Van Dyk Likes The Neighborhood

October 26, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — You wanna talk busy? Well, how’s this for busy?

She works fulltime. Attends graduate school part-time. And is an around-the-clock mom to two little girls.

“And I love every minute of it,” said Kimberly Van Dyk.

Van Dyk became executive director of the Neighborhood Business Specialist Program on Dec. 6, after longtime director Sharon Evoy stepped aside to devote all her attention to the Downtown Alliance.

“Kimberly is great and she has a lot of great ideas,” said Evoy, who brought the 34-year-old Holland native to NBSP nearly four years ago.

Until last December Van Dyk served a handful of the city’s 20 neighborhood business districts as their development specialist, providing marketing and economic development assistance to those business associations.

Van Dyk said she still has some of the same duties she had as a specialist, as she continues to work directly with four business associations. But now she also directs the organization, oversees its staff of four and works closely with the Neighborhood Business Alliance board. At the same time, Van Dyk is also thinking of making a few changes at NBSP.

“We’re looking seriously at what we’ve done in the past, what have been our successes, the changing climate of economic development, businesses and the business districts. And what are the more pressing needs out there and how will we meet them,” she said.

“We’re trying to update some things — possibly doing the same things, and possibly doing some new and different things.”

NBSP is the on-the-street arm of the Alliance, the nonprofit group that represents all 20 of the business districts located in every area of the city. Funded in part by the chamber and the city, NBA has been helping small businesses for about 15 years.

But the organization probably hasn’t been any stronger at any time during that decade and a half than it is now, as its membership roll topped 700 for the first time last year.

“Our membership has really grown this year for the Neighborhood Business Alliance. While many other membership organizations have seen decreases in their numbers, we’ve continued to see increases,” she said.

Van Dyk came to NBSP with a background in neighborhood development as a member of South East Economic Development, or SEED. Although no longer in existence, SEED was a major player in getting the

Wealthy Street
business district declared historic, and the Wealthy Street Theatre restored.

“I did that project for two years and that was economic development and neighborhood revitalization work. And I loved it. At that time I did interface with NBSP, so I knew about the program. When I heard they had an opening, and I was looking for a change, I thought I’d love to do that work again,” she said.

Van Dyk mentioned a number of things she loves about what she does. In fact, there are way too many to list here. Topping her list, though, are the small-business owners themselves who often risk much of what they have to pursue their dreams and make the city a better place to live.

“They’re just fabulous people to work with. They’re creative, dedicated and community-minded people.”

As for her biggest career break — so far, at least — Van Dyk said that came about a dozen years ago when she was hired to direct a Head Start program in Conklin that taught children of migrant workers.

“They gave me a chance at a directorship, to run a program and have a budget that I had to manage. I was dealing with about 50 staff people at a really young age, so I think that kind of gave me a jumpstart. It was a part of Michigan Migrant Head Start,” she said.

Van Dyk is a WesternMichiganUniversity graduate and is still a student there. She received her bachelor’s degree and graduate certificate in nonprofit leadership from the college, and is currently wrapping up her master’s work in public administration.

“I should be done in ’06. I have three more classes left,” she said with a smile. “I guess I’m a Western gal all the way.”

Van Dyk is a Doyle Sinclair gal, too. Doyle, her husband, works for Mays Chemical and manages the chemical department at the Coopersville Delphi plant. They met in Nicaragua when she was a WMU junior working for Habitat for Humanity and he was in his last year of college. They have two little girls, 5-year-old Noelani and 9-month-old Rosabella.

With her young daughters, work and studies, free time is a very rare commodity for Van Dyk.

“You can probably surmise that anybody who works full time, goes to graduate school part time and has two little girls doesn’t have the amount of free time that they’d like to have to do all the things that really interest them or that they maybe used to do,” she said with a laugh.

“Top on that list is trying to spend time with my family, with my little girls, because that time together is really precious.”

Van Dyk said she loves to travel and has done more than her fair share in the past. She has been to all but one country in Central America, has traveled to Mexico, Canada and South America, and lived in Germany and in one of Europe’s most timeless and elegant cities, Vienna, Austria. She also likes the local cultural life and attends the symphony and the theater, and visits museums whenever she can.

As for her immediate future, Van Dyk hopes to expand NBSP. Down the road, she sees having a larger staff and more businesses to serve.

“I hope that we will be able to continue to provide quality and increased economic development services to neighborhood business districts, and to other commercial areas that could use our help that we don’t reach out to right now.

“We’re committed to economic development, being business focused and being community minded.”    

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