Thank you for attending the 2022 Grand Rapids Policy Conference!
Find special access to resources from our presenters and insider info from the summit below.
Resources from the Grand Rapids Policy Conference
Get Involved with the Chamber’s Policy Work:
Policy Conference To-Do List:
- Helping to increase the ease of doing business downtown and throughout our neighborhoods to support a vibrant economic ecosystem.
- Bringing together business, philanthropy, civic/nonprofit, and government to accelerate economic inclusion.
- Fostering community support for transformational projects and the most effective use of ARPA dollars.
- Working with all stakeholders to promote the safe, vibrant environment everyone in our community deserves and support businesspeople speaking up on public safety issues.
- Building a coalition of community members that support increased housing supply at all price points and engagement with local elected officials.
11:00 a.m. Registration, Networking & Lunch
12:00 p.m. Welcome
- Rick Baker, Grand Rapids Chamber
12:05 p.m. Chamber Efforts to Create a Thriving & Prosperous West Michigan
- Josh Lunger, Grand Rapids Chamber
12:25 p.m. ARPA: How Do We Compare & What’s Next?
- Bobbie Biby, Grand Valley State University
- Christopher John Cruz, Seidman College of Business, Grand Valley State University
12:40 p.m. Taking Action: The BIG Projects
Moderated by Andy Johnston, Grand Rapids Chamber
- Carol Van Andel, Grand Action 2.0 & The David & Carol Van Andel Family Foundation
- Tom Welch, Grand Action 2.0 & Fifth Third Bank
1:10 p.m. The Future of the Grand Rapids Experience
Moderated by Rich App, Grand Rapids Chamber
- Jen Brummitt, Gazelle Sports
- Arick Davis, Last Mile Café
- Doug Small, Experience Grand Rapids
1:40 p.m. Break
2:05 p.m. Public Safety Conversation
Introduction by Anthony Isla, Verizon
- Chief Eric Winstrom, Grand Rapids Police Department
- Mark Washington, City of Grand Rapids
2:25 p.m. Common Ground Housing Solutions
Introduction by Dr. Matt Biersack, Trinity Health
Moderated by Ryan Kilpatrick, Housing Next
- Edward Pinto, AEI Housing Center
- Diane Yentel, National Low Income Housing Coalition
3:30 p.m. Conversation with Mayor Bliss: What’s on the Horizon?
Introduction by Renze Hoeksema, DTE Energy
- Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, City of Grand Rapids
- Casey Jones, WOOD TV8
4:00 p.m. New CEO Welcome Reception
4:15 p.m. Introduction of New Leaders
- Jeff Connolly, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
- Jen Crowley, The Highland Group
5:00 p.m. Adjourn
Don’t Leave So Soon!
Stick around after the program for our New CEO Welcome Reception! The Grand Rapids Chamber is excited to welcome new CEOs and business leaders at a special reception following the Grand Rapids Policy Conference. We’re excited to introduce the following leaders who have recently relocated or have been promoted to their role in our community. This event will take place in the concourse outside of the International Ballroom.
- George Bailey, Michigan Market President, Old National Bank
- Dr. Alicia Córdoba, President, Aquinas College
- Lauren Davis, Regional President for West Michigan, Huntington Bank
- Joe Dyer, President, DISHER
- John Helmholdt, President, SeyferthPR
- Elton Andres Knight, Chief Executive Officer, Founders Brewing
- Dr. Bill Pink, Ferris State University
- Rich Sorota, Chief Executive Officer, Miller Johnson
- Kara Wood, Executive Director, Grand Action 2.0
Meet the Speakers
Bobbie Biby, Affiliate Faculty of Instruction, Grand Valley State University
Bobbie Biby earned her B.A degree in Economics with a Teaching Certificate from Michigan State University and her M.B.A from Western Michigan University. She has over 20 years of teaching experience and recently returned to Grand Valley State University after provided accounting consultation services and software training to low-income housing providers. Bobbie is currently the treasurer of the MSU College of Education Alumni Board.
Matt Biersack, MD, President & Chief Medical Officer, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s
Dr. Matt Biersack is a trusted and collaborative leader who serves as the President and Chief Medical Officer for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s (MHSM) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Dr. Biersack began his career as an Internal Medicine Resident at Mercy Health in 2007, and has served in various capacities as a full time hospitalist, Medical Director, Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer, and his most recent role as Chief Medical Officer.
Dr. Biersack has helped lead COVID-19 response activities for MHSM and remains a visible and accessible expert that leaders, colleagues, providers, and community members look to for guidance. He serves as a strong advocate for patient and colleague safety initiatives and is recognized as a thought-leader in Zero Harm work. Dr. Biersack is also one of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) champions for MHSM, where he has taken an active role in ensuring an organizational focus on advancing diversity and eliminating racism.
