Grand Rapids

Education
1:20 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Supporters kick off campaign to pass GRCC millage in May

Kent County Commission Chair Sandi Frost Parrish endorses the GRCC millage at the kick off campaign Wednesday morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

People supporting a new tax millage for Grand Rapids Community College kicked off their campaign Wednesday. The millage would raise almost $100 million over 20 years pay to renovate almost every building on campus; including the main building constructed 90 years ago.

Students, employers, Democrats and even some Republicans gathered at the school’s Music Center Wednesday morning.

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Education
12:36 pm
Sat March 10, 2012

New superintendent works to unite Grand Rapids schools’ community

Teresa Weatherall Neal addressed the community at Ottawa Hills High School auditorium Saturday morning.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The interim superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools will get rid of some controversial initiatives put in place by the former district leader. The state’s third largest school district has been through a lot of turmoil over the last year.

Former Grand Rapids schools superintendent Bernard Taylor made academic improvements during his five years serving the district. But he was divisive at least and a pariah to some. He resigned abruptly in January. His replacement Teresa Weatherall Neal has worked for Grand Rapids schools for 35 years.

“I am truly, truly, one of you. This is my district and this is my city,” Neal said in her ‘state of our schools address’ Saturday.  

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Economy
1:01 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Home prices tick up in Michigan

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There’s some good news for people planning on selling their homes in Michigan.

During the last four years, home sale prices in Michigan have been on a rollercoaster, mainly going down.

But Clear Capitol reports today Michigan home prices may finally be stabilizing.

Alex Villacorta is with Clear Capitol. He says an improving job picture,  stronger consumer confidence and more investors buying cheap homes are all contributing to a more stable real estate market.

Villacorta says nationally prices in February were only down about a half percentage point from the previous year.

"Bringing it back to Michigan," says Villacorta, "that fact that prices are actually up 1.2% over the last year is definitely a good sign…and up double digits…about 15% from the low point of 2009.”

But as with all things real estate, 'Location…location…location' is what matters.Villacorta says Grand Rapids’ home sale prices are up about six percent compared with a year ago, while home prices in Lansing and Flint continue to decline.

Environment
5:08 pm
Fri March 2, 2012

Recycling jumps 80% in Grand Rapids with single-stream carts

My single stream recycle bin.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Recycling is up 80-percent since the City of Grand Rapids instituted a new single-stream recycling program. With single-stream people can put all kinds of stuff - glass, plastic, cardboard and paper - into a single cart (no sorting needed). The city picks up the recyclable stuff at the curb for free.

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Auto/Economy
4:33 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Kent County hotels bring in record revenue in 2011

The Amway Grand Plaza, JW Marriott, and the Courtyard by Marriott hotels sit along the Grand River in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids-area hotels made record income last year. Hotel revenue in Kent County grew at a faster rate than the average for hotels in Michigan and the United States. That’s according a report released by the convention and visitors bureau – Experience Grand Rapids.

Experience Grand Rapids president Doug Small says the city attracted larger conventions and more leisure travelers this year. “It’s a combination of very creative marketing, collaboration, wonderful events that continue to dot our landscape,” Small said, noting ArtPrize and Laughfest as examples. “It’s all good; it’s the perfect storm.”

Small says the ‘Pure Michigan’ marketing campaign deserves some credit too. “We’re a big partner with them – we’ve always been since day one. They’ve helped drive a lot of our summer business,” Small said.

Kent County’s 70 hotels made a combined $114 million dollars last year, a 10-percent increase from the year before. In 2009 it was just $93 million. The hospitality industry employs 24,000 people in Kent County.

Transportation
4:49 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Obama budget has $14.7 million for Grand Rapids transit

Grand Rapids bus.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he's recommending $14.7 million in federal aid to build a 9.6-mile bus rapid transit line in Grand Rapids.

LaHood said in a statement Tuesday that the line will offer fast and efficient access to the western Michigan city's central business district and relieve congestion.

LaHood says the project is part of President Barack Obama's budget for the 2013 fiscal year. The budget sent to Congress on Monday includes $2.2 billion in funding for 29 major rail and bus
rapid transit projects in 15 states.

LaHood says the budget would fund the Grand Rapids Interurban Transit partnership for a new Silver Line BRT system. It would run along Division Avenue from the Grand Rapids central business
district to 60th Street at Division Avenue.

Science/Medicine
12:34 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

MSU expanding reach of medical research

A view of the recently constructed Secchia Center, MSU's headquarters for the College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids
user JohnE777 Flickr

Michigan State University’s Human Medicine program is expanding its research facilities far away from East Lansing.

Last month, MSU announced its buying the old Grand Rapids Press building.  This week, developers say they hope to turn an old newspaper building in Flint into a home for MSU medical researchers.

Aron Sousa is an associate dean at the MSU College of Human Medicine.  He says expansions in Grand Rapids and Flint, as well as Midland and Traverse City, reflect the communities’ needs.

“Both the college [of Human Medicine] and the university want to be more active across the state.  We’re the land grant school for the state of Michigan.  We take that mission and that history seriously," says Sousa. 

 MSU is ending some medical programs in Kalamazoo and Saginaw, to make way for new medical schools at Western and Central Michigan Universities.

Politics
1:04 pm
Sat January 28, 2012

Grand Rapids Mayor on state of city: "Our children need us NOW"

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell dedicated his entire state of the city speech Saturday morning to highlighting the problems facing kids in the community. 

Heartwell noted nearly 2 in 5 children in Michigan's 2nd largest city live in poverty. More than 1 in 5 students in Grand Rapids Public Schools drops out of high school. Many don’t have regular access to the internet.

