Year In Review Part 2

December 27, 2011
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West Michigan's position in the medical research community took another step forward with the launch of Spectrum Health's Heart and Vascular Institute for doctors, researchers, medical students and patients connected to the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center in Grand Rapids. Ninety-eight physicians are aligned with the institute.

Solid signs of an economic recovery began appearing when Grand Rapids city commissioners received half-a-dozen requests for tax exemptions totaling nearly $11.5 million in real and personal property investment that should create 211 new jobs and retain 323 existing ones.

Another sign of progress was occurring in Wyoming, where Gordon Food Service broke ground for a new $56 million, 382,000-square-foot headquarters building to accommodate more than 1,350 employees.

While Standard and Poor's lowered its assessment of U.S. Treasury securities from stable to negative, the ratings agency restated Kent County's triple-A bond rating — a lofty evaluation the county has held each year since 1998. Moody's Investors Service followed suit a few days later.

May

The real estate market may have been flat, but the industry was hopping. The Stanley Wisinski Group, which had been around since 1986, and NAI West Michigan, which debuted in 2006, created a seismic shift in the commercial real estate industry with the formation of NAI Wisinski of West Michigan.

One of 2011's more interesting events took place at the Wyoming location owned by Franklin Partners, which hired a company called Rooflifters to jack up a good portion of the roof of a 324,000-square-foot building by 17 feet to ensure that Undercar Products Group could produce automotive components in its new facility.

After years of waiting, the proposed development of a major retail center off I-96 in Walker that was to be anchored by a Cabela's sporting goods store officially died, an apparent victim of the ravages of the recession.

Asian carp reared their ugly heads when Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension, in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, called a town hall meeting in Muskegon to present an overview of the invasive threat to the Great Lakes.

June

Kent County's transit needs jumped to the head of the line when transportation consultant RLS & Associates revealed the results of a study that indicated increased GO! bus service and extension of The Rapid's current bus routes as top priorities. Also recommended was a countywide millage to fund the expanded public system.

Downtown's entertainment image bumped up a notch or two with the unveiling of Rock the Rapids, a six-day summer music festival featuring the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Ludacris. In August, more than 400 volunteers worked to carry off the week-long event.

West Michigan's office furniture manufacturers made a splash at NeoCon, with Herman Miller, Steelcase and Haworth all unveiling products that were well received by the judges and earned high honors. Smaller firms, like Nucraft and Gill Industries, earned accolades too.

Blueberry growers got a shot in the arm — and pocketbook — from a new free trade agreement signed with Korea. Blueberries from Michigan constitute 28 percent of the entire U.S. crop.

Construction on the Mary Idema Pew Library at Grand Valley State University, a $65 million facility on the Allendale campus with LEED Platinum aspirations, got under way in earnest when school let out; it should open to students in May 2013.

A new entry into the green-building field, SERF, which stands for Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities, gained traction in West Michigan. The designation is similar to LEED certification and focuses on promoting and maintaining environmentally responsible commercial buildings and homes.

A grocers' corner of sorts sprung up when Aldi began construction on a new store at Knapp's Corner, in close proximity to a Meijer supercenter and across the East Beltline from a D&W Fresh Market.

A survey of nearly 4,000 college students listed what is right — and wrong — about Michigan as a place for future employment. Fifty-nine percent of the Michigan natives completing the survey considered staying in the state after graduation, and 30 percent were unsure of their plans. The biggest determining factor? The availability of good-paying jobs.

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