Editorial

Neighborhood business stars are seeds of statewide emerging trends

November 1, 2013
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The University of Michigan/Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum offers a look at the real estate business as a whole across the state, but it also provides calculations of the health of cities, and Grand Rapids came out on top of its first Michigan Emerging Trends report.

A fair number of Grand Rapids developments and developers have been honored the past four years with top UM/ULI real estate awards. No less important this week is the Neighborhood Business Awards honoring more than a dozen local businesses for the anchors they truly represent in the city’s varied neighborhoods.

For 24 years, the Neighborhood Business Alliance (and Neighborhood Ventures) has lauded almost every aspect of endeavor of these usually small business owners, from signage and storefront displays to place-making initiatives. These are the unique places and business owners who create value and integrity in 20 neighborhoods beyond downtown Grand Rapids, helping the entire city to thrive (and often secure a neighborhood child a first job).

The annual awards event highlights economic development at its roots. Neighborhood Ventures Executive Director Mark Lewis in past years told the Business Journal the staff has “discovered” new businesses as part of its annual canvassing — 40 in 2011 alone. The program honors some of the city’s oldest businesses, locally owned, many of them anchoring their neighborhoods through the highs and lows of economic health.

The Business Journal also notes a pattern of continued development for these entrepreneurs — like Mark Sellers, who recently expanded his business to Lansing with a version of HopCat, and other neighborhood investments.

Such are the seeds for the UM/ULI conference and awards. The volunteer efforts of this group, too, must be lauded, especially as the conference reveals its first Michigan Emerging Trends Report, a tremendous statewide survey effort. The success of that will assist continued participation and new involvement in the mission of healthy urban development. Certainly, the city of Grand Rapids will celebrate its achievement at the top of the list, but as forum Chairman Tom Wackerman noted, the Trends report also bodes well for the region: Cities including Holland, Lansing and Kalamazoo ranked in the “fair” category, indicating there is an emerging real estate market for the state’s “regional” cities, too.

These are achievements well worth the time to celebrate and in which to participate: like water for seeds of success.

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