Entrepreneurial investments bolster Grand Rapids’ ‘fastest growing economy’


Despite the political quibbles in Lansing about Michigan Venture Capital Association, seeded by tax vouchers, the nonprofit group’s 2017 West Michigan Entrepreneurial study offers reason for staying power — and a very impressive “show” by Grand Rapids area entrepreneurs.

The Business Journal reports on the growth numbers, all of which provide boasting rights and further underscore Grand Rapids and West Michigan’s reputation as an attractive community and as the fastest-growing economy in the nation (U.S. Department of Labor statistics).

The Grand Rapids, Holland, Kalamazoo statistical region is home to 20 percent of all Michigan startups (Detroit has 25 percent), but West Michigan’s strength is balanced stage diversification from seed stage to early stage to growth and expansion stage. MVCA Executive Director Maureen Miller Brosnan commented, “That is amazingly healthy as a community,” especially when compared to other regions or parts of the country, where follow-on funding may not available.”

The Business Journal reported extensively on such efforts in all three regional cities and echoes Brosnan’s observation that “high-tide-raises-all-boats” throughout the region. The Business Journal cites Lakeshore Advantage, the SmartZone and Start Garden’s spinoff, Wakestream, among many entrepreneurial resources securing this foundation for the future.

The continued investment in the Michigan Street Medical Mile also is paying dividends, including the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Grand Rapids Research Center. The report showed 50 percent of the West Michigan startup investments have been in life sciences, followed by IT at 29 percent. Detroit’s startups primarily operate in the IT industry (43 percent of startups in the region.)

Regarding the state’s seeding of venture capital, MVCA shows for every dollar funded by a Michigan VC firm, $4.61 was invested from out of state. Certainly, there is room to grow those outside investments and the continued success of Grand Rapids-area startups will be key. West Michigan accounts for just six of the 33 VC firms in Michigan, but half of those firms in the state have active investments in West Michigan startups. Success not only proffers more investment, it also provides out-of-state board experience, which as MVCA notes is as valuable as the capital.

Perceptions of the quality of life in West Michigan are one thing, but when investors are putting their money into the community, the perception is golden.

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