Former mayor Logie to look at city's future

April 18, 2010
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The longest-serving mayor in the 160-year history of Grand Rapids will share his long-term view of what the city will look like 20 years from now.

And despite the aftershocks from the subprime mortgage crisis and the accompanying financial calamity that have embroiled the city in uncertainty, former three-term Mayor John Logie seems certain that a bright future lies ahead for the city’s economy.

“The next five years are going to be wonderfully dynamic in Grand Rapids. The question is, are we going to be able to respond and meet the challenge of continuing to provide the governmental infrastructure: water, sewer, police, fire — all the things that affect the quality of life while this area continues to grow,” he said.

Logie, who served as mayor from 1991-2003 and presided over a revival of the downtown business environment, will share his futuristic view of the city at a Press Club of Grand Rapids luncheon on Wednesday. His presentation is entitled Vision 2030: A Futuristic View of What Grand Rapids Will Look Like 20 Years From Now. The event begins at 5 p.m. with a wine gathering. The program begins at 5:45 and concludes at 6:30. It is open to the public. The Press Club is situated within the University Club on the 10th floor of the Fifth Third Building at 111 Lyon St. NW. Contact Joann Reeves at 459-4069 for more about the presentation.

“As of right now, we’re the only major city in Michigan that has had real population growth in every one of the last four censuses, while every other major city has lost population. The core city here went from 189,000 in 1990 to 197,800 in 2000, for about a 5 percent growth rate. Now, the suburbs have been growing at 20 percent,” Logie said.

“So the state has been losing population and the Grand Rapids core city and its metropolitan area has continued to grow. The MSA is now over a million.”

The former mayor, who has practiced law for four decades and is Of Counsel with Warner Norcross & Judd, agreed to share two of the catalysts for the city’s future growth with Business Journal readers prior to his presentation. As Logie sees it, medical research and learned entrepreneurship will be key contributors to what the city will look like in 2030.

Part of his prediction for the future has arrived with the 260,000-square-foot expansion of the Van Andel Institute. The nonprofit facility begun by the Jay Van Andel family now totals 430,000 square feet, and Logie pointed out that it has a goal of growth that will rank it among the largest institutions of its type.

“They tell me that it is their goal over the next three to five years that they are going to add 200 to 400 high-end people, plus all the necessary support people. I think it may take longer because you have to find these people one at a time. But let’s assume another five years from now, if they’re right, now you have between 200 to 400 high-end researchers, they’ve got the support people they need, and they’ve got the education component already running. At that point, it will be the second-largest medical research foundation in the world,” said Logie, who first spoke with the late Jay Van Andel about his wishes for the facility in 1998.

“It’s one of the major growth industries in this county, and I don’t think that the health care reform bill that has been passed is going to move that in a negative direction. I think that will move it in a positive direction all around the country,” said Logie, who started the medical law practice at Warner in the 1970s.

Logie also thinks that learned entrepreneurship will play a vigorous role in the city’s future. Like the VAI, he said it is here now. But he added that the right forces in the city will generate new business opportunities that haven’t been thought of yet.

“It’s going on right now. You’ve got the Grand Angels and you’ve got other groups that are even quieter who are engaged in identifying start-up businesses that may lack the necessary capital and may lack the necessary management expertise in somebody who has a really good idea but might not understand how to get into the market,” said Logie.

“We’ve changed to a service economy and service is its own driver. Who could have seen 25 years ago the amount of intellectual energy and capital tied to computers and what has happened to them in a generation or less — and how fast that is continuing to change? The cutting-edge stuff of today, in probably less than two years from now, will be old hat, and there will be others that are smaller, faster and cheaper. This is the world we live in.

“We’re going to be a place where people want to come because they will have jobs. There are going to be companies here that won’t even be connected with medical research. Maybe they’ll be connected with products or maybe they’ll be connected with services,” said Logie.

“When you have a beehive of energy in a given field — in this case, it’s medical research — and you supplement it with the medical complex that is taking huge shape here, you’re going to have companies that aren’t even in Michigan now that are going to want to be within a short stone’s throw of this huge economic engine.”

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