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GRDadof3

Your Mission: Grow the Grand Rapids Metro Area

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OK, you've just been hired by a consortium of all the Grand Rapids Metro Area municipalities to push growth of the Grand Rapids Metro Area jobs and population from the menial 1 - 3% a year up to the 4 - 5%+ a year. City leaders in all the surrounding municipalities have realized this is the time, and that as a collective it can accomplish a lot more. There are a lot of projects and visions that everyone would just love to see take fruition, but the growth is not there currently to make it happen. And they realize to truly transform the Metro Area into a world-class region, that the growth we have now will not suffice.

You aren't granted "Czar-like" abilities, but you can exercise your power and pull eminent domain authority (hopefully you won't have to).

What do you do to make it happen? You have five years to shift growth into the 5%+ range.

The consortium will review any idea.

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Identify factors that get small business to relocate into the metro; I'd take this list and start from there. There is a huge pool of small to medium business around the country that we can pull from. Apply energy through a coil wrapped around a iron core; a magnet!

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Get a TV show to do a "Michigan Adventure" where you showcase all the cool parts of West Michigan, like the Lakeshoe towns, the markets, the downtowns, the bike trails, the water/snow skiing. A Race/Treasure Hunt.

Send the DVD to small businesses all around the country (say, the top 500 small businesses in each state) and start making them your friends.

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Identify factors that get small business to relocate into the metro; I'd take this list and start from there. There is a huge pool of small to medium business around the country that we can pull from. Apply energy through a coil wrapped around a iron core; a magnet!

Abolish the GR Income tax. Small businesses aren't going to get the big tax breaks that corporations get. The income tax in GR is a deterrant for the small business and its employees.

I went through this at my former job. We moved from the burbs to downtown (different city) and despite how much I loved it, we had a near revolt amongst our employees.

Why? Their standard of living went down...food cost more at restaurants, parking went from free to $50-$75/month and as any employee in a vibrant downtown will tell you, there's more traffic when you go to drive home from a downtown full of office buildings than when you leave a suburban office park on the edge of town.

Don't get me wrong, I preferred (and still do) working downtown....but to attract a suburban small business, we need to remove some of those hurdles.

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That's assuming that adding businesses to the downtown will help your Metro numbers. Is this necessarily true? I don't know.

If you look at cities like Cleveland and Pittsburgh, billions have been invested in their downtowns, and their Metro's are LOSING population (not just growing at a slow pace). Just a thought.

Some good ideas so far though.

What about a referral program to anyone who is instrumental in bringing a business to Grand Rapids. "$0 Property taxes for life to anyone who brings a business to Grand Rapids Metro that creates x number of jobs".

Or how about a program that I mentioned in the Detroit forum about luring family members and friends back to Michigan (specifically Grand Rapids)? Most of us can probably name quite a few people who grew up in Michigan and now live somewhere else in the country.

How about not keeping it a well-kept secret?

I'm surprised no one has suggested: "Create a Consortium of Grand Rapids Metro municipalities to encourage growth of the entire Metro area". :lol:

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Abolish the GR Income tax. Small businesses aren't going to get the big tax breaks that corporations get. The income tax in GR is a deterrant for the small business and its employees.

I went through this at my former job. We moved from the burbs to downtown (different city) and despite how much I loved it, we had a near revolt amongst our employees.

Why? Their standard of living went down...food cost more at restaurants, parking went from free to $50-$75/month and as any employee in a vibrant downtown will tell you, there's more traffic when you go to drive home from a downtown full of office buildings than when you leave a suburban office park on the edge of town.

Don't get me wrong, I preferred (and still do) working downtown....but to attract a suburban small business, we need to remove some of those hurdles.

Well, there's plenty of small and medium size companies with employees not so vocal on city income taxes. We don't necessarily have to attract these companies to the Downtown, but near the city or immediate metro area.

I think Dad hits some very attractive points.

