West Michigan Is Open For Business

August 28, 2006
Print
Text Size:
A A

The volume of development news in this issue of the Business Journal is (almost) unprecedented. The number of projects and business developments that may domino as a result is untold.

While many area residents may perceive that this is a new phenomenon, the record will show that many business leaders have been on a patient, 25-year mission to make it happen, including the initiation of The Right Place Inc., by Amway/Alticor co-founder, the late Jay Van Andel. The economic development agency grew from zero to statewide and national prominence with a strong staff and board leadership that recognized the necessity of economic diversity and innovation. Those continue to be the elements driving the regional economy, but the partnerships modeled by it provide deep-rooted blossoms of opportunity. The model of those partnerships has extended to governmental leaders now finding comparatively strong success in economic investment, and should be the model for others in the region, most notably in Muskegon

In recent stories the Business Journal reported on the partnerships among competitors in the bio-sciences, technology, and homeland security fields of business now forging strong relationships across the state. Partnerships are equally important between governmental units, as business has a blind eye to city limit signs.

In this issue Kentwood Mayor Richard Root speaks of his almost single-minded mission to revamp city departments and staff to assist (rather than delay) business development in the near suburb. The economic development team in Kentwood assisted the mayor in accomplishments that would — and should — be the envy of any Michigan mayor. The fact that “abandoned” industrial space was a tremendous threat to the community just a few years ago is evidence of how powerfully city staff can affect community well-being. Kentwood has attracted $47 million in real property and $118 million in personal property investment in the last two years, with 1,500 new jobs anticipated over the life of its abatement period. Kentwood’s unemployment rate is currently 4.8 percent, the lowest since 2000.

Root has an open-door policy in regard to relationships with neighboring communities, working most recently with Wyoming Mayor Carol Sheets on a joint community project, and both suburban mayors opened the door to Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell on the recent multi-jurisdictional property for sale by contract furniture manufacturer Steelcase. One year ago the Grand Rapids planning department estimated it would record $10 billion in project investments in the next decade.

Muskegon’s formative stage of rebirth also is prominent in this issue, but continues to be trapped or delayed by city and county relationships, and “bureaubrat” mentality. The Business Journal recognizes the attempts made by Muskegon Mayor Steve Warmington to overcome those obstacles and welcomes reason to consider the extended community in future Newsmaker of the Year honors.

Mayor Root’s most fond comment is now the city’s slogan: “Kentwood is Open For Business.” The Business Journal sees “Open For Business” as a powerful slogan for the region, and for Michigan.    

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus