Business Journal reporting on Kent County’s Triple-A bond ratings — for 18 consecutive years — may seem like old news, but additional affirmation of its impact in state and national financial studies emphasizes its importance in the growth of Grand Rapids, as much or more than new development and “cool city” lifestyle attributes put together. It is as remarkable to note Ottawa County, which has maintained a Triple-A bond rating for six years, scored higher than Kent in the SmartAsset study, which ranked counties across the U.S. by level of investment activity by individuals, businesses and government officials.
The study was not just a comparison of bond ratings but the “several ways individuals, governments and businesses invest money in a county or region.” SmartAsset investments firm calculated new business establishment growth, GDP growth, new residential building permits and municipal bond investment. Ottawa was the top county in Michigan and Kent was ranked No. 8, behind (in ranking order) Ingham, Oakland, Grand Traverse, Macomb, Livingston and Clinton. The top county in the country is Williams, North Dakota, with a 100 percent incoming investment index; the next closest was Harris, Texas, with 89.38.
Kent and Ottawa county (indeed Michigan) comparisons are a fraction of the highest investment performers, which mirror the findings of site selection professionals and corporate investment activity around the country. It underscores the importance of establishing Smart and Tech zones in the region. The massive Switch SuperNAP data center investment in Gaines Township will have significant impact on numbers across the state, not just in the Grand Rapids region.
The public and private partnerships that assisted the Switch investment in this region also are noted in the Business Journal report on SmartAsset’s study. Lakeshore Advantage economic development agency President Jennifer Owens told the Business Journal, “One of the things I like about this study in particular is that it’s not just about money being spent in the private sector, it’s a combination of private and public investments that drove our ranking.”
As was noted by Moody’s Investors Service in Business Journal reporting on Kent’s bond rating, the county sustained its Triple-A rating throughout the Great Recession and has saved millions in borrowing costs. The service further identified the attributes of an increasingly diversified regional economy and conservative budgeting assumptions by county managers and elected representatives.
This news never gets old.