Wide Range Of News Puts Its Stamp On 200
From a “lost city of stone” to the discovery of “black gold” to a sustainable business hub, West Michigan saw it all in 2005 — the year where there was something for everyone.
The month began with some ominous news on the development front when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an Ohio/Michigan lawsuit universally expected to become the landmark precedent governing the nation’s economic development programs. At issue are the incentives cities and states use to attract and/or retain development. “It’s the biggest thing the economic development world has ever seen,” said Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place Inc.
National publication Environmental Design & Construction magazine bestowed its Excellence in Design Award on the Richard J. Lacks Cancer Center at Saint Mary’s Health Care for the center’s focus on resource conservation, energy efficiency and avoidance of the use of harmful chemicals.
Grand Rapids also became a destination for women in leadership roles with the formation of Inforum, an education and networking organization and one of the largest business forums in the nation, with more than 2,000 members throughout Michigan.
On the automotive supplier front, local analysts said Ford Motor Co.’s adoption of its “Aligned Business Framework” program shouldn’t have much impact on this side of the state, as all of the Tier 1 suppliers with a presence in West Michigan were among those named by Ford as being “partners” in the new strategy.
A new form of housing entered the market when Newberry Place, the first co-housing community in West Michigan, gained approval. The 17 townhouses were designed to blend the amenities of private homeownership with all the social benefits of an old-fashioned, close-knit neighborhood that grouped private residences around a common house and shared open space.
Delphi Corp. rocked West Michigan when the automotive giant filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and put in peril big plants in Wyoming and Coopersville. The parts supplier blamed pensions and health care costs for its woes. Economists differed on the impact of Delphi’s actions, but agreed on one thing: It was further bad news for Michigan’s faltering economy.
The lakeshore was in a sharing mood when it was announced that two of Muskegon’s biggest annual shows, the Muskegon Air Fair and Summer Celebration, would combine some administrative resources to benefit the bottom lines of both events.
Changes also were in store for one of Grand Rapids’ more popular eateries when the Gilmore Collection announced that the former Gibson’s would be recast into an upscale Italian restaurant called Mangiamo, which means “let’s eat” in Italian.
On the health front, plans were unveiled for the $190 million Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, which Spectrum Health said it planned to open in 2010.
Kent County officials were pleased when it was revealed that the county’s business enterprise program showed a 129 percent increase in the number of minority- and woman-owned vending and supply companies since the initiative started in 2000. The amount of money the county spent with those firms increased 28 percent from 2000 to 2004.
Blue Bridge Ventures stepped forward with an option to purchase the massive Lear Corp. plant on Alpine Avenue in Walker and, if due diligence was met, planned to acquire the 800,000-square-foot structure early in 2006 and develop a mixed-use parcel in stages.
On the transportation side, officials from The Rapid transit system worked to secure federal and state funding needed to move the Amtrak train station next to Rapid Central Station. Members of the Interurban Transit Partnership were asked to approve a plan for legislators to earmark appropriations for such a feat in the fiscal 2007 budget.
Unidentified Kalamazoo philanthropists rocked the education world when they funded a plan that would guarantee the cost of a college education for students graduating from Kalamazoo Public Schools. Dubbed The Kalamazoo Promise, scholarship amounts ranged from 100 percent for those who have attended KPS since kindergarten to 65 percent for those who have attended since ninth grade.
In another story that made national headlines, locally owned Meijer Inc. debunked a persistent rumor that the United Kingdom’s largest retailer, Tesco, would purchase a 49 percent share for up to $4.3 billion. “The reports are simply not true,” said a Meijer spokesperson.
A surge in surgicenters, to the tune of $84 million worth, was discussed by the Alliance for Health, which was charged with making recommendations on the merits of each of the eight projects to the state.
Businesses in Holland were enjoying their first few weeks in the afterglow of the new $22 million DeVos Field House, which played host to Hope College and Holland Christian High School basketball games. Owners were pretty sure the 102,000-square-foot venue would be a “shot in the arm” for the east end of Holland’s downtown.
A shot in the arm for Grand Rapids’ downtown popped up when Big O Café announced plans to reopen in the Aldrich Place Building after a November fire gutted the popular eatery’s location on Bridge Street NW.
Hope Lodge also found a home here, as the Great Lakes Division of the American Cancer Society unveiled plans to build a $6.8 million facility to house cancer patients and their families near the intersection of Cherry Street and Jefferson Avenue.
Nude clubs should not have a home here, according to a proposal put before the Grand Rapids City Commission. City commissioners framed an ordinance that would effectively outlaw the standard exotic dancing business model by forbidding dancers to accept tips, come within six feet of a customer, perform at ground level or appear in the nude. A January review is planned.
Finally, the year closed with a blockbuster when Spartan Stores Inc. acquired D&W Food Centers and the 20 grocery stores it owned and operated throughout West Michigan. Details were still to be ironed out, but it looked like some changes were in store for 2006.