2004 Year Of Unfinished Business
From bank mergers to medical schools to hospital complexes, a lot was started in 2004, but not everything was finished by the end of the year.
Here is a look back at a year that, when recalled a decade from now, may be seen as the start of something really big in
The year started with changes in significant leadership positions in
Jeanne Englehart became the first woman to ascend to the presidency of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.
Englehart, the former founder and president of Englehart Training Centers, topped 130 candidates following a three-month search for a successor to John Brown.
George Heartwell became
The New Year brought new ideas for the engineers at JCI's
In the first major award of the season,
Riviera Tool Co. anticipated new heights in 2004 as it led a group of
On the national front — but with plenty of local ramifications — J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Bank One Corp. announced a merger that would create a $1.1 trillion entity with 2,300 branches. That merger was not fully implemented locally by year's end, however, as the Bank One name still adorned
The local economic picture was muddied at the start of the year, as forecasters predicted anywhere from slight declines to modest growth for 2004. Hari Singh, chairman of the Seidman School of Business Economic Department, chose the growth side, basing his scores on a jump in the business confidence index late in 2003.
February drew the national spotlight to
One of the year's biggest stories came to light in February when Michigan State University President Peter McPherson acknowledged that a full-blown medical school in
Plans also were heating up for one of the city's most visible intersections:
February also saw something unusual in the financial sector: Lake Michigan Credit Union revealed plans to change to a federal mutual savings bank. But while board members spent the year considering the move and touting its benefits, a December membership vote fell short of the two-thirds majority required to make the change.
Wells Fargo Bank joined the local market in February, opening a commercial lending office — its first in the
Lakeshore Advantage, a Holland-based economic development group, began the search for its first full-time director and announced plans to establish a business incubator. By the end of the year, Randy Thelen was in place as director and the
The structure that had served as a poster child for the revival of the North Monroe Business District and as a showcase for what could be accomplished in
There was more movement on the building and development front when Union Foundry LLC demolished the third and final building of the former Grand Rapids Foundry to make room for a $50 million, twin tower apartment project. Nine months later, however, weeds would be the only things going up on the site as the project remained in limbo.
A couple of major projects did get underway in March. Northpointe Bank scooped up 10 acres on the East Beltline with plans to put a new headquarters there, and the city's oldest commercial structure — 180 Monroe Ave. NW, opened in 1853 — had more than a million pounds of junk extracted from it as part of Terra Firma Development's renovation project involving loft-style office space.
On the energy front, Crystal Flash President Tom Fehsenfeld was pleased with sales of soy diesel and predicted that 7 million gallons of the environmentally friendly fuel would be sold in 2004, and that he expected that number would more than double in 2005.
But raw materials were crimping other parts of the economy. Many industries locally were feeling the pinch from rising steel prices — in some cases more than 60 percent — and were judging just how much of that price hike could be passed on to customers.
While the Convention and Visitors Bureau celebrated the booking of its 100th convention for
On the positive side, VAI Chairman David Van Andel told the Economics Club that the life sciences sector might be the ticket to re-ignite the state's struggling economy.
Spring sprung some surprises when Johnson Controls Inc. announced plans to move its sun visor
While the legal community was up in arms, the arts and entertainment sector got a boost when city commissioners chose Urban Marketing Collaborative, of
Residents started the month learning that, according to the U.S. Department of Labor,
The ongoing push for more downtown housing got a boost when Front Row Condominiums took over seven buildings on
Area hospitals also got good news when officials found out that a change in the Medicare reimbursement formula meant another $90 million for area caregivers over the next three years.
But not all the economic news was good. The Environmental Protection Agency was unhappy with
The month opened with news that
There was plenty of change on the "high seas," however, as the
Another cool development happened when
But while the state giveth, it also taketh away. County officials across
Officials feared that another change on the local front — the proliferation of the signature chrome pole of the exotic dancer — would become a mainstay in downtown Grand Rapids with the opening of Tini Bikinis Bar & Grille and a proposal by the owner of Sensations to open an "adult mall" at the site of a former steel factory. The latter plan hadn't developed by year's end.
The new Rapid Central Station opened in June, with officials crediting the teamwork of six cities for bringing the new ITP transportation center to fruition.
Things also were looking up in the office furniture industry, as the big three began to see results from cost-cutting and restructuring moves, as well as an uptick in orders. At Holland-based Herman Miller, more change was in the air as Brian Walker succeeded Michael Volkema as CEO.
Also on the lakeshore,
ITP narrowed its transit study to two corridors — East Grand Rapids/Kentwood and South — for enhanced services and development that could include light rail, streetcar and express bus transit options.
If the South option is chosen, it may have a new destination to feature. Celebration Cinema announced plans to put a $15 million movie complex near
For once, the news was about jobs that were coming to the area, not disappearing, when Haworth Inc. closed
Another Lakeshore firm, Gentex Corp., made plans for building a fourth local
Another automotive supplier, Lacks Enterprises, decided to stay home, too, committing $51.8 million over the next five years to expand and improve
The 2004 presidential election trail wound through
Grand Haven captured some national headlines when Ottawa Wireless Inc. connected the entire city to a high-speed wireless Internet network, the first time such a feat had been accomplished.
