Inside Track: Muskegon’s hometown hero
Gary Allore, Mercy Health Muskegon CEO and president, revels in helping the community grow.
Gary Allore called himself the “biggest cheerleader” for Muskegon and its growth.
Born and raised in Muskegon, he has never moved away from the area where he and his extended family still live.
He believes his “long-standing roots” in the community bring something special to his role as president and CEO of Mercy Health Muskegon and as self-proclaimed “spokesperson” of the area.
“I know how lucky I am to be doing this type of work in the community I grew up in,” he said.
Allore said he is proud of the growth Muskegon is seeing and Mercy’s Health’s role in it.
“When I think about the vision of Mercy, it’s really a part of the vision of Muskegon,” Allore said.
The Business Journal has reported $1 billion in investment in Muskegon, and Mercy Health’s new $271-million campus, slated to open next year, is a significant portion of that.
“There’s so much development and investment happening in Muskegon, and I just really want to see Mercy Health take significant leadership in the evolvement in Muskegon,” he said.
“What happens in our organization has a big impact on this community. We just want to be very good corporate citizens in our community and be a leader in our community.”
Allore has been in his role since September 2017, and he said he sees his “biggest priority” as the cultural change he believes will result from bringing 2,000 Mercy Health employees from three campuses into one building, which he said will be the “most beautiful” the community has ever seen.
Mercy Health Muskegon has three hospitals in the area that were established before they fully merged under Trinity Health in 2008. Although services have been consolidated, there still is some duplication, he said.
“When we complete this health center … is when we’ll really come together as a health system,” he said.
Allore has been working on the new campus for a while. For four years before he took his role as president, he was the Mercy Health regional financial offer, working with Muskegon and Grand Rapids campuses.
He spent a lot of time in that role working with Mercy Health’s parent company, Trinity Health, on operation improvement plans, during which he worked through the approval process for the new campus.
Allore did not always know he wanted to work in health care.
He has an MBA from Grand Valley State University and a B.A. in economics and management from Albion College.
After college, he was not quite sure which business-related career he wanted to pursue. He thought public accounting seemed like a good option because of the variety of entities he could work with, so he took his first job with BDO Seidman.
After three years, he said he knew accounting would not be his long-term career.
During his time at Albion, his roles as captain of the football and track teams helped him realize his affinity for leadership.
Allore briefly thought about becoming a coach and a teacher, but he ultimately decided he wanted to do something in his economics and management background.
His first position in the health care field was in 1988 as the controller at Muskegon General Hospital, where he served for eight years.
“As soon as I got into health care, I loved it,” he said. “You work with people every day who are there because they care about others. It’s an environment that fits with how I feel personally.”
The final year he was there, he was the finance director for the merged company that owned Muskegon General and Mercy Hospital.
From there, Allore commuted to Fremont for nine years in his role as the chief financial officer for Gerber Hospital.
Being a smaller hospital, he and the chief nursing officer took on a lot of operations duties along with his financial responsibilities for the hospital. He gained experience with the lab, radiology, physician practices, human resources and information systems.
“I got to get a really good experience of the entirety of the health system because of the size of the organization,” he said. “It was a great learning opportunity.”
In 2005, he returned to Mercy Health Muskegon as the chief financial officer.
One of the big projects he experienced at Mercy Health was the 2008 merger between Mercy Health Partners and Hackley Hospital.
“That was something this community never thought would happen,” Allore said.
“At the end of the day, I think people realized that this community is not a community that can support three separate health systems.”
He said there was a “competitive nature” between the two hospitals for 100 years, but he thinks people were able to hear the “higher calling” and get past that in the “spirit of collaborating in the community.”
“I think our ability to get through that was a good example for this community about how we can collaborate and make Muskegon a great place to live and work,” Allore said.
He said “major credit” is due to former Mercy Health Partners CEO Roger Spoelman and former Hackley Health President and CEO Gordon Mudler.
“I think there would not be one health system in Muskegon if it weren’t for some of the relationships and collaborative spirit Roger had over the years,” he said.
Now, part of what Allore enjoys in his current role is being able to connect with other members of the community.
One of the biggest lessons he has learned is the best results come from listening. That means being present in the organization and town hall meetings, listening to advice about how to improve.
“Things get done on the front line, not in administration, and I think the ability to listen to staff on the ideas of what can be improved in the organization is something that I think I’ve learned over the years,” he said. “Pushing decision-making as close as you can to the care of the patients is how we’re going to be most successful.”
From all the sports he played, Allore said he learned the importance of teamwork, which he hopes comes out during the facility transition.
“Results you get as a team are a lot more rewarding than results you get individually because you can share them together,” he said.
When he was first hired for the president role, his father called that the biggest coaching job of his life.
Allore said he always likes to keep in mind the old adage, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” That’s an idea he said was instilled in him by his father, who owned a plumbing business for 25 years and taught Allore strong work ethic and customer service skills.
Since his first health care job in 1988, Allore knew he had chosen the right field, and he plans to continue serving in that area for the rest of his career.
“I think health care touches so many people in the community, and you couldn’t ask for a more worthwhile career to be in.”
He said he cares for his organization specifically because of how loving and supportive the people are of one another.
After the recent death of two hospital employees, he said he watched the organization “rally and pull together” to support each other.
“I know we do that for our patients every day, but when we were taking care of each other … that was just one more example of how it’s just great to work in a faith-based health care organization,” he said.
“Why we take care of our patients so well is because we care about each other.”