Dr. Biersack is a Grand Rapids native and earned his bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences from the University of Michigan College of Engineering and Medical Doctorate from Wayne State University School of Medicine. He remains Board Certified in Internal Medicine, and has received the Professional Achievement in Lean Healthcare designation. He serves on the Board of Trustees for Aquinas College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, as well as The Right Place and Talent 2025.
Rosalynn Bliss, Mayor, City of Grand Rapids
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss became the City of Grand Rapids’ first female Mayor when she took office on January 1, 2016. She was re-elected for a second term in November 2019. She previously served as a Second Ward City Commissioner for 10 years.
Mayor Bliss also is serving as the Frederik Meijer Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Grand Valley’s Frederik Meijer Honors College, where she teaches in the Honors College. She earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and criminal justice from the University of South Alabama and a master’s in social work from Michigan State University.
Mayor Bliss is an active member of the community. She is Past President of the Michigan Municipal League and currently serves on the boards of the Downtown Development Authority, Experience Grand Rapids, Convention Arena Authority, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Grand Rapids Promise Zone Authority, National League of Cities Council on Youth, Education, and Families, Urban Core Mayors, The Economic Club of Grand Rapids and the Interurban Transit Partnership.
Mayor Bliss has been recognized and honored locally as well as statewide for her commitment, dedication and work in the field of child abuse and neglect and for her leadership in the community. As Mayor, she is committed to supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs, working to create a cleaner, healthier and safer community and has a commitment to addressing disparities in our community to make sure that Grand Rapids is a great place for everyone.
Jen Brummitt, CEO, Gazelle Sports
Jennifer (Jen) Brummitt is the CEO of Gazelle Sports, a Michigan-based running specialty store and athletic and fitness lifestyle retailer with locations in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Holland, Northville and Birmingham, as well as an ecommerce and 3P marketplace business.
Taking the helm in June 2020, Brummitt became Gazelle Sports’ first-ever CEO, as the company transitioned its leadership structure from the original, founding partner team. Brummitt, who has been with Gazelle Sports since November 2003, was promoted to CEO from director of brand strategy, and is currently responsible for oversight of the executive team and guiding the company’s strategic direction. As a nearly 20-year veteran of Gazelle Sports, Brummitt has worked at every level of the company, beginning as a part- time shipping and receiving staff member. She transitioned to the Holland retail floor while finishing her education at Hope College, and transferred to the Grand Rapids retail floor in 2004 for a short time, before taking on a role in account management for Team Gazelle (the team sales division of Gazelle Sports). In 2007, Brummitt launched and managed Gazelle Sports’ e-commerce business. She developed her leadership throughout the company, becoming the director of brand strategy in 2013, and joining the Gazelle Sports executive team in 2018.
Born in Michigan and current resident of Byron Center. Brummitt gives her time outside of the office to the Running Industry Association board and the Hudsonville Public Schools Diversity and Advocacy committee.
In addition, she and her husband are parents to two young daughters, and the family enjoys outdoor adventures together and spending summers on Lake Michigan.
Christopher John Cruz, Assistant Professor of Economics, Seidman College of Business
Christopher John Cruz is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Seidman College of Business of the Grand Valley State University. He obtained his PhD in Economics from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2019. His research and teaching interests include Public Economics, Labor Economics, and Monetary Economics.
Arick Davis, Co-Founder, Last Mile Cafe
Arick Davis is a Grand Rapids native growing up on the southeast side of town. He studied electrical engineering at Michigan Technological University and has shared experience in software development and entrepreneurship. Arick is the co-founder of Last Mile Cafe, a new coffee concept based in Grand Rapids, Michigan set out to redefine the narrative of coffee to be inclusive, sustainable, and transparent. He also works for Creative Mines, a custom software development company as the manager of community relationships. His passion for bringing together people has led him to be well recognized in Grand Rapids.
Arick serves on several boards in the community and across Michigan, including Code for Good West Michigan, Fulton Street Farmers Market, and the Michigan Tech Alumni Board of Directors. His business, Last Mile Cafe, has seen outstanding traction in the first year and looks forward to opening a physical location in the heart of 49507 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and seeks to be B-Corp certified this year. Finally, Arick is an alumnus of the Emerging Leaders series through the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and has been passionate about sharing his experiences to bring others along.
Ryan Kilpatrick, Lead Consultant, Housing Next
Ryan Kilpatrick, Lead Consultant at Housing Next, has an extensive background in economic development, community design and public finance. He previously worked for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and is a certified planner and economic development finance professional. He has more than 15 years of experience supporting local governments with technical assistance and best practice implementation through planning, zoning, process improvement and the use of financial tools to create economically vibrant communities. Ryan has a master’s degree in design thinking from Kendall College of Art and Design and a bachelor’s degree in community development from Grand Valley State University.
