Street Talk: Making a connection


In 2018, Grand Rapids’ rapidly transforming West Side welcomed the first urban grocery store concept from Meijer, and the overall reception has been positive.

In its first year, Bridge Street Market expanded its assortment of locally made or sourced products by 33% and continues to bring a fresh mix of convenient food at low prices to customers on Grand Rapids’ West Side.

The neighborhood grocery store now carries more than 5,000 local products, store manager Ken Bair said.

“Bridge Street Market was new territory for us but has proven to be a successful way to serve our community,” Bair said. “From the onset, the team embraced the West Side’s heritage and listened to our customers to ensure we had the best products on our shelves. It’s been a great year.”

Bridge Street Market opened Aug. 29, 2018, after more than a year of planning and construction. The market remains focused on providing fresh, convenient groceries to its customers. Key product successes for the year include:

  • 130 display feet of vegan products
  • Average 220 organic produce items each week
  • Sold more sushi than any Meijer store across the Midwest

Bridge Street Market also recently partnered with Grand Rapids-based Public Thread to manufacture vinyl tote bags made from recycled Meijer billboards. Materials from each billboard make roughly 90 bags.

Bridge Street Market celebrated its one-year anniversary with a variety of in-store activities, including more than 45 local vendor demos, live screen printing with WMCAT, fall foods with Steepletown’s Kitchen Sage, a farm stand benefitting The Other Way Ministries, cupcake decorating with Cookies and Cupcakes by Design, a photo booth and face painting.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the success of Bridge Street Market this first year,” said Justin Stricklen, director of market format stores for Meijer. “We look forward to continuing to work with our customers to ensure we have the best to offer them.”

Power of love

Grand Haven-based military supplier RAMI pledged $100,000 in support of Love in Action of the Tri-Cities.

A community gathering in honor of the donation took place at Love in Action, where Rob Payne, general manager of RAMI, presented a $100,000 check to Josh Bytwerk, executive director of Love in Action, and Larry Ritsema, board secretary.

The contribution will assist the organization in its mission to partner with local businesses, individuals and churches in Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg to support the basic needs of families in the community.

“RAMI has been a leading employer in the Tri-Cities region, and we are grateful to Rob and his family for their generosity and leadership in our community,” Bytwerk said. “These funds will directly affect the lives of underserved families in Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ferrysburg and aid them in facing individual challenges.”

The primary objective of Love in Action is to end the cycle of poverty by coming alongside families with encouragement, education and resources. Its staff and volunteers work with clients to offer a hand up, not just a handout.

During spring 2019, Payne toured Love in Action’s sheltered housing facility and health and dental clinic to learn and understand the organization’s mission and vision, its growth and the evolution of need in the community.

“RAMI believes in promoting self-care and self-reliance as much as possible everywhere we live and work. Residents who come to Love in Action needing housing, dental or other medical treatments may not otherwise have access to the level of care that other, larger communities possess,” Payne said. “This gift to Love in Action is RAMI’s continued commitment to the community, the people who live and work side by side with us, and their health and well-being.”

RAMI employs 200 people in two plants in Grand Haven. The company specializes in manufacturing antennae for military, aviation and transportation applications.

Love in Action is a nonprofit that offers over 27 ministries focused on providing for basic needs in the areas of food, housing, household sustainability, transportation and health.

Dead end

Business organizations representing tens of thousands of employers in Michigan called on the state’s legislature and governor to include a comprehensive plan to fix the roads in the new state budget lawmakers must pass before Oct. 1.

The organizations joined the Fix MI State campaign to release maps that detail the crumbling condition of the roads in the districts of all 110 state representatives and 38 state senators.

Speaking at a news conference late last month were leaders of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Michigan, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“Roads and bridges are the foundation of Michigan’s economy, but they won’t fix themselves and are costing businesses and taxpayers more money every year,” said Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “I stand here with other leading employer organizations to urge the governor, the House and the Senate to take action now on the next installment of road funding.”

As Michigan “continues to underfund infrastructure,” fixing the problem becomes more and more expensive, the organizations said. Industry experts, business and community leaders, and politicians on both sides of the aisle agree the “state needs to invest in infrastructure for the next two decades to solve Michigan’s infrastructure problem.”

“Multiple independent studies tell us $2 billion is the minimum annual investment needed to get our roads in better shape,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “Our state’s largest employers make decisions every day about where to invest and grow, and those decisions depend on Lansing’s decisions.

“If our elected leaders don’t prioritize the funding to modernize our infrastructure, we are at risk of losing future economic growth to other states where the roads and bridges are being appropriately maintained.”

Since 2003, the Michigan Department of Transportation and local road agencies have used a uniform rating system called PASER (Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating) to collect pavement data. The Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council collects the data. Since 2004, TAMC has prepared annual reports for the Michigan Legislature on the declining condition of Michigan’s roads and bridges.

Using PASER data from as recently as 2018, the maps highlight the declining condition of the roads. “The maps clearly demonstrate why Michigan voters have ranked fixing the roads as the top issue facing the state in many public opinion polls over the past three years,” the organizations said.

“We must fund this need now or pay a lot more later as the cost to bring those roads back to good condition doubles when a road falls from fair to poor condition,” said Monica Ackerson, executive vice president of the Michigan Road Preservation Association.

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