City and county hirings critical to business growth


The revitalization and growth our region is experiencing are unmatched. Last year, we had a higher percentage job growth in metro Grand Rapids than any other large metro area in the U.S. As our community continues to climb the various rankings of economic success, we cannot forget the work that drives our growth, nor can we afford to become complacent. Our continued success never is assured. The deliberate work by community leaders will help drive our progress.

A critical partner in our region’s success is the public sector. With the retirement of Kent County Administrator Daryl Delabbio and the retirement announcement of Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom, our community has a unique opportunity, as we select new leaders for these important public entities.

In both instances, the role serves as chief executive officer, tasked with implementing the government’s goals, strategies and budget. Selecting the next leaders is a crucial decision for our community. For the elected leaders of Grand Rapids and Kent County, the hiring of our next professional leaders is one of their most significant responsibilities.

Our members have a strong interest in fostering a climate that supports business growth. To build upon our success as a region, we suggest the next leaders who take the helm as the CEO of the county and the city have:

  • Sound financial management and fiscal policies, with a history of budget design and implementation.
  • A focus on customer service and engagement for both citizens and the business community.
  • Understanding of the private/public collaboration that is part of the fabric of our community and their organization’s role in those partnerships.
  • A willingness to address severe and systemic issues.
  • Track records of encouraging innovative ways to improve service delivery to make more efficient use of taxpayer dollars.
  • A history of support for policies that provide a strong business and entrepreneurial climate.
  • A collaborative leadership style and experience in partnering to deliver transformative projects.

Both the city and county are in a position to be unifiers and drivers of projects, policies and programs that will propel our region forward. Our past successes are one indication of the potential outcomes of this work.

We urge our elected leaders of both bodies to seek out and listen to private-sector input as these processes go forward, and we look forward to working with this new generation of leadership.

Rick Baker is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

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