NBSP Is Done

December 16, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — After 23 years of assisting the city’s neighborhood business districts, the Neighborhood Business Specialist Program (NBSP) is preparing to close its doors and is being replaced with a new organization called Neighborhood Ventures.

“It is the Neighborhood Business Alliance that is creating Neighborhood Ventures,” said Kimberly Van Dyk, currently executive director of both agencies.

A lack of funding from the city is the major reason the business specialist program, which is the working arm of the Neighborhood Business Alliance, is expected to shut down by March 1.

The city has provided a majority of the funds the agency has used for marketing and organizational efforts on behalf of business owners in the 20 neighborhood districts. In past years, the city gave $200,000 each year from federal grants awarded to the city. But the grants have dried up.

“The Neighborhood Business Specialist group is running out of funding from the city. But we are starting a new working arm, what is going to be called Neighborhood Ventures. We’ve already started that and have had one meeting. It’s basically going to take over what NBSP did,” said Kelly Wolthuis, vice president of the business alliance.

A key factor behind the change is that Neighborhood Ventures will be a 501(c)(3), a fully licensed nonprofit organization capable of raising its own dollars instead of having to rely on others to fund its budget. Wolthuis said that the specialist program has 501(c)(6) status and has used the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s 501(c)(3). Wolthuis said it will be smoother for the new organization to have its own nonprofit status.

Neighborhood Ventures will have at-large seats on its board of directors, which means that non-members of the business alliance will be involved in the decision making. Pat Waring, of GrandValleyStateUniversity, is president of the new organization’s board.

Van Dyk and her staff will be moving to the new organization, which Wolthuis said would likely make its official debut around March 1. As of now, a news conference to announce the change is tentatively set for sometime in February.

“We’re hoping for then. We’re toying with the idea of when we’re actually going to be able to come forward and present what we’re doing. It really depends on some things that need to happen with the chamber and the city. Currently there still is a contract in place for the NBSP to operate,” said Wolthuis.

“Until we can wind NBSP down, which we’re hoping to be Feb. 1 potentially and maybe March 1 depending on some legal issues with the city regarding the existing contract, we’re just keeping both of them up and running so there won’t be any downtime for our business associations.”

The chamber also has been a funding source, giving the agency $58,000 a year.    

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