Edward Pinto, Senior Fellow & Director, AEI Housing Center
Edward J. Pinto is a senior fellow and the director of the AEI Housing Center at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). He is currently researching how to increase the entry-level housing supply for first-time buyers and renters who earn hourly wages, as well as examining the current house price boom that began in 2012.
Along with AEI Resident Scholar Stephen Oliner, Mr. Pinto created the Wealth Building Home Mortgage, This mortgage allows home buyers to maintain a buying power similar to a 30-year loan. It is aimed at a broad range of homebuyers, including low-income, minority, and first-time buyers.
Before joining AEI, Mr. Pinto was an executive vice president and chief credit officer for Fannie Mae until the late 1980s. Today, he is frequently interviewed on radio and television and often testifies before Congress. Mr. Pinto has a JD from Indiana University Maurer School of Law and a BA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Douglas Small, President & CEO, Experience Grand Rapids
Mr. Douglas “Doug” Small is President & Chief Executive Officer for Experience Grand Rapids, the Convention & Visitors Bureau. Small began his tenure with the organization on September 8, 2008. Small has acquired 40 years of experience in the hospitality, tourism and destination marketing industries, with emphasis on marketing and management for several large-to-midsize destination marketing organizations throughout the country.
Experience Grand Rapids provides destination marketing, management and visitor services for the Greater Grand Rapids region. This non-profit, private corporation operates with an annual budget of $11.7 million generated through private and public partnerships and governed by a 33-member Board of Directors.
With a primary mission of economic development through the attraction of tourists and conventions to the area, its’ staff of 30 full-time and 17 part-time industry professionals provide public relations, marketing, sales and visitor services to accomplish its’ mission of increasing “new” revenues for Kent County and the Greater Grand Rapids region. Since Small’s arrival to Grand Rapids in 2008, pre-pandemic hotel performance had seen record level attainments in room revenue and occupancy for nine consecutive years. In 2008, annual hotel occupancy stood at 48%. Occupancy was recorded as 66.7% in 2019. During this same period, hotel room revenue grew from $96 million in 2008 to over $226 million in 2019.
Previous to his current role in Grand Rapids, Small served as Senior Vice President for VISIT DENVER. Prior to Denver, Small served as President of the Syracuse (NY) Convention Bureau and in senior leadership sales and marketing capacities for destination marketing organizations in Palm Springs (CA) and Dayton (OH), as well as management positions in the lodging industry. Small’s community and industry involvement includes serving on the board of directors for the U.S. Travel Association, West Michigan Sports Commission, the Regional Air Alliance of West Michigan, Gerald R. Ford International Airport Authority, Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, Michigan Society of Association Executives and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc.
Small was inducted into the Michigan Society of Association Executives Hall of Fame in 2015 and named one of West Michigan’s 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.
Small is a 1982 graduate of Siena Heights College (Adrian, Michigan) where he majored in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management. While at Siena Heights, Small was also a two-time, national championship qualifier, as a record-setting collegiate track and field athlete, competing in the high jump. A native of Ohio, Small and his wife Kimberly, have two children; Alexandra and Davidson and resides in Belmont, Michigan.
Carol Van Andel, Co-Chair, Grand Action 2.0 & Executive Director, The David & Carol Van Andel Family Foundation
A native of West Michigan, Carol Van Andel grew up in and around the Grand Rapids area. She earned a business degree from Hope College in nearby Holland, MI. Her lifetime has been marked by service to others, through volunteer roles with more than a dozen non-profit organizations.” Passionate about her community in ways that advance education, children’s issues, the arts and health and human services, Ms. Van Andel is a staunch supporter of her husband’s initiatives as well, which include directing the Van Andel Institute, where she helps coordinate fundraising efforts for research and education to battle cancer and other debilitating diseases. Ms. Van Andel has been a tireless champion for untold numbers who benefit from her leadership roles with the David and Carol Van Andel Family Foundation, Hope College Board of Trustees, Grand Action 2.0, the Grand Rapids Public Museum Foundation, and Western Michigan Theological Seminary . The Van Andels reside in Ada, MI and have four sons.
Mark Washington, City Manager, City of Grand Rapids
Mark Washington has been Grand Rapids’ City Manager since October 2018. As City Manager, he functions as the municipal corporation’s Chief Executive Officer. He oversees a $540 million budget, a 1,600-person workforce and all city departments, operations, policies and programs related to public safety, economic development, community services, mobility, infrastructure, health, environment, recreation and community engagement. He is committed to making Grand Rapids a city that is nationally recognized for being equitable, welcoming, innovative and collaborative with a robust economy, safe and healthy community and the opportunity for a high quality of life for all.
