Grand Action throws gauntlet to private sector thriving on its success


ArtPrize Nine opens Wednesday to more than a half-million visitors from all 50 states and more than 40 countries, with an economic impact anticipated to exceed $28 million. On Thursday, the community is invited to celebrate the opening of Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center, at the end of the city’s famed Medical Mile, creating almost 500 new jobs in health care research and having an annual economic impact of $29 million. Neither would be occurring if Grand Action had not created a partnership of private business owners and leaders who set their egos aside with one singular goal to improve employment opportunities and revitalize the city in which they lived and worked. Grand Rapids’ unemployment rate at the time was 11 percent.

Grand Action’s biggest distinction is that it represented the private sector — not public governments — in intentional planning apart from politics and political ambitions, and used private funds to set the cement before inviting public entity participation (and refereed the involvement of and between varied community, state and federal governmental entities). This was unlike any major public project to ever come before it, certainly not the pattern in other communities as near as Lansing and Detroit. Also unique, the group wanted to invest in the city, 25 years before it was fashionable, rather than build an arena (first) in the greenfield of a suburb.

The Business Journal emphasizes the necessity of such a unique and successful model to continue the city’s growth. If the community continues to list and rest on Grand Action laurels, another city will quickly become the darling of top 10 lists and Grand Rapids’ fame and claim will diminish. Evidence is as quick as new headlines, such as the Macomb’s County’s late entry to try to claim the next Amazon site, even as Grand Rapids is already using its well-established status to stake a claim. Switch came to Grand Rapids as a result of these many, varied attributes. As one Grand Action observer noted, “If you stop, you will be surpassed. Quickly.”

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