DeVos Place turns an ecological green

July 11, 2010
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Amy Butler, of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, made it official when she recently presented officials of the DeVos Place convention center with a plaque that designates the massive building as a state-certified green venue.

Butler, whose department manages Michigan’s two certification programs, said the city’s convention center is the state’s largest green venue. The bureau certified the structure as green in April, one of only six venues statewide to achieve that status.

DeVos Place Assistant General Manager Eddie Tadlock said the designation puts the building into the thick of the race to capture a bigger share of a growing “green” convention market and adds another notch to the city’s belt as a green destination.

“It’s certainly an important part of what my administration in City Hall is all about,” said Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, who represents the city on the Convention and Arena Authority, which oversees operations of the building and Van Andel Arena.

“It’s about creating a city that is sustainable — and that means environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. This is a really huge environmental piece. It’s my understanding that we’re the first convention facility in the state to have the designation.”

DeVos Place joins the three downtown hotels, Peaches Bed and Breakfast and Grand Valley State University’s Eberhard Center as state-certified green facilities in the city. The JW Marriott, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, the Holiday Inn (the former Days Inn) and Peaches Bed and Breakfast are certified under the state’s Green Lodging Program, while the convention center and the Eberhard Center are certified under the Michigan Green Venue Program.

“This really is in keeping with what we’re really all about here in Grand Rapids,” said Heartwell of a city the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently named as the most sustainable mid-sized city in the nation.

CAA Chairman Steven Heacock said having DeVos Place designated as a green facility would be a good omen for the building’s bottom line and city’s hospitality industry.

“The fact that we’re doing efforts to show future conventioneers and people that come to our consumer shows that we’re conscious of the ecology and sustainability often means a great deal. It’s interesting how much people’s decisions on where they’re going to go and spend their money include the green stuff. So it actually helps us as a marketing tool because it is important for those who are coming,” said Heacock.

“I don’t mean to dismiss the fact that it’s important to be ecologically sensitive. But it really is important to us even from a business perspective because it helps us reach out to groups that won’t go to centers that aren’t otherwise designated,” he added.

Heacock said he wants the CAA to conduct a study to determine the economic impact the convention center has had on the hospitality industry. “I’m anxious to do it because I think it will be a good thing to show what this has really meant to the community. We had some idea before we built it from the Grand Action study years ago, but we really haven’t proved it out. I’d really like to do that. I think it would be important for us as we go forward and prove our worth to the community,” he said.

Heacock said he remembers the study by the Grand Action Committee about eight years ago as projecting that every dollar the convention center spent would result in $9 worth of revenue for the businesses in the hospitality industry.

“I would assume it’s at least that. In fact, I think we’re even doing better than that,” he said.

Tadlock said SMG is working on getting the arena certified as a green venue, and Heartwell was pleased to hear that. “That would be terrific. We’re promoting green events. As our CVB folks go out around the country, they’re talking about green conferences, and this just fits right in that,” he said. “I think the arena would be next.”

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