Businesses pave the path to prosperity in 2017


As business leaders take up the reins of moving business plans and the economy forward in a new year, they are ever watchful of those trends and issues that could have an impact. This month will be marked by many predictions and interpretations of past trendlines and future business. Grand Rapids Business Journal editorial board members have reviewed more than 200 stories and local business leaders that caused ripples in 2016 and given overview to those who might especially have long-term effect in the West Michigan regional economy or beyond. The Business Journal refers to them as Newsmakers.

At the very least, the business owners, entrepreneurs and corporate CEOs who created a multitude of headlines provided a cumulatively powerful effect in 2016. The year marks the time in which Chemical Bank’s acquisitions served to give it a new title: the largest Michigan-based bank. Greenleaf Trust moved into the downtown Grand Rapids market and Bank of America returned. 2016 also marked the first time the Gerald R. Ford International Airport approved of businesses buying naming rights for various improvements (the first such agreement was with Amway); Steelcase opened an innovation center in Germany and Hutchinson opened one in Grand Rapids; Genius Phone Repair not only greatly expanded its retail operations but created new business lines.

Health care has been marked not just by new and emerging medical centers but most especially by medical and technical advancements: Neurocore’s training to fight Alzheimer’s; Van Andel Institute’s research discoveries in the fight against cancer; Tetra Discovery Partners’ work with a Cambridge research institute on drug development for brain disease, a result of its work in Alzheimer’s disease. These and many other “discoveries” are adding to West Michigan’s emergence as a research center, which soon will be augmented by the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center.

Not all advancements in 2016 revolved around technology and innovation, however.

St. Cecilia Music Center unveiled sparkling new renovations, and the YWCA wrapped up a multimillion-dollar makeover, contributing to Grand Rapids’ reputation as a “play” city.

The world’s upper crust mustard, Grey Poupon, now is made in Holland, and entrepreneur Veronica Bosgraaf’s Pure Organic health food bar now is owned by Kellogg Co. When the world changes, West Michigan changes with it.

Development growth is not defined by just new structures or building renovations but also in retail expansions, including a plan announced to provide space for a Meijer store downtown on the west bank of the Grand River and Ferris Coffee & Nut’s planned expansion for manufacturing and a headquarters in an old West Side building.

These are the local pathways into 2017 and the building blocks of the local economy in the short- and long-term future of West Michigan.

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