What difference does a year make? Ask the GRBJ Newsmakers


Grand Rapids Business Journal has published well more than 2,500 stories in 2017, each focused on reporting in more than 30 business sectors, all of them local and regional. The year-end review of those varied reports on the West Michigan economy provides additional focus on the business leaders who have created ripples — and seismic change — in the economic footing of the region. The effect is a sense of well-being throughout the Grand Rapids metro area, which has been widely noted in national publications and by “list makers” focused on quality of life and where such elusive qualities exist.

The Business Journal released at grbj.com a list of the top Newsmakers of 2017, 48 individuals representing 16 business categories. These are the individuals who created the greatest economic impact and news impact in the metro area over the last year. (The Business Journal staff considered well more than 255 stories of consequence.)

These are continued (and new) entrepreneurial efforts extending, too, into the nonprofit sector. The overview also underscores West Michigan partnerships (most especially in Muskegon) and a continued buzz of activity in mergers and acquisitions.

Another highlight, perhaps most influential, 2017 marks an increasingly extensive reach by metro area companies and entities into markets far beyond regional borders. Examples of that reach include venues like Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and the economic impact of area college and university students, as well as the beer and spirits brewers. The medical and health care industries also are map markers and highlighted by the researchers brought to Grand Rapids through the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center campus. International achievements were announced by GE Aviation in Muskegon, Whirlpool and Steelcase; Meijer Inc.’s aggressive pursuit of Midwest market share extended into new locations and a big deal with Shipt (in advance of Amazon’s big buy of Whole Foods). Founders Brewing is now distributing in 45 states and internationally, and Boxed Water used these 12 months of 2017 to expand with more than 200 distribution sites, including retailers in California.

It also was a year of accomplishment for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, the business backbone of the region. The $45-million Gateway Transformation Project expansion, ongoing since 2015, wrapped up concourse and waiting area improvements while establishing the groundwork for improvements to surrounding grounds. Around $17 million was provided by area business sponsorships, including Amway’s lead gift of $8 million.

The 2017 Newsmakers have an undeniable cumulatively powerful impact — and not just in West Michigan.

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