Young business leaders are shaping GR’s new economy in investments and employment


Young business leaders representing more than 18 diverse business categories will be celebrated this week for their successes in those varied industries, and most especially for helping shape and expand the economic foundations of the region, from Battle Creek to Rockford; Holland to Lowell; and most every suburb and city in between. They represent just 14 pre-existing businesses, and they all are responsible for millions in wages, thousands in employment and billion-dollar ideas in the new millennium.

Grand Rapids Business Journal takes this opportunity to underscore the contributions made by young leaders, whether or not represented in the final number of 40 Under 40 Business Leaders for 2017, who will be honored Tuesday evening at a networking party at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. The Business Journal received 383 nominations and reviewed 240 finalists. Business leaders from east Michigan gave their time and expertise to select the final 40. Some of that dignified group has given their expertise in previous years (the Business Journal has been honoring young business leaders since 1997 and hosting their celebratory reception since 2002). They, too, commented on the diversity of business types. The judges noted far fewer represented the service sector and many more represented entrepreneurial companies and small businesses; their community involvements with nonprofits, boards and grass-roots efforts are more diverse or completely new; and each judge used the adjective “amazing” in reviewing the final selections. Each finalist was reviewed for business goals and achievements, evidence of business expertise and leadership, and community participation and evidence of leadership in that participation.

As one of the judges noted: these are rock climbers, not ladder climbers.

Max De Pree, who led Herman Miller as a president and then CEO, a longtime leader around the world and, most especially, at home in Holland and Zeeland, died on the day the judges met for final consideration of the Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 class of 2017 nominees. He created the phrase “servant leadership.” He wrote several books, including “Leadership is an Art,” and most famously said, “In the end, it is important to remember that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.”

The economic future of the region depends on it.

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