Wednesday, October 15, 2008

‘What’s Next for The Hill?’

The development of health care and life sciences along Grand Rapids’ Michigan Street hill holds economic promise for West Michigan, said speakers at a discussion called “What’s Next for The Hill” at the University of Michigan/Urban Land Institute’s Real Estate Forum in Grand Rapids Wednesday.

“We, I think, have an opportunity here to do something that you can’t do in Boston, you can’t do in Philadelphia; it’s not going to happen in L.A.,” Spectrum Health Hospitals President Matt VanVranken. “It’s really about creating a draw for this community that is palpable.”

Marsha Rappley, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, said the establishment of the medical school’s headquarters, four-year program and research and development arm in Grand Rapids is an example of the public-private partnership that is the only way forward in a time of economic distress in Michigan. 

She said a telling moment occurred while she was touring Ferris State University’s Kendall College of Art & Design, incognito, with her college-shopping son: “This young, passionate artist was recruiting this group of students to Kendall, and he was telling us how the nightlife is so great in Grand Rapids…so he talks about the apartments, he talks about the bars and the restaurants, and then he turned to me and said, ‘And we’re going to have our own medical school, right here.’ 

“It was a turning point, really, in how I cam to understand, what is the value that we bring to this community. It goes well beyond the training of physicians. It goes well beyond the presence of a Big Ten university in downtown Grand Rapids. It means something to this young artist and his ability to recruit to his facility.”

Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas said in the economic theory that jobs follow talent, “my job is to create human capital, to create talent.” He noted that 98 percent of GVSU graduates are either employed or in graduate school, and of those with jobs, 88 percent stayed in Michigan. 

“In the next 10 years, clearly Grand Valley State University will focus and invest further to be the premier educational provider in the health sciences,” Haas said. “I think there will be new programmatic initiatives as well.”

“Grand Valley was really built not even 50 years on public-private partnerships,” he added. “That will continue to be the fuel as Grand Valley positions itself to a distinctive future especially in the life sciences.”

He predicted a need to expand the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative’s wet lab space in the Cook-DeVos Institute “beyond the Medical Mile.”

“We’ll be working with both Grand Valley and Michigan State to jointly recruit people to this community,” VanVranken said. “In the last five years, we recruited 2,000 new employees to our system.  You know what the spin-off means in terms of homeownership, the economic (effect). I would see the future having a similar impact as we bring in people, all three of us, into this community the economic impact is significant.”

He said Spectrum Health spent $206 million on local vendors in its 2008 fiscal year.

—Elizabeth Slowik

No comments: