The Med School Study Makes Sense

July 12, 2004
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In essence, it’s a good problem to have. Every educated, well-versed person or entity considering the “gift” of a Michigan State University medical school in Grand Rapids understands the proposal and its potential. The potential economic benefits are apparent, but the key word here is potential, and mapping out how it can be successful rather than stressful.

The decision to conduct an economic impact study and independent analysis to verify cost estimates might seem to some to be a “no-brainer,” but dare it be said that only in Grand Rapids would such a “conservative” approach be taken. Therein lies the foundation for what and why projects work here. It is another collaborative approach, and the costs are to be known “up front.” Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell perhaps proudly noted, “This community is nothing if not cautious and thoughtful and careful in how it does business.”

The requested independent study, to be undertaken by Deloitte & Touche, is less about feasibility and more about being prepared for the price, amortization and the “when and how much” on the payback. The bricks and mortar of the arena and convention center as an economic domino were, in some respects, more easily calculated. The potential aggrandizement of the Life Sciences Corridor’s “crown jewel,” the Van Andel Institute, is not so succinctly calculated.

It is not a private deal, it is (once again) proof of genuine, long-term community building and community mindedness by a group of dedicated, trusted and proven leaders.

None say such an opportunity is not welcome. Indeed, the lack of a medical school in Grand Rapids has long, long been noted or lamented by those in the professional ranks, especially those whose accomplishments are internationally recognized; it has been a dream. Every successful entrepreneur has dared to dream big and therefore accomplish what others do not, but this group of medical and business leaders do not sleepwalk: They take deliberate steps.

While Grand Action Co-Chair David Frey is mindful of the MSU timeline for decisions, it is important to note that the (truly) “Grand Vision” for the city has been more than 30 years in the making, starting with the renovations of the Pantlind Hotel.

Frey said the study would be funded “so everybody in West Michigan can understand more fully the economic impact of this thing and what it’s going to take to make it happen.” The more that is known and understood by the general community the better. The project does not then become a political football, often a tactic used by some media businesses to sensationalize a story for self-aggrandizement.

The Deloitte & Touche study is not about yes or no; it’s about how to get it done, by knowing what to expect. Once again, community leaders have distinguished themselves.           

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