Vision is the glue of successful collaboration

September 18, 2011
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Collaborative efforts have long been a part of the West Michigan region, some of them so successful they are drawing the interest of business leaders in the Detroit region. Public/private partnerships here are storied and are the foundation for buildings and economic development programs, but some new collaborations are being forged solely for funding purposes.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, but it is not the project itself that is the example here; it is the vision of and for this community. That vision between two business partners spawned a 30-year period of growth and new initiatives. Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel walked into a blighted downtown and sunk millions of dollars into a renovation they believed could begin to reverse that blight. They didn’t see “tumbleweeds”; they saw the vision.

It is noteworthy that DeVos did not elect to mark the anniversary during Celebration on the Grand, which originated with the city’s renaissance through his investment. He chose instead to celebrate the milestone after the start of ArtPrize, founded by grandson Rick DeVos and which fills downtown streets with thousands of visitors and residents.

It is equally important to recall Van Andel’s founding of The Right Place Inc., an economic development team often the envy of the state, and its certain assist in advancing Grand Rapids as a medical research and technology community branching from the Van Andel Institute.

As regional governmental communities renew efforts for collaboration, it will be the shared vision that provides success. Financial considerations in this economy currently beg such solutions but they can only be sustained by the will of purpose.

The Holland/Zeeland Model Communities Initiative is the name given to more than three years of work as a white paper is now developed. Leaders in the two communities have left to history such separations as chambers of commerce and industry relocations.

In summary, the paper exhorts government and business leaders: “It is therefore mandatory for the common good of all that government organizations of the greater Holland-Zeeland community and West Michigan region collaborate and strive to ‘think and act as one,’ finding innovative ways to deliver essential services at lower cost per capita as benchmarked against other highly effective communities.”

The group did not go so far as to define those initiatives, leaving that to the leaders in the government sector. They crafted the vision.

These are important notes for One Kent and the community collaborative initiatives moving forward in Muskegon County. There is proof in the events unfolding this week and next in Grand Rapids, as an original vision is celebrated.

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