One of the summer's biggest celebrations, the Muskegon Air Fair, ran into foul weather over the July 4 weekend and by August was asking creditors for some patience and support. At year-end, however, the news was much better with a new date for 2005 that avoids the holiday weekend and features a return engagement by the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels.
Back to school took on a whole new meaning when the Van Andel Institute announced it was forming its own Ph.D. program in cellular and molecular genetics.
On the heels of its Ph.D. decision, VAI came up with a strategy that may be even more far reaching. The institute announced it was in the "very, very early" stages of forming a commercial division to bring new developments to the market.
A new development also was underway at Consumers Energy's J.H. Campbell Generating Complex in West Olive, where over the next two years more than 2,000 construction workers will be completing a $350 million project to reduce emissions at the plant.
September marked a fresh start for the 25-year-old DeVos Performance Hall, which had been closed since Memorial Day for renovations.
Health care got a new look, too, as Saint Mary's Health Care touted its new name with a sharpened awareness campaign.
The abrupt departure of Robert Krasa left
Community leaders were recognized for their contributions when Sharron Reynolds, a vice president with Huntington Bank, picked up the ATHENA Award and John MacKeigan, M.D., a colon and rectal surgeon with Michigan Medical PC and the Ferguson Clinic, was inducted into the Grand Rapids Medical Hall of Fame.
Local restaurants flexed their muscle when they banded together to form West Michigan Originals, an organization solely for independent restaurant owners.
A local caregiver,
Not all was fiscally fit along the lakeshore, however, as Holland-based Macatawa Bank suffered a bad loan of $5.9 million to Rycenga Homes, meaning the bank took a $2.3 million loss provision and ruined what would have been a tremendous quarter.
Technology, in the form of Quixtar, helped Alticor Inc. reach $6.2 billion in sales for the year, up $1.3 billion over 2003. During that time, Quixtar achieved a new single-day sales record of $12 million.
The life sciences sector got a virtual boost when it was announced that Internet2, linking researchers to scientific data, would be a priority in
Perrigo Co. stepped into the generic prescription drug market by entering an agreement with Bentley Pharmaceuticals, based in
The region reached another milestone with the opening of M-6, commonly referred to as the Paul B. Henry Freeway or the
Although it wasn't as long in coming as M-6, it was just as welcome. The office furniture industry, after a horrific three-year stretch, began forming "rebound strategies" for the coming years. In fact, Herman Miller called for a doubling of annual revenues, from the current $1.3 billion to $2.6 billion, within six years.
Ferris State University/Kendall College had some expansion plans of its own when it unveiled a proposal to expand its downtown
The Neighborhood Business Alliance recognized growth in the city with its 15th annual awards ceremony, which honored the
A Bloomfield Hills-based technology company, NuSoft Solutions, eyed a prize of a different sort when it acquired Grand Rapids-based Sagestone Consulting. The agreement resulted in a 250-employee company, the largest concentration of Microsoft Certified Professionals in
Saint Mary's Health Care announced plans for a $30 million outpatient campus in southwest
While that type of gamble was OK, most other forms of gambling were not, according to 23 Is Enough, a local political action committee that took its fight against tribal casinos nationwide. The group would score a victory just a few weeks later when the state Senate voted to rescind a resolution that awarded a gaming compact to the Gun Lake Band of Potawatomi Indians for a casino in
The sad story of the CyberNET Group and its ill-fated CEO, Barry Watson, garnered a storm of local media attention. More quietly, however, a group of engineers from the shamed company teamed with counterparts from Trivalent Group to save RoadLink USA's national network over the long Thanksgiving weekend, earning the eternal respect of the $200 million Pennsylvania-based company.
A report commissioned by the Michigan Department of Community Health and the Department of Labor and Economic Growth showed that the state will need to fill more than 100,000 professional and technical health-care positions over the next decade to keep up with a services.
Backers of reform in Federal Prison Industries ended the year on a high note when the federal budget bill included language permanently lifting mandatory-source status for FPI among all federal agencies, allowing private manufacturers to compete for federal contracts on more level footing.
A Cascade-based shopping center, Waterfall shoppes, scored a trio of Fortune 500 companies when it lured Costco, Target and Staples to the half-million-square-foot project at the former site of Showcase Cinemas on
While her designs probably won't show up at Waterfall shoppes, Pamella DeVos enjoyed plenty of national TV exposure when actress Kim Cattrall wore an original from her firm, Pamella Roland, to the Emmy award show.
Apparently, the Convention and Arena Authority could use some of that money, as the owners and operators of Van Andel Arena and
Money also was on the minds of city and school officials as the year ended, with city commissioners considering use of the Brownfield Redevelopment Act to provide a sustained source of funding for Grand Rapids Public Schools.