Merchant Joins Business Lobby

August 1, 2003
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A lobbying firm run by one of former Gov. John Engler’s top political aides is opening a Grand Rapids office to serve clients in West Michigan who want or need help getting their voices heard in Lansing.

McAlvey & Associates will become the first lobbyist with multiple clients to establish a full-time office in Grand Rapids when it opens for business Aug. 11 in Bridgewater Place.

“There are West Michigan and Grand Rapids companies that do not have the representation in Lansing that they need,” said Jeff McAlvey, a well-connected political veteran in Lansing who founded his own firm after serving as Engler’s legislative liaison from 1991 to 1997.

McAlvey has always wanted to expand the firm and open a Grand Rapids office but waited until he found the right manager.

“I felt for too long West Michigan businesses have been overlooked in Lansing and needed a better system of community,” McAlvey said. “We look forward to building our presence here and representing their concerns in Lansing.”

Heading the new office for McAlvey & Associates is Rusty Merchant, the vice president of public policy and government affairs at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. During his three-year tenure there, Merchant helped the Grand Rapids Area Chamber gain a larger voice in legislative and political fronts in Lansing, leading to the chamber’s opening of an office adjacent to the state Capitol Building last December.

In Merchant, McAlvey selected a manager who has built “great relationships” with the business community and political leaders across the region, McAlvey said.

McAlvey’s plans for a Grand Rapids office to provide assistance to businesses that need help in working with state government, as well as at the local level with county, city and township governments, was a large draw for the 31-year-old Merchant. He says his experience put him in a unique position to fill the role.

“There’s a market niche to be filled,” Merchant said. “There’s a number of companies that need assistance and an advocate for public policy that assists their business at all levels of government.”

Among the West Michigan clients that McAlvey & Associates now represents are SBC Communications, Consumers Energy Co., the Granger Group, and the Salvation Army-West Michigan.

Prior to joining the Grand Rapids Area Chamber in March 2000, Merchant worked as chief of staff for former state Rep. Andrew Raczkowski, R-Farmington Hills, and for the late state Sen. Doug Carl.

He will run the new Grand Rapids office for McAlvey & Associates solo for now, he said. The office will add staff as he books business and grows.

“And we’re hoping to grow it significantly, soon,” Merchant said.       

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