Effort, Not Money, Makes Region Cool

June 7, 2004
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By its very nature, competition dictates that there must be winners and losers.

If one individual, team or organization is rewarded with a prize, it stands to reason that others in the competition are left wanting.

But viewing the state’s Cool Cities pilot program grants in such a context would be misleading.

Yes, a pair of Grand Rapids projects and one in Saugatuck were selected as recipients of as-yet-undisclosed financial grant funds from the state. And, yes, more than 130 applications from cities around the state were shut out.

Referring to those projects as losers, however, would be just plain wrong.

While Grand Rapids’ Avenue for the Arts and Uptown Revitalization projects, and Saugatuck’s renovation of the old Rich’s Pie Factory into an arts center, certainly are deserving of Cool Cities assistance, the exercise of grant application has been enlightening for many city officials from around West Michigan.

In fact, Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s promise of funding should prompt even more brainpower to be turned toward such initiatives, which was probably its intended purpose anyway.

Lowell City Manager David Pasquale said that even though his was not among the 112 cities applying for the funds, he was very aware of the process and intoned that Lowell next year may join the effort after first doing some work on its own.

“Culture in a small town can have a big economic impact,” he said.

West Michigan cities from Greenville to Rockford to Holland to Wayland, all of which were passed over during this year’s program, surely will be back in years to come. And that’s good news for West Michigan, because even without funding from the state, many of these projects will make their way to completion over the next several years.

Michigan won’t become “cool” overnight, but a concerted effort will push it in the right direction.

The same can be said for Muskegon, which last week welcomed cross-lake ferry service to and from Milwaukee amid much fanfare and hoopla. Not all passengers coming to this side of the lake, however, were impressed with their first look at West Michigan, as the ferry docks away from the downtown that is experiencing something of a rebirth.

But look for Muskegon and surrounding Lakeshore communities to learn how to incorporate the ferry into their revitalization efforts so that it, too, will become a “cool” part of the region.    

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