Grand Rapids

The Pentagon is proposing to cut back production of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. We looked at what that could mean for the Michigan companies that make parts for the Bradley.

And, who wins and who loses when a major freeway is widened through urban neighborhoods?

And we looked at the local food scene in Grand Rapids to see just how food builds a sense of place.

Also, a dead zone has developed in Green Bay. What is causing it and is there anything we can do to fix it?

First on the show, There's been lots to celebrate in terms of sales for the U.S. car makers, bouncing back in a big way from their near-death experiences.

But those strong sales have the auto companies and their suppliers boosting production at a fast rate. And that could be having an unwanted effect---declining customer satisfaction with the vehicles they're turning out.

Claes Fornell, founder of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, joined us today to talk about the latest survey results.

Clagett Farm CSA Week 10 /

Let’s talk food. Delicious, fresh, healthy, local food.

That is the mission of Lisa Rose Starner, to get as many of us as possible to eat local. And there’s plenty of that happening in Grand Rapids, from community gardens to microbreweries to food entrepreneurs and artisans and so much more. Lisa was invited to tell the many stories of the Grand Rapids local food scene and the result is her book “Grand Rapids Food: A Culinary Revolution."

Lisa Rose Starner joined us today from the WGVU studios in Grand Rapids. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Courtesy of the West Michigan Arts and Technology Center / courtesy of WMCAT

Only a handful of public schools in Grand Rapids still offer art classes of any kind. To fill the gap, the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) offers free art education at their facility in downtown Grand Rapids.

State of Opportunity's Story Booth stopped by WMCAT this summer. The booth goes out across the state to capture stories we might not otherwise hear.

Teenagers participating in various summer art education programs shared stories about what art means to them.  

Keon Pearson and her son Keontay Seymour both came into the booth to talk to each other about how access to art education has changed Keontay and State of Opportunity's Youth Journalist Alex Wilson produced this audio postcard.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Urban Institute of Contemporary Arts in Grand Rapids has faced significant financial problems, especially after investing roughly $13 million dollars to move into a new, bigger building in 2011. Operating costs went up and it hasn’t attracted the surge of new donors the UICA has hoped for.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit is getting $52.3 million to deal with its blight problem.

Several other Michigan cities are also getting money to tear down abandoned homes and clean up other vacant buildings.

In June, the U.S.Treasury Department approved $100 million dollars to help several Michigan cities deal with blight. 

In addition to the money going to Detroit, the governor’s office announced today that the city of Flint will receive $20.1 million. Saginaw, Grand Rapids and Pontiac will also receive some money from the federal government’s Hardest Hit fund.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Communities across Michigan will be marking National Night Out this week.

National Night Out is intended to encourage people to get out of their homes and meet their neighbors.

Flint is holding a community party downtown today. 

Flint community leaders hope this week’s National Night Out will help them battle the city’s crime problem.   Flint has recorded three dozen homicides this year.  

Mayor Dayne Walling hopes events like National Night Out will help local police and neighborhood watch groups work more closely together.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A lot of attention has been paid to Detroit’s mayoral primary on Tuesday. But that’s not the only election in which Michigan voters will be casting ballots this week.

Voters in more than 50 Michigan counties will be casting ballots on Tuesday.

There’s the usual mix of school and library millages.

There are also numerous local primary elections.

Voters in parts of Ann Arbor, Jackson, Grand Rapids, Lansing and other cities will be voting for local city council seats.

Ryan Grant / MDEQ

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids will build a new treatment system to prevent a film of smelly, nuisance bioslime from building up on a nearby river. That’s after the state issued the airport a discharge permit on Friday.

Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality says the smelly bioslime is not a human health hazard. It’s formed by bacteria that eat the deicing fluids used on airplanes in the winter months. The state says the airport has until 2015 to stop the bioslimes.

Courtesy photo / Steelcase

Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett announced to the company’s board of directors during an annual shareholder meeting Wednesday he’ll retire early next year. Hackett led the Grand Rapids-based company for 19 years.

“I couldn't be happier about what Steelcase has become and where we're headed,” Hackett said, “But it's time to provide opportunity to others, and time for me to pursue some other interests. While continuing to run the company with as much energy and excitement as I did when I took the role in 1994, I'll also ready myself for the next chapter in my life.”

Steelcase has been around for more than a hundred years. But over the last decade the recession and technology have forced all the big office furniture companies in West Michigan to adapt to major changes in how and where people work.

Ford at 100

Jul 13, 2013
The National Archives

Michigan celebrates what would have been President Gerald R. Ford's 100th birthday this weekend.

Ford grew up in Grand Rapids and attended the University of Michigan in his youth.