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Education
10:14 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Grand Rapids Community College to ask Kent County voters to approve $100 million bond

Grand Rapids Community College campus downtown.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Voters in Kent County will decide on a millage increase for Grand Rapids Community College this May. The college’s board of trustees voted to put the question on the May ballot Monday night.

GRCC’s President Steven Enders says the tax increase is worth it for everyone living near Grand Rapids. “You cannot begin to put a value of the impact of this institution on Kent County and this region. It is just not as simple as counting numbers," Enders said. 

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Education
7:16 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

Grand Rapids schools suspends superintendent search

GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The school board of Michigan’s third largest public school district voted unanimously Monday night to extend interim Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal’s contract for 18 months and suspend the superintendent search.

Neal replaces former superintendent Bernard Taylor. Taylor had agreed to resign from Grand Rapids schools at the end of this school year after he was a finalist for other jobs beginning last spring. But he departed abruptly earlier this month.

In a written statement school board president Senita Lenear said:

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Auto/Economy
12:39 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

Economists expect modest growth in Grand Rapids area will continue

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids area economy will continue to grow at a modest pace in 2012. Economists at Grand Valley State University are predicting employment growth between 1.5 and 2-percent this year.

GVSU Professor of Economics Hari Singh surveyed close to 300 business owners in Allegan, Ottawa, Kent and Muskegon counties to compile his report. He says 70-percent of employers told him they plan to hire permanent employees this year.

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public transportation
5:00 am
Mon January 9, 2012

Grand Rapids-area bus system improvements begin today

Students board The Rapid's DASH to the Hill bus. The free route serves Grand Rapids' growing 'Medical Mile' and several colleges nearby.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Rapid busses start a new schedule Monday that will better serve riders late at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday. The bus service is improving thanks to a millage voters passed back in May.

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government
5:00 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

Kent County’s ‘reverse eBay’ saves thousands on supplies

Kent County's Adminstration building in downtown Grand Rapids.
Steven Depolo Creative Commons

Kent County is saving tens of thousands of dollars a year on supplies thanks to a customized online auction. The program is like the online auction site eBay in reverse.

When Kent County needs office supplies, like printer paper, it opens an auction online. It lists a maximum price it’s willing to pay based on previous bills. Vendors offer to sell the county printer paper at that price or lower.

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Homeless
8:04 am
Fri December 30, 2011

Federal judge allows registered sex offenders in Michigan homeless shelters

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 A federal judge’s ruling is opening the doors of Michigan’s homeless shelters to registered sex offenders.  

 Two years ago, a 51 year old homeless man was found frozen to death in Grand Rapids.  He was turned away by a   local homeless shelter because the man was a registered sex offender.   The shelter was less than a thousand feet from a school, which would have been a violation of a Michigan law barring sex offenders from living that close to a school.   

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Economy
1:36 pm
Wed December 28, 2011

Cities look to philanthropy as economic development tool

Much of downtown Grand Rapids' resurgence can be credited to philanthropic investments.
Dustin Dwyer Changing Gears

The Amway HotelVan Andel Arena. The Grand Rapids Public Museum. What do all these things have in common? Yes, they're all credited with helping turn downtown Grand Rapids around. But they also owe their existence, at least in part, to something else: philanthropy.

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Auto/Economy
12:14 pm
Fri December 23, 2011

Meijer puts out video tribute; says chain will remain family run

The sons of the late Fred Meijer say the Walker-Michigan-based Meijer retail chain will remain “family-owned, family-run” in a video released Thursday.

“Because of our dad, Meijer will always be more than just a company,” Hank and Doug Meijer say in the video, “He was building something else all those years. He was building a family. One that is now 60,000 strong.” Meijer Corporation has about around 200 stores in the Midwest.

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2011
2:53 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

A look back: Michigan Radio's arts and culture coverage

Image by John Wilson Michigan Radio

As part of Michigan Radio's end-of-year look back at some of the more notable stories, here's a collection of 2011 arts and culture stories that we feel deserve another look:

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Arts/Culture
8:37 am
Tue December 20, 2011

ArtPrize 2011 pumps $15.4 million into Grand Rapids’ economy

Families take pictures in front of "Rusty" near the Grand Rapids Public Museum during ArtPrize 2011. Voters picked Rusty as number 5 in the top ten.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A report released today by the Anderson Economic Group say this year’s ArtPrize added $15.4 million to the Grand Rapids economy. That estimate is twice the economic impact measured in each of the first two years. 2011 was the third annual ArtPrize.

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Offbeat
4:29 pm
Sun December 18, 2011

Tiger cub exhibit called off at West Michigan mall

Flickr/Tambako the Jaguar

A newspaper reports a tiger cub exhibit has closed at a Grand Rapids mall after public complaints and a planned protest. The Grand Rapids Press reported Friday that mall officials canceled the touring display that allows shoppers to play with and be photographed with the cubs for a price.

Sarah Hale tells the newspaper she had planned a protest for Saturday against the exhibit but called it off.

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Auto/Economy
1:03 pm
Wed December 14, 2011

Economist expects Grand Rapids economy will continue to grow, slowly, in 2012

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids economy grew faster than predicted this year and economic forecasters say growth will continue into 2012.

George Erickcek is an economist at the Upjohn Institute for employment research. He says the Grand Rapids economy did grow in 2011, but only by two-percent. (His full presentation is linked here.)

“There’s been no talk of a double dip for many, many months. But the growth…is disappointing. It’s not the growth we want,” Erickcek told a group of business leaders assembled Wednesday.

He says a recovering auto industry and gains in advanced manufacturing are the main reasons Grand Rapids’ economy has grown.

In fact, Erickcek says Grand Rapids is technically over the recession in terms of employment numbers.

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