Newsmakers Create A Stable Future

January 13, 2003
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Grand Rapids Business Journal will announce this week the top 2003 Newsmaker. The individual or event holding the No. 1 spot, however, pales in significance when one considers the combined effect of the top 10 Newsmakers, or even the 53 events initially considered for inclusion.

Not one of those 53 are insignificant: biodiesel technology became part of the city of Grand Rapids’ vernacular, Grand Rapids Community College opened the Tassell M-TEC center, which assuredly will grow increasingly important as the economy turns and labor force retention and recruitment concerns creep back on to the list of regional issues. Many local developers and retailers announced expansions or new projects; Grand Rapids city staff, working hand in glove with neighborhood associations, created an entire new master plan document; and Kent County Board of Commissioners boldly strolled into controversial territory by putting all residents on notice in regard to urban sprawl.

In an especially economically challenging time, manufacturers like Gentex, Alticor, Universal Forest Products, Wolverine World Wide and Hastings Manufacturing (among others) not only realized profits but also invested in and booked expansions.

Upjohn Institute Senior Economic Analyst George Erickcek last week told his Holland business audience that this region, with a manufacturing work force that’s twice the national average, is forecast to decline 0.8 percent this year after decreasing 2.2 percent in 2002. Goods-producing employment will then rise 0.8 percent in 2004, Erickcek forecast.

Business Journal staff writer Mark Sanchez reported that the 2002 decline in manufacturing employment, driven by deep job cuts in the ailing office furniture industry which trimmed 3,100 jobs in the Grand Rapids-Holland-Muskegon region from October 2001 to October 2002, would have been far deeper had it not been for the area’s “remarkable” manufacturing strength and diversity, according to Erickcek.

Even in the midst of unsettling events, metropolitan area communities were able to consider civic projects, lending optimism even for the short-term future: Grand Haven is considering a downtown redevelopment plan offered by business owners and developers; Holland Economic Development Corp. has expanded industrial park real estate; Muskegon partnerships are obvious along the lakefront and in its downtown; the Grand Rapids Art Museum has forged fundraising for a new home; St Mary’s Mercy Medical Center started its  new cancer center; and the last of the cost overruns on the new DeVos Place Convention Center are covered.

The Newsmaker of the Year is not significant as the “standout” story of the year. The underlying criterion is the long-term impact of any one individual, business or event.

Grand Rapids Business Journal is pleased to point out that the metropolitan area is witness to far more than one. The impact of all 53 domino to affect more, and create a stable future.           

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