Grand Rapids Business Journal this week provides an extensive focus on small businesses and the entrepreneurial resources assisting continued growth and new business opportunities.
The strength of small businesses in this region is the strength of whole communities, and it is in that regard that the Business Journal encourages the Division Avenue Business Association to step up to new opportunities. It is one of the most ethnically diverse groups of business owners in the city, adding to its importance.
Within the next two months, The Rapid will begin service of its Silver Line bus rapid transit from 60th Street through the downtown and up the Medical Mile. The greatest number of stops and the longest portion of the line are along Division Avenue. That creates a new situation for the Division Avenue business owners — and a floodlight on the business association.
It’s a new day for Division Avenue, a new dawn for one of the city’s longest-serving and most important corridors of transportation.
Prior to construction of U.S. 131, it was Division Avenue that carried that traffic into town. Construction of the new freeway in the 1960s left Division largely ignored and increasingly vacant.
Business association members should be encouraged to begin forming a Corridor Improvement Authority. Guidance for Corridor Improvement District formation will be necessary for the many small retail business owners putting all their hours each day into their individual businesses.
It is laudable that the business owners have shared responsibilities for general maintenance of the neighborhood and assistance in storefront appearances. That’s a good start, but with the eyes of an entire community soon to be upon them, any flaws will be more pronounced. Believing that “business as usual” will continue to serve the purpose is old think. The sustainability of the area into the future and rebranding Division Avenue as the jewel it once was —and could again become — is of significant and consequential importance.
Indeed, its current stereotype is acknowledged by DABA President Tommy Brann, who has most importantly established one of the region’s top small business brands. Brann told the Business Journal that old stereotypes continue to haunt the district and he has hope that Silver Line passengers will become aware of the strengths of the Division Avenue corridor.
Establishing a CID would certainly be a key to additional district improvements and new investment. The business association spans 28th to 44th streets in Wyoming and Kentwood. Both communities have partnered in the past for economic development, and the Silver line brings new opportunity to do so. Plainfield and Grand Rapids townships in 2006 partnered to create a CIA between Four Mile Road and Lamberton Lake Drive. It is one of several examples where the districts have improved opportunities for existing and new small business owners.
The Division Avenue Business Association should be given the assist needed to prosper in a new era.