Diligence, fortitude bode well for this region's future

December 28, 2009
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At the closing bell of 2009, the word “flat” is a measure of fortitude and strength for this business community, as economic impacts put business on a roller coaster of ups and downs, and breaking even is generally considered a successful year.

As the West Michigan business community continues to build on a diversified economic base, such strength leads to even greater diversification, more partnerships and bigger opportunities.

It has been a year in which partnerships provided safety nets and in which networking was a powerful tool. Those should continue in an improving economy in the new year.

Regional economists expect the credit noose to loosen by February. New investments are brought to the metro area through a variety of research and development plans that exponentially seed further growth.

The investments of nearby Kellogg and Gerber in nutrition sciences may see companion growth in the research labs at Amway or in new pathways discovered in the labs at the Van Andel Institute as scientists focus on ways to cure cancer, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. New Perrigo over-the-counter medicines and its continued growth also are born in the R&D labs.

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine opens in the spring across Michigan Street from the VAI, and will be a component in emphasizing physician research. The med school also is seen as an opportunity to avoid regional physician shortages, which are predicted around the country.

Recruitment of doctors and research scientists favors the region with higher education levels (and higher appreciation for education), and higher incomes, which in turn benefit the community’s quality of life.

This year, Amway and Meijer celebrated 50 and 75 years as privately held, family-owned businesses, but the sum total of these milestones is not measured by their continued success but by the beneficence of the founders in each of the communities they serve throughout the Midwest and the world. That beneficence extends beyond buildings and gardens to assistance for entrepreneurs and investment. One of the unique elements of this community is that the founders of successful businesses remain engaged and tied to the community.

Some communities in the region find benefit in any new job creation, and that is particularly true for Allegan County and the anticipated economic benefit as the Gun Lake Casino prepares to open. It will add $9.1 million to local revenue sharing and $2.3 million annually to the state revenue sharing fund.

Johnson Controls has crowned Holland as its center for the manufacture of battery packs for hybrid vehicles, likely to have a domino effect on attendant engineering businesses.

Considering the activities of the past year, it was ArtPrize that put smiles on the faces of residents of the second largest city in Michigan — a state otherwise used as a poster child for what is wrong with the U.S. economy as it passes from a manufacturing age. More than that, however, ArtPrize holds promise to attract young talent. Few could name a city that put aside bureaucratic ways to open streets, facilitate inspections and suspend what could be considered “ordinance violations” in order to host artists from around the world.

The plans and fortitude of 2009 may indeed provide a Happy New Year.

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