Jim Kratsas is the Deputy Director at the Gerald R. Ford Museum in Grand Rapids. He says the late president's legacy is known around his native Michigan.

“It's a time to celebrate Michigan's favorite son,” says Kratsas.

He says the late president was also deeply involved in the local community.


Midnight Faces is a music duo consisting of Phil Stancil - he's been playing around Grand Rapids since he was in grade school - and Matt Warn - a product of the Philadelphia music scene who now lives in Washington DC.

The pair has been able to work around that distance between Grand Rapids and D.C. to come up with their debut full-length album and gear up to play dates in the U.S. and possibly Japan.

Phil Stancil and Matt Warn joined us from Grand Rapids.

Their website is and their album "Fornication" will be released June 18th. 

Listen to the full interview above.


My kids love using Google Earth. With the push of a button they "fly" from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Newfoundland, the Panama Canal, the Great Barrier Reef, or some other place they're curious about.

Now Google has mined satellite images from the U.S. government that allow us to fly back in time.

Grand Rapids Public Museum /

The Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium is getting a major upgrade.

The planetarium is popular; pulling in about 60,000 visitors a year. But it uses technology that's almost two decades old. GRPM spokeswoman Kate Moore says the upgrade will make a huge difference.

“Right now our shows, not only are they out of date technology wise, but some of the information is not shown in the best way that’s possible. They’re not at maximum capabilities to what, especially students, but also the general public is used to seeing these days,” Moore said.

Photo courtesy of Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth

Every once and a while, our State of Opportunity team receives a story pitch from someone in the community who's trying to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth. This is one of those stories. It’s a piece about boys, girls, and the universal language of music.

Former president Georgy W. Bush in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Former President George W. Bush will be in Grand Rapids this Wednesday, May 15. He will be delivering the keynote address at the second annual West Michigan Aviation Academy’s "Leaders of Tomorrow Gala."

The West Michigan Aviation Academy is a charter school founded in 2010 by Grand Rapids businessman, Richard DeVos, Jr. In addition to teaching core curricula, the school specifically focuses on aviation with a general emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

The Gala is meant to raise money for the school’s summer Navigator’s camp, aviation related capstone events, incentive flights, simulators, and flight training.

According to Monica Scott at MLive, the event begins at 4:30 p.m. and Bush is expected to speak before the dinner served later in the evening. It will take place at the Alticor Hangar at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

According to the Gala's website, Bush will speak to a sold out crowd of more than 850 guests.

-Julia Field, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

An effort to restore the rapids into the Grand River is getting a boost from a new federal partnership.

The rapids that gave Michigan’s second largest city its name are long gone. Hydraulic dams that used to power the furniture industry are major safety hazards for small boats and kayaks. They also block fish like sturgeon from spawning upstream.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

House passes welfare reform bills

“The state House has passed bills to revoke welfare benefits based on drug use and persistent school absences. One bill would allow suspicion-based drug testing, which could lead to families losing their cash assistance ... Another measure would allow suspicion-based drug testing of welfare recipients ... The bill got bi-partisan support in the House,” Jake Neher reports.

ACLU files suit against Grand Rapids police

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Grand Rapids authorities for routinely making unconstitutional arrests for trespassing on property of businesses open to the public.

“ACLU Attorney Miriam Aukerman says city police have long urged businesses to sign a ‘letter of intent to prosecute trespassers.’ Then, they use that letter as an excuse to arrest people they decide are trespassing on business properties,” Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports.

Gary Peters officially announces run for Senate

Three-term Democratic Congressman Gary Peters became the first major candidate to kick off a campaign for Michigan’s soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat. The seat will be left empty after Senator Carl Levin steps down in 2014. Several Republican candidates are also considering running.

Fabric-Guy / Creative Commons

“This year, by far, will be the largest security force that we’ve had for a 5th/3rd River Bank run to date,” Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk told city commissioners Tuesday.

21,000 runners are registered for the race.

He’s coordinating security with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and five police forces from neighboring communities.

Belk says Michigan State Police will fly helicopters overhead and use bomb-sniffing canine units

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Nearly six months after Grand Rapids voters passed a charter amendment to decriminalize marijuana, the city is implementing the change this week. You can read the rules here.

The delay comes in part because the Kent County prosecutor sued the city when it tried to implement the change in December.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Grand Rapids flood 3-4 inches away from disaster

"A National Weather Service water expert says Grand Rapids was 3 to 4 inches of rain short of a disastrous breaching of its flood walls when the Grand River rose to record levels after heavy spring rains. The flooding forced the evacuation of an estimated 1,700 people in the Grand Rapids area and began easing after a forecast heavy rain on April 19 failed to materialize," the Associated Press reports.

