Best wishes for the New Year do not ring hollow as 2015 dawns, and that may be especially true for the West Michigan region.
Auto suppliers, commercial and industrial real estate professionals and economic development analysts have been unusually united in predictions of a busy year that will create growth, which is not limited to a single category.
George Erickcek, senior regional analyst at W.E. Upjohn Institute, commented during the West Michigan Economic Outlook: “Yes, manufacturing is important and always will be, but we are also seeing that Grand Rapids is becoming a star of its own in terms of a diversified service base, as well. This is becoming a wonderfully diverse economy.”
Business Journal reporting provides context for those remarks. In arts and entertainment, for instance, events such as ArtPrize and December performances of Chris Van Allsburg’s new “Nutcracker” for Grand Rapids Ballet are breaking previous records reported by ArtServe Michigan for the region: The creative economy in Grand Rapids is worth $3.6 billion, according to its survey of wages paid to more than 74,000 employees at nearly 10,000 businesses. The report also noted arts and culture in Kent County brought in $2 billion worth of tourism.
The Business Journal also notes another business category of significant growth: sports. Much of the growth in this industry has been built on the successes of the West Michigan Whitecaps and Grand Rapids Griffins, each holding national records for attendance and other measures of success.
Steve Jbara added the Grand Rapids Drive to the mix this year, and Meijer Inc. brought the big score of the 2014 LPGA Classic to Grand Rapids, which will return in July 2015. West Michigan Sports Commission Executive Director Mike Guswiler oversaw the summer opening of the Art Van Sports Complex and, in February, added the successful 2014 Winter Games to the already well established summer version of the Meijer State Games of Michigan. The successes of the latter are cited as the reason the national council awarded the State Games of America to Grand Rapids for 2017.
The nonprofit sector has, in fact, added mightily to the regional economy, especially as one considers LINC Community Revitalization’s community efforts or the wide scope of influences provided by Grand Rapids Community Foundation investments.
It is most certainly these endeavors that create the balance Erickcek noted in his remarks: “We truly see Grand Rapids excelling for the next two years in terms of a well-balanced economy, and I can’t repeat that enough.”