Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, February 2, 2009
Grand Rapids has a relatively new convention center downtown called the DeVos Place. It was years in the making — a complex effort of moving existing buildings (including a courthouse and the police headquarters), building a support structure of hotels and restaurants, and mixing public and private funds in a responsible way. A couple of weeks ago it hosted a convention for the Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA), which was perfect for the facilities and our medium-sized city. By all accounts, it was a huge success. One of many successes the DeVos Place has had and expects to have.
Flint has no convention center, but at one point in the 1980s it built a big Hyatt Hotel downtown. It was a similar private/public effort designed to draw business into the city. By all accounts, it has been a disaster. Recently, plans have been announced to UofM Flint to buy the bankrupt building and convert it into dorms. We’ll see.
My point? All this frenzied chatter about the merits of one stimulus approach over another (infrastructure! tax cuts! regulation! bailing! injecting! refunding!) matters very little if there isn’t sensible, thoughtful, transparent coordination among the government and private sectors involved in implementing them.