Proposed legislation would lessen penalties for marijuana possession

"Legislation pending in the Michigan House would lessen penalties for people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana. The measure makes possession of one ounce of marijuana a civil infraction, rather than a misdemeanor," the Associated Press reports.

Pelosi says Detroit doesn't need an emergency manager

"Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi took a swipe at the appointment of Detroit's emergency manager last night during a speech in Detroit. The House Democratic Leader said there doesn't need to be anyone else 'running the city of Detroit,'" the Associated Press reports.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There are plenty of adults talking about what should be done concerning education in Michigan. But an event in Grand Rapids gave students an opportunity to explain what they need from their schools.

Lynn Heemstra helped organize the event, called “KidSpeak.”

“It’s my belief that a lot of people that have legislative responsibility don’t really know the extent of what young people are dealing with in the their lives and what they’re receiving in the way of day to day educational opportunities,” Heemstra said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Whenever there's a conversation about looking for ways to generate ideas, business buzz and jobs, that conversation includes Grand Rapids.

Yesterday on Stateside, we noted that Grand Rapids was number four on a Forbes Magazine list of Best Cities in America to find a job.

In April 2012, Grand Rapids was in the news when ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos launched an "idea incubator" called Start Garden. The $15 million seed accelerator fund based in Grand Rapids was created to help launch more than 100 new business ideas each year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Thousands of people affected by a record flood of the Grand River are still coming to terms with the losses. Today the river is expected to finally dip below the flood stage in Grand Rapids.

Flood comes strong and fast

The flood got real a week ago today. On Thursday, April 18th, more than three inches of rain fell in one day, blowing away the 1939 record of a mere inch and a half.

On today's show: We've been alloped by wet weather. We get an update from West Michigan on the cleanup of the flooded Grand River.

And, we find out just what's behind a new ranking that says Grand Rapids is one of the tops places in the nation to find a job.

Later in the hour, on this 250th anniversary of his historic council of tribes, we learn just who Chief Pontiac was. We talk with his great, great, great, great grandson.

First on today's show, Michigan State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) formally announced legislation today that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Just what would House Bill 4623 mean for Michigan? Representative Jeff Irwin explains.

Steven Depolo / Flickr

For those who are searching for jobs, Grand Rapids might be an ideal location to begin your search.

2012 was a phenomenal year for the city in terms of job growth with the creation of nearly 13,000 jobs.

Forbes Magazine has put Grand Rapids at number four on its list of the ten best cities to find a job.

Just to give you some context, Bethesda Maryland, Austin Texas, and Jacksonville Florida, are ranked one, two and three.

George Erickeck from W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research tells us what's behind this and what it means.

You can listen to the full interview above.

Air quality is improving in some Michigan cities, according to a new report. The American Lung Association’s annual ‘State of the Air’ report is out today.  

Jim Harrington is a field organizer for the American Lung Association. He says particulate pollution, like smog, is down in the region - including the cities of Flint and Detroit.

“In prior years they’d been ranked the worst in the country. They were one of the most polluted regions in the country,” says Harrington, “And over the last five years, they’ve gradually moved down the list. So they’ve been improving at a faster rate than other areas.”

Anderson Eye Care /

The Grand River hit a record high level in Grand Rapids over the weekend.  Volunteers spent hours filling sandbags to protect homes and city buildings.

City managers are still dealing with the flood waters. But they’re also planning for future storms.

Haris Alibasic directs Grand Rapids’ Office of Energy and Sustainability.

“Given the more intense and more frequent, intense rain events we’re probably going to be experiencing, as climate change is anticipated to really have a serious impact in the Midwest," he says.

Anderson Eye Care /

Update 5:38 p.m.

Grand Rapids city officials are feeling a “sense of relief” now that the Grand River is receding.

But Mayor George Heartwell hesitated to declare victory over the worst flood on record, just yet.

“We will continue to be vigilant even though the worst is behind us,” Heartwell said.

There’s rain in forecast for Tuesday, so conditions could change. But the National Weather Service predicts the river will go down as much as a foot per day until it gets back to normal levels on Thursday.

That’s good news for riverfront hotels and businesses which are still pumping water out of their basements and parking garages.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom says the city has spent between $300,000 and $500,000 so far in overtime pay and equipment. But Heartwell says it's paid off.

“Because we were proactive we were able to weather this storm,” Heartwell said. After several days in a row of press conferences to update the media about the flooding, Heartwell hopes Monday’s conference will be the last for a while.

“There’s a sense of relief,” Heartwell said, “I am so incredibly proud of this community and the way it responded to this threat.”

Businesses and residents in communities along the Grand River, from Ionia to Grand Haven, are still drying out basements and assessing the damage.