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  • Work with Kent and Ottawa County to enact progressive greenspace laws.

  • Continue to encourage inner city growth with programs that we already have, like the brownfield grants, and renaissance zoning benefits. In places where this wouldn't work (like new infill) New programs could be created like a "Greenspace Conservation" Program that encourages companies and residents to move into town with tax incentives.

  • Encourage more development from companies whose CEOs don't have the last name of DeVos, or VanAndel. And encourage foreign investment (meaning outside of Grand Rapids) into the city.

  • Rewrite the zoning laws for the city (This has already begun IIRC)

  • Setup a fund to enable more GVSU expansion downtown, with the ultimate goal of moving the entire campus to Grand Rapids (at least a 20 yr long term goal for sure)

  • Set-up entrepreneur assistance programs to promote new industry within the city, with low interest loans that the city can award to small businesses similar to student loan programs.

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More special events and happenings to celebrate events like, oh, Thursday. Or NYEve. (See web pages for various cities' First Nights and Jubilee events.) I don't care for the message, locale, or medium, but the 28th Street "we deserve a dream cruise too" event is a good idea.

For these events, provide shuttle buses to nearby big parking lots, a la A2 Art Fair/AATA from Briarwood and Arborland. Chris Knape shouldn't be the only newbie bus rider enjoying the friendly driver and A/C.

Encourage DT businesses to establish retail hours to appeal to employed people. (A couple contractors from Chicago visited me Weds, and I told 'em we'd skip our trip to Olive Express because I'd be there that night. They asked lots of questions about BotM, and mentioned, "the stores have to love that." Uh, no, they all close up at 5 pm anyway.)

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The one thing that would reverse the population loss is fixing the GR public school system. If I recall a recent news article the dropout rate is nearing 51%. Most of the buildings are old and terribly inefficient. I would establish a voucher system and work to bring more charter schools into the city. If you fix the schools people will choose to live in the city for lower taxes, affordable housing and accesability to entertainment and hopefully improved mass transit. This would then encourage businesses to move in to support the growing residential population.

If you fix the core problem, a failing educational system, everything will snowball behind it. I understand there are other social and economic factors involved with our problems but without education there is no hope and without hope there is despair.

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I would establish a voucher system and work to bring more charter schools into the city.

Voucher systems are terribly unpopular in the current atmosphere, and charter schools statistically are no better, or are even worse academically then the public education system. The most a charter school does is aleinate tax dollars from deserving schools to schools with arguably lower standards.

The only way you can improve GRPS is through steady increases in attendance, and thats the challenging part.

Vouchers, and charter schools don't accomplish a vibrant public school system. They take money away from it.

Improving GRPS is going to take a big approach and a fundamental change in how we fund public school systems (meaning we have to move away from per pupil funding, to a more balanced system)

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Improve funding for schools, and get Bill Gates to buy out a bunch of oil and re-sell it for 50 cents/gallon higher than the current market price, driving up gas prices to make people move downtown =p

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I'd like to see the GR Metro cities merge into one munincipality. It might be hard to get them on board. Despite not having the infighting like the Detroit Metro, I think it's harder to have a cohesive vision for the area when 5 different local governments are involved. They all want their peice of the city to grow. But if our goal is growth focused mainly on the urban core and greenspace preservation outside of town, it would be helpful if the City of Grand Rapids controlled the land far outside the edges of the city. Michigan should abolish townships altogether. Maybe to get suburb buy-in those cities could still exist as boroughs like Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx are to New York. I doubt we could ever get East Grand Rapids on board though.

Better schools would be a big part of getting the city proper to grow again, but that's a complex issue that I probably don't understand well enough to give an opinion on. Well, maybe just a little. I'm not sure that the school here are really that bad. By test scores and dropout rates, sure, but those don't tell a very good picture. A student is still largely responsible for his own success or failure, regardless of school, so long as the school is safe and has good dedicated teachers. I think the poor performance of the GRPS might have more to do with poverty and broken families in the city than the schools themselves.

