Creative initiatives are area's calling card

March 15, 2010
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Several disparate events in Grand Rapids converge in this week of March, and any one of them is of note in this space, but what is most important is the commonality of a Grand Rapids theme: the partnerships. Once again that unique trait is creating progress, launching initiatives — and the region — into the future at full speed.

Much attention is given to the Google Fiber for Communities project to test an ultra high-speed broadband network serving populations of 50,000 to 500,000. The technology allows Internet speeds 100 times faster than is generally available to consumers. The demonstration planned for Friday on Calder Plaza to support Grand Rapids’ application to Google is a unique blend of traditional and non-traditional resources (and people). Most every city in Michigan — in the country — is attempting to attract that kind of attention and service.

City government is involved, various technology businesses and dozens of area professional and social associations, and word has been spread via traditional and new media sources and social networking. Notice that no names are associated with that work. There has been no particular “project head” named. It seems members of the entire community are involved and all are bringing their varied areas of expertise to the task. And they want to be credited for doing so as a group of partners, not as a single person or business name.

If anyone needs any further proof of the psyche of this region, read on. The partnerships that reshaped the downtown after Gerald R. Ford became president have created buildings and industries in an economic domino. But this demonstration goes a step further in that the varied businesses and groups involved are setting aside specificity of monikers and are seeding the “atmosphere” of true partnership for the community benefit.

This is a combo-generation taking the meaning of that word to a new level. And with great regional strides since the 1990s in sustainability, this, too, appears to indicate that a new level of partnership is sustainable.

This week also marks Michigan’s largest installation of solar panels in the city’s southerly neighbor Wyoming, at Padnos Iron & Metal. While the long-innovative Cascade Engineering is behind the project, its chairman Fred Keller credits “a highly committed group of individuals from Padnos and Cascade” for fruition.

Who’s afraid of lake-effect weather? “It may seem a bit counterintuitive to launch a solar energy project in Michigan at a time of year when additional snowfall is still a distinct possibility,” said Keller, but, he said, “it illustrates both the year-round capability of today’s solar energy solutions and the real hope that renewable energy can offer the state’s struggling economy.”

On Wednesday the Women’s Resource Center will honor three local employers for innovative contributions to women in the workplace. The programs created by AngelCare, Grand Valley State University and Varnum (see page 3) are an exemplary sampling of the creativity of local companies in a community driven to retain and attract talent.

Therein is the sustainability of a community marking a new level of partnerships.

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