On Monday crews carefully moved large debris stuck to the side of the Fulton Street bridge. They guide it underneath the bridge and four high voltage transmission lines.

Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern watched a small crane pull a 20-foot-tall dead tree out of the water.

“It’s huge! And then I don’t know how they’re going to – I’m not an engineer but you get to a point that thing is going to be too heavy for that crane to pick up,” Morgenstern said, “It’s amazing what mother nature is sending down the river for us.”

Update 3:33 p.m.

Michigan Radio’s Dustin Dwyer traveled to Lowell, Michigan today to get a first-hand look at the damage there. WOOD-TV reports Lowell was “among the hardest hit West Michigan cities.”

The Grand River peaked at 19.02 feet yesterday at 8:45 a.m. It was just a hair over its previous record of 19.00 feet set back in 1948.

Dwyer spoke with Matthew Silverman of Lowell who owns around 20 acres of land in the area – most of it was underwater.

Silverman said water was flowing into his basement and he lost his boiler and water heater.

“A couple of the houses down the street, they got inundated... A couple of the people didn't even have flood insurance, so they're going to be hurt pretty bad,” said Silverman.

“Nobody was shocked. Everybody was prepared. Everybody was working really hard.... We had a constant flow of people just coming up, 'Do you need help with anything, what do you need?'” he said.

Silverman said the town became a gathering place for onlookers trying to experience the high waters.

“People were launching boats out of my flower bed the other day, with no regard for any private property. They were paddling right over the top of my fence - hitting my fence,” he said.

Silverman said the steady stream of kayakers and the thousands of onlookers on foot and in cars has been a little stressful.

“I mean, it's hard when you're working 24 hours a day, trying to keep your house above water, trying to help your neighbors out and you got people walking through your yard without permission, taking pictures of your house, walking into your backyard,” Silverman said.

12:45 p.m.

The Courtyard Marriott and Plaza Towers Condominiums in downtown Grand Rapids were evacuated this past Saturday morning. The hotel is expected to be shutdown until Wednesday, no word yet on when Plaza Towers residents can return.

Here's what happened, according to the Plaza Towers' website:

The weight of the water from the swollen river found a way to push upward and break the slab floor in the N corner of the hotel basement parking area. Above that area is the retail parking lot. Our structure is not believed to be damaged or impacted in any way.

The water poured into the basement which led to an immediate shutdown of electricity and the evacuation.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports hotels and office buildings in downtown Grand Rapids along the Grand River are still pumping water out of their basements. She says the river is "expected to hit record levels downstream today in cities like Grandville, while upstream in Lowell and Ionia people are assessing the damage."

11:05 a.m.

Small creeks and streams around West and mid-Michigan hit their crests late last week. As they emptied out, they filled the mainstem rivers.

On today's show: the future of education in Michigan.

Governor Snyder has said he believes too much emphasis is  put on four-year degrees in our state.

Today, we take a look at the requirements to graduate high school in Michigan.

And billionaire and founder of Quicken Loans Dan Gilbert has a vision for reviving downtown Detroit, but what does Gilbert's "Opportunity Detroit" plan really mean for the city and its residents?

And it's been a challenging few days in terms of rain and flooding through much of Michigan.

In the Lansing area, the Red Cedar River has caused flooding on Michigan State University's campus, leaving some athletic fields waterlogged. This weekend the Lansing Marathon had to be rerouted along the Lansing river trail because of high water levels.
Residents in the Saginaw area are also seeing flooding from the Saginaw River. Over the weekend, officials opened a middle school in  Saginaw Township as a shelter due to flooding in the area. And flooding closed some area roads, and people were encouraged to avoid crossing roadways covered by water.
Meanwhile, water levels have lowered in the Midland area, which had been hit by flooding of the Tittabawassee River.

And Grand Rapids is still coping with the aftermath of flooding that hit downtown hotels, stores and businesses. We spoke with Michigan Radio's west Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith.

Map showing stream gauges around Michigan. Purple indicates "major flooding," red "moderate flooding," orange "minor flooding," yellow "near flood stage." If it's green, you're good.

We're hearing a lot of news about flooding rivers around the state, but which rivers are above flood stage right now?

The National Weather Service has a handy map that displays stream gauges from the USGS (United States Geological Survey).

Here's what it shows now:

Rivers experiencing major to moderate flooding:

  • Grand River at several locations
  • Saginaw River at Saginaw

Rivers experiencing minor flooding:

  • Muskegon River
  • Maple River
  • Grand River
  • Thornapple River
  • Red Cedar River
  • St. Joseph River

These stream gauges represent your tax dollars at work, and the USGS wants you to know that some of these gauges around the country will be idled because your tax dollars will no longer be at work.

So far, only one gauge in the western UP is at risk because of the budget cuts.