Newsmakers are key to West Michigans future

January 17, 2012
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Grand Rapids Business Journal this week announces the top 10 developments of the past year, those with the most significant economic impact for the long-term. The stories are grouped under the moniker of “newsmaker,” though that may be a misnomer because the 10 developments have nothing to do with the number of news stories regarding a particular issue or even if the issue made headlines; instead, they are selected solely on their long-term economic impact in the community and in the region.

What is especially striking when one regards the facts supporting selection of each of the 10, is the ability of area businesses to continue to achieve success even as “slow growth” and continued credit issues were the catch phrases of the same year — and the previous year. The reports beginning on B 1 of the Focus section offer a glimpse of the future.

The Business Journal has spotlighted 10 such developments in the community each of the last 19 years, after the Business Journal editors argue the merits of dozens of business trends. After the 10 are selected, the Business Journal confers with economic analysts from outside this region in regard to the strengths of each.

ArtPrize in 2011 was not just 19 days of attraction for 320,000 visitors and $449,000 in art prizes. The event began to grow deeper financial roots for its sustainable future. Even roots in the “old” economy showed renewal in 2011 as advanced energy storage manufacturing brought major developments to both Holland and to Muskegon. It also brought a new partnership between industry and colleges as four regional higher education institutions began offering workforce development for the high-tech startups.

The formation of the West Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce was notable in the state of Michigan, but its representation of black-owned businesses was of national rank as noted by the U.S. Census showing a nearly 80 percent increase of black-owned businesses in Kent County.

Commercial real estate development did not take a holiday, as was exemplified by major projects at major intersections including the Gallery on Fulton and represented in several projects by Locus Development. Colliers International-West Michigan completed a historic blockbuster deal involving three businesses and more than 350,000 square feet.

The growth and economic potential offered in health care has been reported by business publications across the nation. Represented this year in Grand Rapids, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital not only offers services to more than 75,000 children, it was a beacon for physicians recruited to Grand Rapids in more than 50 pediatric specialties and programs.

Grand Valley State University’s triple play (a hat trick in these environs) includes “a model 21st century digital learning center” named the Mary Idema Pew Library and Learning Information Commons, opening next May along with the L. William Seidman Center augmenting the Seidman College of Business and featuring a center for entrepreneurial study. GVSU also announced in October it will expand its Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, which filled to capacity in the eight years since its grand opening.

The decision by “one of the top 15 best family-run, privately held companies in the country” to remain headquartered in Wyoming will continue a legacy long into the future. Gordon Food Service, with revenues of $7.1 billion, is seating professionals at its new world headquarters. The ingenuity at Cascade Engineering is storied, but its ability to certify as the first B Corporation in Michigan underscores its sustainability.

The “newsmakers” of 2011 are the future.

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