Good News from Michigan! …No, Seriously…


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, October 8, 2007

It shouldn’t be news to any of you — whether you live here or just read this blog — that Michigan is down. And not just losing to Appalachian State down (although that certainly didn’t help). No, economically, politically, spiritually down. Our state’s unemployment rate is highest in the country — a full percentage point over our next “competitor.” Our state government recently took us to the brink of shut down and then — finally facing reality after years of denial and shell games — raised taxes to keep crippled services hobbling along. Our state’s automotive industry celebrates new labor agreements by shrinking even more.

And so (ever the contrarian), I looked for some good news, and as it turns out, it was easy to find here in West Michigan. In the span of a few days, we had three openings, each startlingly positive in their own way:

  • The new Grand Rapids Art Museum opened in a marquee spot of downtown. It’s an impressive community investment in not just the arts but in city life. Local leaders in government, business, arts all got together to build a beautiful new home for celebrating creativity and with very little friction.
  • The JW Marriott luxury hotel opened near the existing Amway Grand Hotel and the DeVos Convention Center. Yeah, we might be a mid-size post-industrial Midwestern city, but there’s something more happening when a building like this goes up. Again, our local rich guys invested their money and their expertise back into the local economy. They don’t have to do that, ya know.
  • The new Metro Health hospital and ancillary building opened in Wyoming on the growing south side of the area. Metro previously was in a landlocked portion of the city with limited prospects for growth or even survival. As the smallest of Grand Rapid’s three major hospital systems, its future was somewhat bleak. But with its new facilities, it has created a whole new center of economic development (not to mention a huge expansion of medical services). Bonus: Its previous facilities are being renovated for elder care.

Sure, none of this changes the fact that it will soon again be February in Michigan (and it’s gonna suck), but it’s nice to enjoy the sun’s warmth when it shines….

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