GRs Welcome Mat Is Terribly Stained

June 20, 2003
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At the end of February of this year business leader David Frey announced the results of a study, Impacts of Quality of Life Indicators on Michigan Cities, put together by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and Michigan Business Roundtable, a coalition of business people from metro Detroit, Grand Rapids and other Michigan cities. The “who’s who” of Michigan business leaders holds the report central to economic growth in every community and it is generally regarded as a blueprint for Grand Rapids.

Among the factors necessary to attract the “new economy” workers and the younger aggressive entrepreneurs is a community rich in the ideas and talents needed to grow. The factors cited in the report have been discussed prominently over the past year, especially by the architectural and development businesses.

The gross political bombardment of one such Grand Rapidian already doing business in this community is certainly being watched by area CEOs concerned that Mayor John Logie’s outright dismissal of a landmark project at the behest of backroom politics is one giant leap backward in a community already considered to be on the losing side of the “new economy.”

Grand Rapids Business Journal is not, at this point, advocating one way or another on the proposal brought from Blue Bridge Ventures more than a year ago to the city and county. The developer, working with the highly regarded Hines Interests LP in Houston, would relocate the city and county offices and build a 24-story hotel on Calder Plaza, surrounding Grand Rapids’ favorite sculpture and plaza with activity.

All one can honestly say about the idea thus far is that it has been met with more manipulation by the city and county than any project in recent memory, including the often-debased Bridgewater Place prior to its construction.

If Grand Rapids wants to attract a world-class, new economy work force and entrepreneurs who would do business here, it is vitally important that such people would be welcome. The outright fiasco created out of numbers serves to confuse residents and create a demon of the developer, who to this point has abided by city and county requests to maintain confidence in details of the deal. Using local and national experts Blue Bridge has shown propriety in its accounting and projections, while the city embarrasses itself in making irrelevant and outright inaccurate statements. This community looks foolish.

Some prominent business owners have indicated they have been appalled by the vilification of the developer and city’s refusal to provide a fair forum for discussion of the project.

Certainly the citizens of this community deserve an honest accounting of what is being proposed, of both that which is on the table in public meetings and any proposals that are being discussed outside of public purview, which may affect the Blue Bridge decision.

Is Grand Rapids open for business or is it closed to the more aggressive entrepreneurs who would provide competition in the community? One member of the Blue Bridge team concludes the proposal to the city and county has not, in city leaders’ minds, ever been about the project — it’s not about “what” but about “who.”

The issue here is the ability to attract new economy workers and new entrepreneurs, which is vital to this community. Grand Rapids Business Journal encourages city and county officials to come clean. The city’s welcome mat is filthy.   

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