International Relationships Important

May 18, 2006
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Alticor last week announced its new JW Marriott will incorporate an international décor theme — not just by way of nice international pictures, but by significant investment in showcasing Grand Rapids’ long involvement in creating sister-city relationships around the globe. The announcement also marked the Grand Rapids Kent County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau bid for the 2009 Annual Convention of Sister Cities International.

Such prominent recognition for the decades-old city program will certainly heighten community awareness of the sister cities, and is likely to create additional similar relationships.

The JW Marriott is a well recognized international business, and its relationships around the world perhaps bode well for this community, as “outside” interests continue to review community standards for investment choices. It has been said over and again by regional business and city leaders that cultural diversity in this community is important to continued success, particularly in terms of recruitment of both the creative class labor force and of new business investment.

Herman Miller CEO Brian Walker stressed the importance of the international competition for talent last week in an address to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids. The warnings of pending baby boomer retirements and labor shortages in the current business structure have been issued at least since the mid-’80s, and cannot be a surprise. The global economy also has long been predicted. How long it could take the Grand Rapids region to catch up is still a guess, but the leadership inspired by Herman Miller, Steelcase, Cascade Engineering and dozens of others is necessary and needs repeating.

Grand Rapids Business Journal’s bi-annual reader surveys list recruitment and retention prominently among the issues noted as the top three area business concerns. “Labor force shortage issues” was considered one of the top concerns in the late ’90s, but in the early part of the new millennium took a back seat to “the local economy” and “health care” issues. It has since climbed back to top any concerns about the local economy (which we also find significant).

Grand Rapids Business Journal reports extensively on international business this week, and notes a quote from Kojo Quartey, the new dean of the Davenport University Donald W. Maine School of Business. Quartey said he feels strongly that the incorporation of international business and relations is important to Davenport’s goals, as well as for its students. The old adage “When America sneezes, the whole world catches a cold” is outdated, he said. “Now, it’s a global marketplace, where if anybody sneezes, we all catch a cold.”

Louis Padnos Iron & Metal Co. is the 2006 World Trader of the Year, according to the West Michigan World Trader Association. The company was honored at the annual awards ceremony and reception May 9.

Diversity in this economy, and the players within it, are vitally significant. The representations of Grand Rapids’ international relationships are important to note.    

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