Street Talk: A little bit of research


Everybody is pretty excited about the end product, but the beginning has some pretty good numbers, too.

When totally completed in 2029, the Grand Rapids Research Center will pump millions of dollars into West Michigan’s economy, significantly bump the area’s intelligence quotient and spawn a host of jobs in everything from medical research to retail.

But Geri Kelley, communications director at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, said Grand Rapids won’t have to wait long to feel the  impact.

With construction underway, Kelley said officials from MSU and the project’s co-construction managers from Clark Construction Co. and Rockford Construction are measuring the impact construction alone will have on the West Michigan economy.

Key findings from an Anderson Economic Group study evaluating the benefits to the Grand Rapids area by the construction phase of the Research Center include: creating 728 jobs, providing $55 million in wages, and a combined $95.6 million in economic impact.

“Having previously worked with MSU building research facilities covering nanotechnology, robotics, tissue engineering and imaging, we are excited to be working on another facility to provide research to solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges. We are pleased to see that MSU's continued investment in research facilities will have such a positive impact on the local and state economy and humanity as a whole,” said Samuel Clark, president of Clark Construction.

“We appreciate the significant investment Michigan State has made in Grand Rapids and the impact it is making on our community’s businesses,” added Michael VanGessel, CEO of Rockford Construction. “In fact, 85 percent of construction labor for this research facility is local, which highlights our subcontractors’ ability to complete complex and sophisticated projects. We’re all looking forward to the completion of the research center, as well as the future growth of MSU’s Innovation Park in the heart of our city.”

Kelley said the evaluation of economic impact was specifically for the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center — and not any potential commercial or residential uses of the remaining parcels.

“The AEG study told us the new research center will contribute significantly to building a biomedical research hub in the Grand Rapids area,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “Our research center builds upon the biomedical and clinical research talent at Spectrum Health, Van Andel Institute, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and Grand Valley State University — all attractive to spin-off businesses in the life sciences and growth in the biotechnology sectors.”

The construction site is located at the corner of Michigan Street and Monroe Avenue. An opening is planned for late 2017.

Red Cedar rising

Before construction gets too much further along, MSU alum and unabashed cheerleader Peter Secchia might want to grab a video camera, mic and some backup singers, then trundle down to the Michigan and Monroe corner.

Spartans far and wide are being invited to become part of a “virtual choir” that will belt out the MSU Fight Song in honor of the ditty’s 100th anniversary. (BTW: Bleacher Report and ESPN both rank the fight song among the top half-dozen in the country.)

People are being asked to record videos of themselves singing the song between now and Aug. 12, and then upload their contributions at

We’re betting Secchia can find some willing participants.


In fact, if the former U.S. Ambassador to Italy acts quickly, he can probably enlist a whole raft of Spartans who are in town this week for the pro-am at the Meijer LPGA Classic presented by Kraft at Egypt Valley Country Club.

Scheduled pro-am players include former Spartan sports legends Kirk Cousins, Mateen Cleaves, Bryan Smolinski, Drew Neitzel and Andre Hutson. Heck, Secchia can probably convince Indy racing driver Helio Castroneves and Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen to join the fun, too. Dhani Jones, Mike Knuble and Luke Glendening are probably off limits, however.

Auf wiedersehen

Kim Dabbs, executive director of the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology since 2012, is relocating to Germany where her husband, Steve Dabbs, will launch an office for Grand Rapids-based software company Appropos.

“I am humbled to have been given the opportunity to lead such an amazing organization as WMCAT,” said Dabbs. “The team here has inspired me daily with their compassion and commitment to our students. I am proud of the work we have accomplished together in providing meaningful opportunity pathways for adults and teens. I will share the WMCAT story and mission as I continue to advocate for equality and inclusion through social impact design.”

Under Dabbs’ leadership WMCAT increased investments for programming by 115 percent and applied new design principles to curricula and organizational culture. The organization has embraced design thinking as a means of strengthening the mission and empowering urban teens to address social issues through arts and technology.

Dabbs also positioned WMCAT to be recognized nationally by The Aspen Institute for its work in serving families, and by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities as a 2014 and 2015 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program of the Year Award finalist.

“Kim’s passion for the mission of WMCAT is infectious and has driven growth and new opportunities for the organization,” said Nancy Hickey, president of the WMCAT board. “Kim was directly responsible for acquiring Ambrose, a commercial screen-printing business and the first social enterprise for WMCAT. Ambrose is providing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for teens and young adults, while creating a new, sustained revenue stream for WMCAT. We are so grateful for her leadership, vision and unwavering dedication to our adult and teen students.”

Hickey said a search is underway for a new executive director.

In line online

Who says government is boring? OK, that was a rhetorical question.

But when something noteworthy happens in that sector, a little light needs to be shed on those accomplishments.

For the sixth time in the past seven years, Ottawa County’s has been selected among the nation’s top 10 government websites among counties its size.

The Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties announced the winners of the 2015 Digital Counties Survey, again naming among the leading government websites in the country.

Ottawa County clinched the sixth spot in the nation compared to counties of similar size.

“It is certainly an honor to be recognized nationally. MiOttawa aspires to be more than an eye-catching, information portal. We continue to grow our online service catalog and conduct millions in e-commerce each year. Online services have proven efficient for the county and convenient for the customers,” said Shannon Felgner, Ottawa County’s communication manager.

Ottawa wasn’t the only West Michigan winner: Allegan County took first in its population division, and Berrien County was fifth among its peer counties.

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