Editorial

Collectively, Newsmakers’ impact is impressive

January 18, 2013
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) The annual compilation of the top economic stories of the previous year has provided the region with a concise picture of activity impacting the local economy with the greatest effect. The 10 Newsmakers acted throughout the year to bring announcements making individual headline news, but it is in bringing those varied events together that causes the community to pause with the impressiveness of those impacts when taken all together.

The one qualifier for all 10 is that each had long-term economic impact in the region. The list includes private and public companies, private investments and a sprinkling of nonprofit programs aimed at less profitable or targeted developments to encourage development.

There is no doubt about the rebound in manufacturing, especially in automotive sectors vastly represented in this region by auto suppliers. Continued industry successes have been calculated through 2014. W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research’s George Erickcek noted at year’s end, “The auto industry is in the driver’s seat,” and referenced employment levels in auto-related manufacturing are almost double that of the next highest category, machinery production. The evolving technology to continue such growth also was evident last year in new investments in advanced battery development — in this region. The Holland advanced energy production cluster is given a tremendous boost by the U.S. Department of Energy grant assigning researchers from Argonne Labs to the R&D already undertaken by Johnson Controls. The University of Michigan (and several other organizations) has assigned a dozen of its researchers to participate and “to develop breakthrough batteries for longer-range electric vehicles and a power grid that can store electricity from solar and wind energy.”

The region made national (and international headlines) for the historic number of new or expanded beer-making enterprises and for the quality of the products. It is undoubtedly a catalyst for recruitment of a young, talented workforce, and so, too, is the intellectual property development impact of Rick DeVos’ Start Garden. The most successful entrepreneurs of the Start Garden startups are required to file a Michigan LLC and are strongly encouraged to invest from those successful new businesses back into the program, seeding its future. Start Garden has only just begun (April 2012), but is designed to have even greater impact than another of DeVos’ creations, ArtPrize, revered worldwide as a catalyst bringing artists and the general public together in a wildly successful 19-day celebration.

616 Development is re-investing in the city’s historic buildings with new apartments, commercial businesses and community links — another amenity, too, for the Creative Class.

The year past also marked yet one more example of the city’s ability to partner investors in the private sector with those in the public sector by example of the Grand Action Committee and Downtown Development Authority in creating an economic spur in a downtown area badly needing revival. The Downtown Market already has created a domino effect of additional investment in the neighborhood. The $30 million showcase of all things agriculture and locally made products will open in July of this year.

The Business Journal anticipates these projects will spur additional Newsmakers in 2013.

2012 Newsmaker of the Year Nominees

Newsmaker: 616 Development makes lasting mark on downtown

Newsmaker: Argonne lab taps Johnson Controls for battery development

Newsmaker: ArtPrize paints picture of spending downtown

Newsmaker: Auto suppliers drive manufacturing reversal

Newsmaker: Beer City, U.S.A. spills over

Newsmaker: Downtown Market initiates ripple effect

Newsmaker: LINC connects neighborhoods to change

Newsmaker: West Michigan Sports Commission scores $26M for region

Newsmaker: Start Garden feeds startup culture

Newsmaker: Kent County Land Bank Authority sells foreclosed properties

Update

Newsmaker of the Year: Downtown Market

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