Economic Development

GRBJ 30th Year: Newsmaker Award winners prove their staying power

September 13, 2013
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GRBJ 30th Year: Newsmaker Award winners prove their staying power
Metro Health left its land-locked Grand Rapids location and opened its new LEED-certified campus in Byron Center. Photo by Michael Buck

It’s a club whose membership grows by one each year.

The Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Newsmaker of the Year Award goes to individuals or entities whose economic impact will be felt in the community for years to come. The award is given each January to one of 10 finalists announced the previous December.

So far, 21 winners have accepted the honor. History can sometimes be a cruel judge in these instances, but many of the winners certainly have had a long-term economic impact on the community and were deserving recipients.

GRBJ 30th Year

The Newsmaker of the Year Award winners:

1992: Few would argue the impact that Rich DeVos has had on West Michigan, both then and now. The DeVos name can be seen on many of the area’s public buildings to which he provided significant funds, seeding the beginning of the downtown renaissance. The firm he founded with lifelong friend Jay Van Andel, Amway Corp., remains one of the world’s major players in the direct-selling business.

1993: The next year’s winner also represented one of the area’s corporate icons, but Steelcase CEO Jerry Myers would leave his post just 18 months after receiving the Business Journal’s top honor.

1994: Lew Chamberlin and Denny Baxter, after years of beating the bushes, brought professional minor league baseball here in the form of the West Michigan Whitecaps. The team would go on to win five Midwest Baseball League championships and become the Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers.

1995: John Canepa, Dick DeVos and David Frey, representing the Grand Action Committee, helped bring Van Andel Arena to downtown Grand Rapids, creating a ripple effect that is still being felt today.

1996: Another threesome consisting of City Manager Kurt Kimball, Right Place President Birgit Klohs and Gov. John Engler earned honors for their overall impact as partners in economic development in West Michigan through the Brownfield Redevelopment Act, which spurred dozens of projects.

1997: The birth of Spectrum Health, through the marriage of the former Blodgett and Butterworth hospitals, took center stage and is now the area’s largest employer.

1998: The emphasis returned to the sports world when the West Michigan Grand Prix and its driving forces, Sam Cummings and Dan DeVos, made downtown rumble. But the noise was short-lived as WMGP was unable to land a title sponsor and was out of financial gas two years later.

1999: The theme of saving gas brought honors to three people who immersed themselves in parking and transportation. Ted Perez, George Heartwell and David Cassard earned the honor for their work to cure the region’s “growth issue” of parking and mass transit.

2000: The region’s main life sciences player, Van Andel Institute, made its presence felt with breakthrough work in the cancer research and biomed fields. CEO David Van Andel said the best was yet to come, and his statement proved prophetic.

2001: The award went public again, with Kent County Board of Commissioners Chairman Pat Malone and Kent County Administrator Daryl Delabbio accepting the honor for the effort put forth by county officials in making Kent a better place to live and work, ranging from parkland preservation to the new courthouse to health plans for those who couldn’t afford them.

2002: A partnership between Siemens Corp. and Grand Valley State University earned credit for developing an alternative-energy business park in Muskegon.

2003: The $212 million DeVos Place convention center earned plaudits for national significance along with its local development impetus.

2004: The importance of health care in the community was validated when Saint Mary’s Lacks Cancer Center and the Meijer Heart Center at Spectrum Health earned top honors as much for the way they would deliver treatment as for their stunning new facilities.

2005: Health care scored another win with the opening of the new Metro Health campus just south of Grand Rapids.

2006: The health-care theme continued with the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine’s new location in downtown Grand Rapids.

2007: Building off what would become known as the Medical Mile, RDV Corp. took top honors for its work along Michigan Street NE and development of many of the health-care related facilities that stand there today.

2008: Finally, the health-care run was halted when the internationally acclaimed JW Marriott Hotel opened in downtown Grand Rapids.

2009: David Van Andel’s “best is yet to come” statement came to fruition with the opening of the $150 million Phase II of Van Andel Institute.

2010: West Michigan began a return to its automotive roots when Gentex Corp. earned top honors for its explosive growth rate and hiring of 600 new employees.

2011: Even as it approached its 50th anniversary, Grand Valley State University continued to exhibit fresh ideas and enthusiasm for development, with expansions at both its Allendale and Grand Rapids campuses. Michigan Future Inc. President Lou Glazer called Grand Valley “the most important asset that West Michigan has for a future successful economy.”

2012: The latest piece in downtown’s renewal earned top honors. The new Downtown Market was expected to have a 10-year economic impact of $775 million and create more than 1,300 jobs, according to co-developers Grand Action Committee and Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority. The money is a staggering figure and, if it comes to fruition, will be an economic catalyst on the scale of Van Andel Arena.

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