Power of partnerships moves economic needle to unforeseen heights

June 26, 2015
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Grand Rapids Business Journal opined in 2000 that Jay Van Andel’s gift of the $60 million Van Andel Institute could be considered a far-reaching legacy not just for Grand Rapids but for the state and the world.

Far beyond a building, its mission and the work of those inside would have far-reaching and multi-generational impact. The ripple effect even upon opening created development in the local and state economy, and then made possible the announcement of Michigan State University College of Human Medicine’s Secchia Center.

What has occurred this month, however, transcends the dreams of 2000.

Michigan State University celebrated that transcendence with the groundbreaking June 18 of its $88.1 million Grand Rapids Research Center, the first piece of what is imagined to become Innovation Park. Speakers from local health care and educational institutions applauded its impact, already in play, and cited new abilities in each entity’s operation and talent attraction.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon remarked on “Team Grand Rapids” saying, “This is not about any one of us but all of us.”

As Van Andel said in 2000, “Creating something of this magnitude requires the cooperation and commitment of an entire community, and it is important that we continue to gather as a community to further the dialogue about West Michigan’s future. As the institute grows, so will industry in West Michigan.”

Dr. Marsha Rappley, outgoing dean of the medical school, echoed that sentiment when she said June 18, “This has a momentum that is beyond me. This has a momentum that is beyond any of our institutions. We have always talked about what we could do together is so much greater than what we do as individual institutions, and we have that physical evidence going up soon on this site.”

The topper of all MSU GRRC project-related announcements was that the facility is now named a Big Ten Research Facility, a rank that is given worldwide respect. The Committee on Institutional Cooperation, a consortium of Big Ten universities and the University of Chicago, shows the group collectively conducted more than $10.2 billion in funded research and cited Ivy League comparisons of $4.3 billion, and $5.6 billion for University of California’s system schools.

MSU leaders were clear in regard to the ability of the Grand Rapids community to leverage momentum and emphasized the city is poised to become a global hub of medical innovation. They noted the Grand Rapids Research Center, as an economic driver and gateway to the Medical Mile, creates a magnet to attract business in life sciences and growth in the biotechnology sectors.

The future impact was best described when Simon commented, “This Innovation Park is another catalyst and hub for the future yet to be imagined.”


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