Don Stypula, the new executive director of the Grand Valley Metro Council, made selling the benefits of the agency’s computerized regional geographic information system one of his top priorities at his first board meeting recently.
Successfully marketing REGIS, he said, was as important to the council as gaining more political clout in Lansing and keeping a close eye on the organization’s expenses.
Stypula felt REGIS could be helpful for those in the local real estate industry, and plans to get public officials together with members of the private sector and the media for a full demonstration of the system.
“When you first jump into it, it is a little daunting,” he said, while adding that it doesn’t take long to learn the system.
Other members agreed with Stypula. Mick McGraw, president of Eastbrook Builders and a Metro Council member-at-large, said REGIS would be especially valuable to engineering firms.
“The tool is fabulous,” said McGraw, who recently finished a tour of duty on the state’s Land Use Council.
“It needs to be marketed,” added Mayor John Logie. “It’s a best-kept secret.”
Metro Council Blueprint Director Andy Bowman said REGIS is a distinctive mapping system because it was the first to pull that much data together and have the ability to offer information in a seamless stream instead of in bits and chunks as others do.
Bowman also said the Blueprint II project was entering its last 18 months of work and he noted that the Purchase of Development Rights program passed by Kent County late last year would be a component of the Blueprint, the agency’s planning document.
As for the report from the Land Use Council that was made public last Friday, McGraw said the heart of the group’s work would be found in chapters four through seven, which contain the council’s recommendations.
McGraw expects that some will find the report “lousy,” while others will see it as “great.” But overall, he felt the 26-member council was a good group, despite the argument they had for an hour on what the word “consensus” actually meant.
What amazed McGraw the most about his six-month stint on the council, however, was the dedication that former Gov. William Milliken gave to it. McGraw said that Milliken, who co-chaired the council that was organized by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, had attended every minute of each meeting.
“I was impressed and encouraged by his actions,” said McGraw.
Milliken is 81 years old and was governor from 1969 to 1982.
Metro Council Chairman Jim Buck told board members that the agency was close to renewing its five-year lease in the Trust Building.
“We’ve got a good landlord and we’re pleased with the building,” said Buck, also mayor of Grandville.
Metropolitan Hospital Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Jim Childress invited Metro Council members to Friday’s groundbreaking ceremony for the $150 million hospital and health village the provider is building on 170 acres in Wyoming and Byron Township. Childress said construction would take three years, and the work to turn Metro’s Boston Avenue campus into condos would get underway in 2007.
But the main reason for his appearance was to thank the council for its early support of the hospital’s desire to move. Metro Hospital board member Doyle Hayes, also a member-at-large with the Metro Council, noted that the planning agency was among the first to back the move at a time when most opposed it.
“The spirit of the Metro Council,” said Childress, “has been over our shoulders throughout all of this.”