Seeing as I have an unlimited budge and powers, I'd also build a subway throughout the city and to the lakeshore because it would be sweet!

-nb

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Vouchers, and charter schools don't accomplish a vibrant public school system. They take money away from it.

Perhaps THAT IS the solution. I don't necessarily trust the ratings of the Charter Schools if they are being done by the same people who want to them to vanish. Test scores may be similar at Charter Schools, but how do they rate locally for attendance, graduation rates, etc.? Anyone got the stats?

I've also thought that merging nearby municipalities with Grand Rapids (Walker, Kentwood, etc.) like a lot of the Southern cities do, it would at least make the city LOOK like it was getting bigger on government rankings and census data. Most people don't understand what annexing is, so they would just take it as growth at face value. A lot of the Press treats it that way regarding Southern cities.

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To get that kind of growth will be hard to do with one idea. Good growth requires a lot of smaller concepts that come together and solve problems - not simply cover them or work around them.

1. Actively approach local philanthropists for a Kalamazoo style solution to the education problems.

2. Offer generous tax abatements to new residential and retail developments within two miles of the center of the city.

3. Continue to work on smart rapid tranist. Explore a line out to Grand Haven through Allendale.

4. Position the lower Fulton area near GVSU for entertainment development.

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Promote universities in the city, and do everything possible to make GVSU, Calvin, Aquinas, Hope, etc., etc. world-class institutions. Many mid-sized cities have thrived because of their higher-education system, which bleeds into the rest of the community. Just look at Ann Arbor here in Michigan, Madison, Boulder, etc. It wouldn't happen overnight, but universities spawn great medical facilities, lots of small businesses, throngs of entrepreneurs who set up shop around the college, etc.

I think that Grand Rapids is on the right track with GVSU vastly increasing its presense downtown, as well as MSU bringing in its medical school. But, there is always more that can be done...including endowing the schools so that programs can get stronger, and campuses get promoted to the best and brightest all across the country and world.

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The first thing that needs to be done is fix GRPS. No family in their right mind would want to rise their kids in a city with a failing school system. This would be and easy fix, if the State where to properly fund the public school systems in the first place. But thats a little too much to ask of the politicians in the state capital building. Thus the city is going to have to do somthing out of the ordinary to turn the school system around. Somthing like what K'zoo did would also work in GR. Free college tuition to those who graduates with high marks would hunker down the students to stay and learn. Another way would be to pass a city ordinence to prevent students from droping out and hit parents with fines for their kid's poor attendence.

Next, would be for GR to annex Walker, Kentwood, Wyoming, Grandville, and East Grand Rapids, to form "The Consolidated Metropolitan of Grand Rapids. With GR and the inner 'burbs merged, it would be much easier to immpliment moves like installing a fixed guidway mass transit system and attract big league sports. More importantly the new and bigger GR would have more political muscle to get much needed state funding that would otherwise go Detroit while at the same time allow the city to better compete against the Moter City and Chicago.

Third, work with the state and involved counties to implment a greenbelt to stop urban sprawl. Because of a greenbelt surronding the city of Portland, the city is forced to reinvest itself rather than pushing further outward thus keeping the core city and what is there freash and renewed. It would also be much easier to install and maintain a mass transit system with a greenbelt inducing a forced population density.

While these steps where taken I would also go into an all out marketing effort to attract fortune 500 companies to move their HQ's into GR and to attact big league sports into the area.

Lastly, lets get some big skycrappers in downtown. I'm not tallking about manby-pamby 30 story buildings. I'm talking 40,50, even 60 story towers here. A 700 footer would look quite at home where the Hunington Bank Buildings is at now. Of course your dealing with person that likes tall buildings. Shoot, if I had godly powers over GR, I would build Frank Lloyd Wright's mile high tower "The Illinois" On Fulton and Division. Now that would be a GR landmark.