Since arriving in Grand Rapids, Mark has led efforts to create a four-year strategic plan, reduce the overall cost of government services, create a performance management program, launch an equitable economic development and mobility strategy, create a public safety oversight and accountability office to improve community-police relations, establish both an equity office and innovation office, launch a homeless outreach team and reaffirm the City’s commitment to sustainability.
Mark has 26 years of experience in public sector service. Before becoming Grand Rapids’ City Manager, he served as Assistant City Manager for the City of Austin, Texas. In that role, he assisted the City Manager in operating a workforce of 14,000 employees and a $4.1 billion budget. He has also held previous roles with the City of Austin. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Tarleton State University, a master’s degree in business administration from Amberton University and a master of arts degree and doctorate degree in education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Mark is a member of the International City/County Management Association and Grand Valley Metropolitan Council. He also serves on the Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Spectrum Health Community Commitment, National Forum for Black Public Administrators and Tarleton State University College of Business advisory boards. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and he is an ordained minister.
Tom Welch, Co-Chair, Grand Action 2.0 & Regional President, Fifth Third Bank
Tom Welch serves as region president of Fifth Third Bank, N.A. (West Michigan). He is responsible for the growth and strategic alignment of our Business, Commercial, Wealth & Asset Management and Consumer businesses to deliver distinctive value to our customers and community impact in the region.
Tom has 32 years of experience in the financial services industry, and he’s in his 30th year with Fifth Third. Before leading the West Michigan region, Tom led the Bank’s aggressive expansion plans in St. Louis and Missouri as St. Louis region president. He also has held leadership positions within the Bank’s Cincinnati and Southern Indiana regions.
Tom earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northwestern University. He has completed continuing executive education courses through Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management and Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management and the F. Reid Buckley School of Public Speaking.
Tom serves as the co-chair of Grand Action 2.0 and the boards of several local organizations including The Right Place, Grand Valley State University Foundation, West Michigan Policy Forum, Grand Rapids Symphony, John Ball Zoo and Aquinas College. Tom also serves on the Leadership Council for Talent 2025. Tom was the recipient of the 2018 Grand Rapids Business Journal Newsmaker of the Year in Finance.
Tom is a native of Toledo, Ohio. Before moving to the Grand Rapids area in 2014, he and his family lived primarily in Midwest cities – Cincinnati, Evansville, Indiana, and St. Louis. He, his wife, Laurie, and their 10 children reside in Ada, Michigan.
Eric Winstrom, Police Chief, Grand Rapids Police Department
Eric Winstrom began his tenure as the Police Chief of Grand Rapids, Michigan, on March 7, 2022.
Chief Winstrom comes to Grand Rapids from the Chicago Police Department (CPD), where he served for over 20 years in various patrol, tactical, investigative, and administrative positions. He last served as an executive on the CPD Leadership Team and led the Area 5 Detective Division, where he oversaw a staff of 200, including 40 homicide detectives. Geographically, Area 5 covers approximately one-fifth of the city of Chicago, including the Northwest Side and O’Hare Airport. Chief Winstrom’s previous assignments included teaching at the Chicago Police Academy, heading CPD’s citywide child sex crimes investigation unit, serving as a supervising attorney in the legal affairs division, assisting in the creation of the office of reform management, overseeing policy and procedure for the department, and serving as captain of the 400-person 9th District Station.
Chief Winstrom holds a Bachelor of Science in Administration of Justice from Rutgers University and a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School. He is a member of the Illinois Bar Association and is a court recognized expert on police policy, use of force, criminal investigations, and the Fourth Amendment.
He says the success he had as a commander in Chicago came through working tirelessly to build relationships with individuals and community groups who both backed and challenged the department, and it is an approach he intends to continue in Grand Rapids.
Chief Winstrom and his wife, Rachel, have two children.
Diane Yentel, President & CEO, National Low Income Housing Coalition
Diane Yentel currently serves as the President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a membership organization dedicated solely to achieving socially just public policy that ensures people with the lowest incomes in the United States have access to affordable and decent homes.
Diane is a veteran affordable housing policy expert and advocate with nearly two decades of work on affordable housing and community development issues. Before rejoining NLIHC (where she previously worked as a policy analyst), Diane was Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs at Enterprise Community Partners, where she led federal, state and local policy, research and advocacy programs. Prior to Enterprise, Diane was the director of the Public Housing Management and Occupancy Division at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), where she managed a team overseeing the development and implementation of nationwide public housing policies, procedures and guidelines. She also worked to advance affordable housing policies with Oxfam America and the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, and served for 3 years as a community development Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia.
Diane is frequently cited in media outlets, including the Washington Post, The New York Times, Politico, Mother Jones, NPR and The Guardian. She serves on the Board of Directors of the National Housing Conference, and the Coalition on Human Needs, and has a Masters in Social work from the University of Texas at Austin.