Looking to the Future: Continuing Growth in Metro Grand Rapids

By: Rick Baker, President/CEO, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

For the elected leaders of Grand Rapids and Kent County, the hiring of our next professional leaders is one of their most significant responsibilities.

The revitalization and growth our region is experiencing is unmatched. We experienced a higher percentage job growth in Metro Grand Rapids last year than any other large metro area in the U.S.  As our community continues to climb the various rankings of economic success, we cannot forget the work that drives our growth nor can we afford to become complacent. Our continued success is never assured, the deliberate work by community leaders will continue to drive our progress.

A critical partner in our region’s success is the public sector. With the retirement of Kent County Administrator Daryl Delabbio and the retirement announcement of Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom our community has a unique opportunity as we select new leaders for these significant public entities.

In both instances the role serves as chief executive officer, tasked with implementing the government’s goals, strategies and budget. Selecting the next leaders is a critically important decision for our community. For the elected leaders of Grand Rapids and Kent County, the hiring of our next professional leaders is one of their most significant responsibilities.

As we thank our retiring leaders for their decades of service, we see the potential to continue to build upon the ways our local governments communicate and interact with citizens and the business community. From a Grand Rapids Chamber perspective our Commission-Manager system at the City of Grand Rapids and appointed administrator for Kent County have served us well and has resulted in a history of effective leadership.

Our members have a strong interest in fostering a climate that supports business growth. To build upon our success as a region, we suggest the next leaders to take the helm as the CEO of the County and the City have:

  • Sound financial management and fiscal policies, with a history of budget design and implementation.
  • A focus on customer service and engagement for both citizens and the business community.
  • Understanding of the private/public collaboration that is part of the fabric of our community and their organization’s role in those partnerships.
  • A willingness to address difficult and systemic issues.
  • Track records of encouraging innovative ways to improve service delivery to make more effective use of taxpayer dollars.
  • A history of support for policies that provide a strong business and entrepreneurial climate.
  • A collaborative leadership style and experience in partnering to deliver transformative projects.

Both the City and County are in position to be unifiers and drivers of projects, policies and programs that will propel our region forward. Our past successes are one indication of the potential outcomes for this work. We are all working to create a dynamic community, and strong partnerships between the public and private sectors have helped create a resurgence of vibrancy.

As we select these new government leaders, we urge our elected leaders of both bodies to seek out and listen to private-sector input as these processes go forward and we look forward to working with this new generation of leadership.

Anna Young Administrator
Digital Content Specialist
Anna is the digital guru for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
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