Big Doings For Small Business

May 12, 2003
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It is absolutely appropriate that the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is celebrating small business this week.

The obvious reasons include award-winning firms such as Modern Hardware and Voices For Health, a pair of small businesses that are deserving of the accolades they are reaping this Wednesday at the annual chamber celebration.

The contrasts — and commonalities — of the two businesses are remarkable. One is old and traditional; the other is new and was created to meet a need that only recently has sprung up in West Michigan. Both hang their hat on service and both express a sincere devotion to the community.

In a nutshell, that’s what small business is all about: Identifying a need, creating a solution to address that need and sustaining that commitment for an extended period of time.

That’s why Grand Rapids Business Journal is rooting for Roosevelt Tillman and the other commercial real estate brokers, builders and developers who are on the cusp of a changing Grand Rapids.

This week’s Journal tells their stories, and a common thread can be found that not only connects them, but also binds them together.

It is the spirit of small business that fuels their fire, along with the ability to dream big.

Tillman is trying to infuse new life into the South Division Avenue corridor with the redevelopment of a long-neglected tract of land that forms the southern gateway into downtown. He hopes when others see the transformation of the two properties on which he is working, they will be inspired to undertake more revitalization efforts along the corridor.

His target is none other than a spot along Michigan’s Life Sciences Corridor, which he believes is poised to explode with development like the dot-coms did.

There is plenty of development going on elsewhere downtown, and it, too, is being ignited one business — or one building — at a time.

Downtown landlords are changing tacks and the moves will bring much-needed life to the central city. That life will be in the form of people.

David Cassard, president of Waters Corp., and Sam Cummings, president of Second Story Properties, believe the repopulating of downtown is beginning in earnest. Office buildings are being switched over to housing, either in part or in full. Cassard believes that trend will continue for another year.

Slightly to the north, the city is doing its part by touting the virtues of a SmartZone/Renaissance Zone combo in Monroe North, which is looking more like a neighborhood and less like a manufacturing Mecca every day.

If downtown is to thrive again, it will need the efforts and visions of an army of small business owners and entrepreneurs who now seem willing and able to take up the challenge.

Celebrate small business, Grand Rapids, as small business celebrates a new Grand Rapids.           

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