MSU Medical SchoolnThink Regionally

February 27, 2004
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Michigan State University President Peter McPherson has made a round of speeches the past several weeks to report on the affairs of the university a short drive from Grand Rapids. While McPherson is comprehensive in his remarks, the headline continues to be the possibility of the expansion or relocation of the MSU College of Human Medicine to Grand Rapids. It is an MSU decision that is regarded as “imperative” to Grand Rapids.

The reasons for such a move into Grand Rapids are varied but rooted in the traditions that make Grand Rapids so unique a metropolitan area community. These include the tremendous power of the long-held public and private partnerships, the likes of which just finished DeVos Place Convention Center, and the fact that Grand Rapids ranks as the second most benevolent community in the country among communities of its size. It also has held top 10 rank as a hot bed of entrepreneurs. All of those assets provided the foundation on which to build the Van Andel Institute and Van Andel Research Institute, which already enjoy an international reputation and recognition for high-caliber work and staff. The VAI’s crucial role in Michigan’s Life Sciences Corridor makes it the state’s crown jewel.

Partnerships, unrivaled even within the state, investment and charitable contributions and a region cherishing the entrepreneur all combine to give MSU financial assets, growth and commercial applications from university research and development.  The shared goal of the latter has not yet begun to make headlines, but certainly will.

It is the outgrowth of those applications that will grow Lansing in ways previously unexplored. Grand Rapids is 45 miles from Lansing and the state’s largest public university; MSU’s research centers and medical school program provide both the community of Lansing and Grand Rapids with benefits only business owners can fathom — politicians generally cannot.

While talk of relocating the medical school makes Lansing community politicians understandably nervous, it is the strength of the region that will provide continued economic development in the medical sciences.

An example of regional benefit is provided by the assistance The Right Place Inc. has provided from Greenville to Kalamazoo in the past nine months. President Birgit Klohs has commented that a company calling from Heidelberg does not specifically ask for a location in Nunica, but to determine what is regionally appealing. It is exemplified again by a story in this week’s Business Journal, updating the work of Lakeshore Advantage, a newly formed economic development group working with the Holland and Zeeland chambers of commerce as well as the Holland Economic Development Corp. The new group is “filling the cracks” between the existing agencies to provide services with a broader, regional perspective.

Such cooperative partnerships extending from Lansing to Grand Rapids (and beyond in the creation of the Life Sciences corridor) are of benefit to the entire region as Michigan State University trustees make their decision. Regional thinking is a matter of course in the business community. Likewise, it should be no hurdle to the politicians.           

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