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Perhaps THAT IS the solution. I don't necessarily trust the ratings of the Charter Schools if they are being done by the same people who want to them to vanish. Test scores may be similar at Charter Schools, but how do they rate locally for attendance, graduation rates, etc.? Anyone got the stats?

Taking money away from public school is the solution? I hardly think so.

Heres a National Assesment of Education Progress report comparing Charter vs Public school standard test scores

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That report was put out by the AFL-CIO. :rofl: That's like asking Toyota to rate a GM.

hey it was 2 AM :P

I'm prety sure the press ran a similar article comparing local schools

in any event, I know I've been hearing about the underperformance of charter to pubilic schooling for at least 2 years now

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hey it was 2 AM :P

I'm prety sure the press ran a similar article comparing local schools

That's OK. That report is also all about test scores and free lunches. What would be more applicable is how does Charter School Y in ..... neighborhood compare to Public School Y in same neighborhood for dropout rates, absenteeism, # of police calls, assaults, drug busts, etc.. Test scores are pretty subjective in my book, and a smart kid can do very well in a district with low test scores IF the school is filled with teachers who want to be there, parental involvement, and a disciplined student body.

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That's OK. That report is also all about test scores and free lunches. What would be more applicable is how does Charter School Y in ..... neighborhood compare to Public School Y in same neighborhood for dropout rates, absenteeism, # of police calls, assaults, drug busts, etc.. Test scores are pretty subjective in my book, and a smart kid can do very well in a district with low test scores IF the school is filled with teachers who want to be there, parental involvement, and a disciplined student body.

In terms of test scores, what I've studied there is no real benefit for sending a child to charter school based only on scores, infact if you wanted to get the best test scores in the area you should send your kids to Forest Hills...

But like I've read its hard to compare the two right now, especially since there aren't many charter schools in the GRPS district. The ones that have gone into the GRPS district have closed, or face big problems IIRC. I do know that with current ways of school funding (per pupil), the problems of GRPS will only get worse with the introduction of sustainable charter school districts to the area.

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All you need are the test scores for kids who graduate from City High/Middle School to prove that GRPS can work...

To fix GRPS you have to fix the families that send their kids to school. To fix the families, you need to work on poverty in the inner city.

To do that, heck, I have no idea. :)

Don't forget: regardless of school system, from GRPS to Forest Hills, there is a direct correlation beteween poverty and low performance in school. Charter schools don't fix test scores, because charter schools don't fix the job problems of the inner city.

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I'll admit the current charter system may not be the answer, but I believe a large part of the problem is the fact that the school system is all union. Unions don't create an environment for excellence, they actually support mediocrity. They control pay scale, hiring and firing. Competition is the answer! Let schools compete for students and the money allocated to each one. Why are families forced to send their children to a failing school? Only the families with enough money can move or send their children to private schools instead, leaving the poorer students behind with no choice. And the current school of choice program isn't much better because you still leave the choice of who is going to be accepted up to the school districts.

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So, is the current school system the biggest impediment to growth for the entire region?

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I think growing the metro area and growing the actual City of Grand Rapids are two slightly different things. Placing an emphasis on starting small business and low taxes is extremely important. But even having numerous business growing downtown doesn't mean people are going to actually live within the city limits. Business growth is excellent for metro area growth overall.

The City has its own set of problems/roadblocks to getting people to move to it. And some of those are out of its control. If you think back to the 50s and 60s and the 'white flight' that took place to the suburbs, there wasn't much the city could do. It became a popular trend for families to have their homes in a subdivision and no matter what the city might try, i.e. lower taxes, fix schools, etc., it wouldn't have made a difference. People were still wrapped up in the excitement of moving outside of the city, whether it was Grand Rapids, Chicago or any other city in America. That mentality has begun to change over the last decade as people move back to more urban settings. But it took 30-40 years to get there. Popular trends have much to do with growth, so to get people back to the city, it becomes a pr campaign to change their mindset.

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