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From music to name recogniton: 5 things Grand Rapids should import from Detroit

From the
September 14, 2012
Posted By: Shandra Martinez
“Five Things Grand Rapids could import from Detroit” by: Rick Baker

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The West Michigan Policy Forum held this week in Grand Rapids provided a little bit of a Detroit-Grand Rapids lovefest.

A delegation from the Detroit Regional Chamber was even handing out Detroit-hearts-Grand Rapids stickers, another sign Michigan’s two biggest cities are developing warm relations despite their differences.

When CEO Sandy K. Baruah was asked by MLive this week what could Detroit import from Grand Rapids, he said the city’s sense of unity and collaboration. An example of that unity, he said, is the design hub GRid70, shared by Grand Rapids area corporate giants Steelcase, Amway, Wolverine World Wide and Meijer.

Complete coverage: West Michigan Policy Forum in Grand Rapids

He praised West Michigan companies for their support of the $2.1 billion New International Trade Crossing, a proposed bridge between Windsor, Onatrio and Detroit. Getting the project approved was ranked the top priority of the 2012 policy forum.

MLive asked Baruah’s counterpart, Rick Baker, CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, to share what the west side of the state could learn from the east.


Five Things Grand Rapids could import from Detroit
By: Rick Baker 

1. Far-reaching name recognition and scale. People have heard of Detroit and know what the city is about. I think that is something that Grand Rapids is still working on and it takes time. There are a lot of things that impact name recognition, it’s size and recent campaigns like Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” help. Grand Rapids’ international art competition ArtPrize and the work of Experience Grand Rapids are doing a lot to build the community’s identity.

2. Direct access to international markets. Detroit has the infrastructure to move freight and passengers internationally via its waterways, crossing with Canada and international airport. It’s a great asset. That’s a little harder for Grand Rapids because of geography. But it’s something we can as a community aspire to, and should continue to pursue.

3. Active riverfront. Detroit has really invested to develop its riverfront. There a lot of activities from bike trails to gathering spaces that bring people downtown and have turned the waterfront into the front door of the community. I think Grand Rapids can do that as well with the investment in bringing the rapids back to the Grand River.

4. Long rich history of musical and cultural influences. In addition to the automotive industry, Motown’s influence on the national and international music scene have shaped Detroit. When you think of the effect Detroit’s ground-breaking music has had on society, you see what impact it can have on a community. In Grand Rapids, we are just now understanding the potential and economic benefit of embracing the arts community and highlighting this as an asset to our region.

5. A higher level of diversity. Detroit has a high level of diversity in its community leadership. That brings together different perspectives that generate creative thinking and diversity of thought. It is something that Grand Rapids is working on. There is a growing recognition of the importance of embracing diversity and having conversations around the table about it.