Street Talk: County looks ahead


Kent County has established its strategic plan for 2019-23.

The Kent County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the final plan, which establishes the county’s mission, vision, values, and strategic priorities and goals.

The plan synthesizes the feedback from community stakeholders over the last year and maps out a set of priorities to guide work in the coming years.

“Community participation not only helped us develop our priorities and goals but will assist us in establishing performance and outcome metrics, which will ultimately increase our transparency and accountability to residents,” said Mandy Bolter, Kent County board chair.

These priorities include:

Economic prosperity: Focus on fiscal management and policies to support the economic prosperity of the county and region.

High quality of life: Foster a high quality of life that promotes safe and healthy communities, strategic growth and world-class outdoor resources.

Excellence in service delivery: Adopt innovative ways to deliver services that maximize efficiency and experience.

Inclusive participation: Provide innovative and inclusive ways to engage residents and involve them in county government.

Effective communications: Be transparent and clear in the communications and decisions of the county.

County leadership will review the plan quarterly and make adjustments as necessary to ensure the priorities and goals reflect the changing economic and demographic conditions and community needs.

The full report is available at A Spanish version of the plan, translated by the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, will be released this month.

Duck, duck, cha-ching!

St. Joseph-based United Federal Credit Union helped the Alex Mandarino Foundation raise $37,000 during the seventh annual Duck Duck Run 1K and 5K for childhood cancer research.

The fundraiser was held June 15 at Margaret Upton Arboretum in St. Joseph, and more than 850 runners/walkers participated in the event.

“The Duck Duck Run event is special to all of us at United,” said Terry O’Rourke, the company’s president and CEO.

“The Mandarino family is a true inspiration, and the work being done by The Alex Mandarino Foundation to raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research should be applauded. The team at United is dedicated to helping our members and the community when we’re needed most, and I couldn’t be prouder of our team for stepping up to support such an important cause.”

United hosted a tent at the event where volunteers handed out duck-themed water bottles to attendees and coin saver books to children. The tent also offered entertainment such as cornhole and jumbo yard Jenga.

“We’re very honored and humbled by the fact that United Federal Credit Union has taken such an active role, not only in this event but in our mission to raise money for cancer research,” said Tony Mandarino, founder of The Alex Mandarino Foundation. “As a father, it’s pretty moving to see the impact Alex made on the community that this many people come out to participate, and we’re thankful to United for helping us make the Duck Duck Run bigger and better each year.”

The Alex Mandarino Foundation was founded in 2013 by Tony and Katie Mandarino to honor the courage and strength of their late son, Alex, and to help save the lives of children with cancer.

That’s the ticket

Visitors to the Grand Rapids Public Museum are in for a new ticketing experience.

The facility is using a new ticketing system that creates a faster and easier way to access memberships, purchase tickets and visit the GRPM. Visitors can expect to quickly and conveniently plan their visit, getting tickets ahead of time or at the door. The new system focuses on a digital experience, using digital membership cards and tickets for everyone, and still allowing printed tickets and receipts if preferred.

“This switch to a new, customized platform will give members and visitors alike a better website experience to pre-purchase tickets before visiting, as well as a faster and better experience at the museum’s front desk and other point-of-sale stations throughout the museum,” said Kate Kocienski, vice president of marketing and PR. “Changes like this are crucial for ensuring the best experience for more than 250,000 visitors annually, and allow us to move to a more digital experience and having a greener impact on the environment.”

Current memberships and purchased tickets still will be valid for use.

The museum will be cutting back on its carbon footprint by lowering the amount of paper being printed and mailed, and increasing the convenience of visiting, Kocienski said.

Simultaneously, GRPM is extending parking benefits, as well. Museum members will receive free parking in the GRPM parking ramp on every visit. Previously, members received two parking passes annually with their membership. 

Yappy hour

The Grand Rapids Downtown Market celebrates the “dog days of summer” this month with a new canine-friendly event each Wednesday at lunchtime. Join fellow dog lovers at the market for Yappy Hour, from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. July 10, 17, 24 and 31, to enjoy lunch outside with pups.

In partnership with the Humane Society of West Michigan, Michele’s Rescue, Harbor Humane Society, Noah Project and Bellowood, the market is hosting puppy-filled lunch breaks for anyone having a “ruff” week. Guests can visit adoptable dogs in the Market Shed from each of the partnering organizations while enjoying lots of puppy snuggles on their lunch break.

Guests also are invited to bring their well-behaved canine companions to enjoy lunch under the Market Shed, where extra outdoor seating and a doggy play area, including pools, sprinklers and “pupsicles,” will be available.

“We love dogs, and we wanted to create an event to encourage dog lovers to gather under our Market Shed and have some quality canine time on their lunch break,” said Amanda Gielczyk, vice president of marketing and operations. “We hope some of the adoptable dogs find forever homes through this event, as well.”

Park place

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) last week awarded an $872,220 grant to the city of Cedar Springs to provide infrastructure improvements needed to develop a new industrial park. This EDA grant will be matched with $581,480 in local investment and is expected to attract an eventual $30 million in private investment, create 80 jobs and retain 72 jobs.

“President (Donald) Trump is dedicated to helping communities across the nation build the critical infrastructure they need to support business development and growth,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fleming said. “This investment in Cedar Springs will help provide development-ready industrial space needed to attract new businesses and the high-skill, high-wage jobs they create.”

The project will help fund the roadways and water and wastewater infrastructure to establish the West Street Industrial Park in the city of Cedar Springs. The project also will create 55 acres of development-ready land for future growth opportunities.

The development was made possible by the regional planning efforts led by the West Michigan Regional Planning Commission, which is funded by the EDA.

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