Journal Marks 20 Years

    Twenty years! Reflecting back, it seems strange now, but prior to 1983, business news in Grand Rapids “did not exist.” Paraphrasing a former Grand Rapids Business Journal editor, Grand Rapids was a bit like the former Soviet Union. There was the “official” newspaper, the local daily, which you could not rely upon, and then there was the real news network — the grapevine. Back then business news traveled mostly by word of mouth, person to person.

    The main forums for business news in Grand Rapids were as follows:

    • Breakfast at the Ottawa Grill, Mr. Fables or Big Boy.
    • Lunch at the Pen Club, Athletic Club or University Club, if you were well connected.
    • If you were a little less well to do, lunch was at Afternoon Delight, the Press Club, Van Raaltes, Churchill’s or Z’s.

    In other words, business news was exchanged just about anywhere two or more people gathered. Of course, today that is hard to imagine as business news has become one of the media darlings.

    The local daily had been sitting on the business beat for years, believing then, as it still believes today, that if it did not know about something, then it could not possibly be news. The Business Journal not only proved otherwise, it caused the local daily to pay attention to this area of coverage in a way it never had. Suddenly it dedicated more attention and people to this long-neglected beat. Several years later, others began to enter the market.

    We started with a dream and a future unknown. First as a monthly and then as a weekly, the Business Journal ran articles about business before any mentions ever appeared in the daily — or worse, never appeared in the daily at all. The Business Journal filled a void for those who take their business news seriously and don’t like having it ignored or dumped into 10-second sound bites.

    The subsequent success of the Business Journal was a mirror for what was happening during this same 20-year period for the entire Grand Rapids area. It is now a familiar story, and flipping through the pages of the Business Journal, you will find business stories that are well told and accurate, right down to the names and faces of our local risk takers.

    Grand Rapids laid down a foundation and a format for its growth, and it has remained firm over the same 20-year time frame.

    We (Grand Rapids) fulfilled the claim that we would be one of the fastest growing metro areas in the Midwest.

    We established downtown as the core, then rebuilt it, and are rebuilding it again.

    We were able to grow the market, while some communities were losing market shares.

    It is a story of solid growth, not exactly a blitzkrieg. You won’t find a “War Declared!” or similar headline trumpeting a singular moment upon which our destiny turned. For that, you would have to go back 25 years to the announcement Jay and Rich made when they purchased the Pantlind Hotel, a commitment they renewed every year, sometimes visibly, more often with invisible support.

    During the 1980s, Dallas, Boston, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Baltimore stole the headlines for growth. Grand Rapids’ success was much quieter … slow, steady, incremental. Guided then by the steady hand of Old Kent’s Dick Gillett, we followed the “Passbook Savings Plan” model for urban development.

    In terms of future economic growth, history suggests the next 20 years for the Grand Rapids area may not be appreciably different than the past 20 years have been. The projects and the players may change, but we will continue to move forward at our “Passbook Savings” rate because the trajectory set by our current leadership is already so strong that we cannot help but continue along that course. It has also been the course most favored by Grand Rapidians for the past 40 years … slow, steady, with lots of partnerships.

    But the critical concern for the next 20 years may well be finding the replacements for those leaders who have brought us this far. Growth in Grand Rapids has always come from within, and the next generation is now coming into power.

    To celebrate our 20 years of chronicling business, we have added a weekly historical column highlighting major business stories of these past 20 years. We will continue this feature throughout 2003.

    We also modified our logo slightly and added a new tag line, “The Business Newspaper of Metro Grand Rapids – Holland – Muskegon & West Michigan.” This recognizes both our basic mission as the business newspaper of West Michigan and our primary coverage areas. And after two years of running lakeshore community articles in a separate section, “Lakeshore,” we’ve decided to incorporate that news within our regular news hole, letting the biggest news events play themselves out in our pages. This recognizes the growing interdependence of all the communities surrounding Grand Rapids and the overall importance of Grand Rapids as the core.

    We will also organize a few special events during the year and perhaps add a few minor modifications. But our mission remains as clear as ever — to provide our readers the very best business news coverage possible, all business, all the time, every week! And we work hard to fulfill this goal by being straightforward, balanced and accurate.

    We have a great staff. They do their jobs extremely well. They are what makes our Business Journal outstanding. I would not trade them for the staff of any other business journal — not in a heartbeat!

    Thank you staff, and thank you Grand Rapids.           

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