The long-held fears associated with the mergers and acquisitions which rob the Grand Rapids metro area of locally held companies — and local reinvestment — are made more real with the passing of Old Kent Bank this year to Cincinnati-based Fifth Third. Old Kent’s former chieftains John Canepa and Richard Gillette, along with former Union Bank/NBD President David Frey were instrumental in shaping a city renaissance, beginning with Vandenberg Plaza and the Pantlind Hotel. So the Tickets Plus “comeback” story this week is reason for community celebration.
The Grand Rapids business was launched like a meteor five years ago by the same enterprise opportunity that might have killed it but for the ability of its president Bob Struyk, and two large local corporations which elected to spread a safety net beneath the falling company.
The example meant here, however, is that such support is exactly what must be extended to area minority business owners to further metro area economic growth. A part of this region’s strength is its labor force in a time of dwindling numbers. So, too, is the strength of this area’s economy measured by the number of minority businesses and the prosperity derived from them by this diverse population.
Tickets Plus was forced to grow up fast five years ago when it first won the bid to act as the ticketing agent for all Van Andel Arena events. It met the challenges of staffing, new outlets and associated problems. There were lessons learned in “holding” tickets to big shows for employees and/or clients. When it lost the next round of bidding to giant TicketMaster, few believed the local company would survive.
Struyk credits two local companies in sustaining his business: retail giant Meijer Inc. and DP Fox Ventures LLC. Even after losing the arena ticketing bid, Fox retained Tickets Plus as the agent for all its Grand Rapids Griffins and Grand Rapids Rampage games.
The value of Meijer’s relationship to the company may be immeasurable in provision of access to the retailer’s fiber-optic network, offering ticket sales services in every Michigan store and Meijer employees to staff the outlets.
Struyk invested in a strong presence on the Internet and diversified the business in sales to other venues, now numbering 94.
The city of Grand Rapids’ minority business catalog and “inclusion” requirement is a giant among the few examples that exist in this region, a point that further demonstrates the necessity for successful businesses to create a network in the private sector.
The Struyk story provides an example of how, and the importance of the city requirements is underscored. The tremendous benefit is the extension of “community stakeholder” status to those who can help maintain the local reinvestment for continued prosperity.