Stypula Sets Fresh Goals For GVMC

    GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Valley Metro Council Executive Director Don Stypula has a lengthy to-do list for 2005, hoping to reach more than a dozen self-imposed goals by year’s end during his second full year of directing the regional planning agency.

    At the top of his list is improving the Metro Council’s partnerships with the private sector through more communication and cooperation with the area’s chambers of commerce and its economic development engine, The Right Place Inc.

    Stypula said meeting this goal has taken on added meaning because of the transformation he feels the public sector will be going through in the near future.

    “It’s my belief that in the next two-year period you are going to see a fundamental and significant change in the structure of government in Michigan,” he said.

    Stypula truly believes that state and local officials will alter the way they spend money and provide services. They will also look for opportunities to consolidate with neighboring units in an attempt to cut operating costs and possibly even share some facilities.

    “It’s my hope that we can continue to engage both the Greater Grand Rapids Chamber and the other chambers in the area, plus The Right Place, in looking at ways to do those things,” said Stypula, who joined the council in July 2003.

    “In those instances where it doesn’t make sense to do it, where we’ve run the numbers and found that consolidating really doesn’t make sense, that we communicate that to let the chambers and business people know that we’ve done the analyses and it doesn’t make sense. It’s important to let folks know that,” he added.

    Stypula said the Metro Council’s overall mission is to enhance the quality of life in the region, and the agency tries to do that through its transportation improvement program and land-use planning. Those two efforts, he said, provide benefits to the business community.

    “It’s important that we make sure the chambers understand where we’re coming from, and certainly that the local officials working through the Metro Council understand the concerns, the needs and the desires of the private-sector job providers,” he said.

    Stypula told the Business Journal that he has a good relationship with GRACC President Jeanne Englehart and Right Place President Birgit Klohs, whom he also called a close friend. But Stypula pointed out that he hasn’t always had a positive rapport with the private sector.

    As manager of transportation and environmental matters for the Lansing-based Michigan Municipal League, the position he held before coming to the Metro Council, he argued with his counterpart at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce for a year over a single issue. When the shouting ended, Stypula said, the two organizations found out they weren’t that far apart on the matter and realized they’d been yelling at each other instead of talking to each other.

    It’s an incident Stypula won’t soon forget and one that he learned from.

    “It was awful and it was a pointless exercise. We can’t allow that to happen here,” he said.

    “My feeling is — and this is a strongly held feeling — the more that the public sector and the private sector talk, the better off this region is going to be as a place to live and as a place to do business,” he added.

    Other business-related goals Stypula has for the year include focusing on sustainability, continuing to be a transportation-planning leader, and retooling and growing the Regional Geographic Information System.

    “The thinking in this area is refreshing. The first thing I noticed when I came here is that there is a significant level of communication and understanding between the public sector and the private sector,” he said.

    “Do we agree on everything? No. Will we? No, we shouldn’t. We’re going to have those times when we disagree. It’s how we disagree, that’s the key.”    

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