Neighborhood Vitality Present Everywhere

    The City of Grand Rapids last week celebrated the area’s most prestigious and important business awards program: the Neighborhood Business Association awards. The program initiated by the late former Mayor Gerald Helmholdt offers not only a well-deserved spotlight, but also a strategic program for the city’s neighborhoods.

    The strength and viability of the city lies directly in its neighborhoods, and the NBA program girds those neighborhoods in a manner that should be a national model. These businesses are often the first employer for neighborhood children, the first lesson in owning your own business and provide stability for the neighborhood whether it is largely residential or commercial. The program most often highlights and builds upon the successes of small businesses, though this year the construction of the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Professions looms as a giant among them.  The impact of the program looms equally large, however, in terms of impact in the Madison Square neighborhood, Easttown, East Fulton, Stockbridge, Cheshire and Wealthy Street, areas all given their due in the Nov. 6 awards ceremony.

    Mayor John Logie also was honored for his commitment to the program, partially represented by the Community Development Block Grants from the city for exterior improvements to existing businesses. Even in a down economy, Neighborhood Business Specialist Program Executive Director Sharon Evoy reported a record number of businesses had been nominated in this specific category. It is a program which also is likely to have the support of Mayor-elect George Heartwell, whose work in the Heartside Neighborhood was inventive for its support of employment for that area’s unemployed as Van Andel Arena opened.

    The program has obvious impact in the regeneration of existing buildings and encourages rehabilitation efforts throughout the community. As facades are renovated the curb appeal not only has street-front value but also provides example for others who may be encouraged to do so. Façade grants alone this year amounted to $100,000.

    Small business owners in city neighborhoods are indeed the most courageous, working 24/7 to keep the doors open through economic cycles with fewer support services while equally impacted as big business by government taxes and regulation.

    NBA President Leigh VanderMolen, owner of Kava House, noted, “This has been an incredible year or investment in neighborhood business districts. Business owners take a lot of pride in what they do.”

    Grand Rapids Business Journal salutes the winners, the nominees, the NBA and the city for their investments in the city’s most vital areas: the neighborhoods.    

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