A Big Night For Small Business

November 10, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — EQ3 and GRMAYOR were just two of the many winners named last Thursday evening by the Neighborhood Business Alliance (NBA) at its 14th consecutive small-business awards gala.

Mayor John Logie, who leaves office after three terms next month, was honored with, and surprised by, the first-ever John H. Logie Neighborhood Business Champion Award. Logie received the award, which will be presented annually in his name, for being a strong advocate for the city’s 20 neighborhood business districts.

“We believe that many of the people honored here today would not have made the decision to invest in the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids had it not been for the policies that are his legacy,” said Leigh VanderMolen, NBA president and owner of the Kava House in Eastown, of the mayor.

“Quite simply, he has made the neighborhoods of Grand Rapids a better place to do business,” added VanderMolen, just before handing Logie the business champion award.

EQ3, a contemporary furniture store at 130 Ionia Ave. SW in the Heartside district, was selected as the Gerald R. Helmholdt Grand Prize winner. The Huizen family owns EQ3 and Mark Huizen accepted the award named after the late mayor who preceded Logie in office.

VanderMolen said EQ3 was being honored for the family’s effort to bring life to a vacant building and for the contribution they made to rebuild the neighborhood. VanderMolen also remembered Helmholdt, who like Logie, was a good friend to the city’s business owners.

“This (award) is appropriately named after Mayor Helmholdt, who owned a business in Burton Heights and who developed programs, including the Neighborhood Business Specialist Program, to support and promote neighborhood business,” she said.

Eleven other first place winners were honored at the ceremony held in the Loosemore Auditorium on the downtown GVSU campus. Blue Cross Blue Shield and Huntington Bank were lead patrons for the event. Standard Federal Bank sponsored the grand prize. Nineteen other companies, organizations and individuals also served as sponsors at various levels.

Neighborhood Business Specialist Program (NBSP) Executive Director Sharon Evoy said a record number of businesses were nominated for the awards, despite a less than stellar economy. This year, members of the selection committee had to carefully screen nomination applications to avoid duplicate winners.

“The amount of businesses that are being recognized is extremely high,” said Evoy.

Evoy felt one reason why nominations were so numerous was directly related to the robust response the NBSP façade improvement program received in its first year.

Through Community Development Block Grants from the city, along with a gift from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, NBSP has helped business owners who qualify make exterior improvements to their buildings.

“We handed out 25 façade grants,” said Evoy. “We had more than double the requests for the money than we had money available.”

NBSP awarded $100,000 in façade grants with the largest, single award being $5,000.

The NBA first held the awards ceremony in 1990 to celebrate all the contributions that neighborhood businesses make to the city each year. And, according to VanderMolen, 2003 was a banner year to recognize those efforts.

“This has been an incredible year for investment in neighborhood business districts,” she said. “Business owners take a lot of pride in what they do, and this event gives them the recognition that they deserve.”           

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