reader attention should be focused: Harvey Gainey’s willingness and expertise in leading the Broadway Theater Guild out of the red, and certain extinction, in just nine months; Fred Meijer’s unwavering community commitment in opening a rare and treasured sculpture park in addition to the acclaimed sculpture gardens wherein they rest; Alticor’s demonstration of community support in naming the youngest of the siblings, Doug DeVos, to lead the international corporation with Steve Van Andel.

The fortune of this community is that its corporate and community leaders do not squander and hoard in these days of incredible greed. The examples set by Peter Wege, Max DePree and others are not represented on the front page of daily newspapers, but are far more sensational than the daily dose of deeds of greed.

. One year ago, the Wall Street Journal wrote on its editorial page that the strength of a free market is its independence, “A network, a constellation of prices reflecting hundreds of billions of free decisions.”

One year after Sept. 11, we have identified the real evil-doers. One might pray this week that such freedom will be preserved by the integrity to do what is right, and create sensational legacies rather than headlines.           

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