News

Government Affairs: Q1 Quarterly Update

The Chamber’s priorities for regional and local advocacy have been further honed by business leaders to focus on the elements that are critical to vibrancy.  

While our team is working hard to ensure a Michigan business climate that promotes job creation, the Municipal Council has set a pro-growth agenda that focuses on: 

  • Transformational Projects 
  • Safe Communities 
  • Increased Housing Supply 

Included Below:


Ward 3 Appointment: Deep Dive & Finalists

On February 20, the City’s Committee on Appointments conducted interviews and selected three finalists for the vacant Third Ward Commission seat.

Bing Goei (interview) – stated he is only seeking the appointment and will not seek election in November

In his interview, Goei stated poverty as the key issue facing the Ward and viewed the reduction of poverty rates as a key to addressing other issues such as homelessness, pressure on the healthcare system, and racism.

John Krajewski (interview) – stated he is seeking the appointment and intends to seek election in November, has already filed for election

In his interview, Krajewski stated that the biggest issue facing the ward is safety, and that safety is an all-encompassing term that includes public safety, environmental safety, mental health, as well as economic security.

Marshall Killgore (interview) – stated he is seeking the appointment and will be seeking election in November

In his interview, Killgore stated that housing and environmental concerns were two of the biggest issues that the Ward faces, and there were a number of opportunities for growth such as multi-modal transportation.

The appointed Commissioner will serve the rest of the year. The full Commission will interview and is expected to name the appointee on March 19. You can watch the interviews live here, starting at 11:30am.


What’s Next on Transformational Projects

Grand Action 2.0 Update from Kara Wood

The pre-approval community engagement process has wrapped up for the Soccer Stadium, and has provided critical input into the shared vision of bringing professional soccer to Grand Rapids.

We expect the City Planning Commission will consider the Special Land Use request at their meeting March 28, which will also provide a final opportunity for public comment.

GA2.0 believes community support and engagement is a critical component of a public-private partnership. Hundreds of Grand Rapids residents and stakeholders have directly participated in events that included meetings with focus groups, residents, neighborhood and business associations.

This includes discussions with John Ball Area Neighbors (JBAN), GVSU Leadership, the YMCA Executive staff, West Fulton Business Association, Stockbridge Business Association, Westside Corridor Improvement Authority, the CAA Community Inclusion Group, the West Grand Neighborhood Organization, and more.

The Focus Group meetings were held at Küsterer Brauhaus, the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, the Downtown YMCA and the Center for Community Transformation.  These meetings were jointly facilitated by La Fuente Consulting along with Progressive AE.  Each meeting included multilingual interpreters offering four language options and bilingual materials.

The final public meetings summarized the information and input gathered for a virtual in-person Open House on Tuesday, February 27, 2024The final component of the Community Engagement process will include information shared back with the groups and posting the information at the Grand Action 2.0 website.

See the latest in Crain’s.


Dash of Data: Office Vacancy

Source: DGRI – DDA Downtown Vitals Report January 2024

Office Vacancy in downtown Grand Rapids was 8.3% in the fourth quarter of 2023, down from 9.5% in the third quarter.


Divided House Doesn’t Mean Nothing is Happening

The Michigan House of Representatives will remain split 54-54 until April, when the two vacant seats are expected to be filled by Democratic candidates. The House has taken very little action on legislation in 2024 and we can predict that this trend will continue until the tie is broken.

This doesn’t mean all work in Lansing will come to a halt. The budget process has kicked off and Committees are holding hearings on a number of significant items to prepare items for post-election actions.

Here is what we are watching heading into spring:

Budget

The Governor’s budget proposal has been made and the House and Senate have started their own process. Read more about it here.

Redevelopment

The so-called “polluter pay” legislation may get a hearing before Spring Break. This legislation would have a significant impact on the ability for redevelopment/rehabilitation of brownfield sites in urban communities such as Grand Rapids.

The hearing is especially concerning because it will cast a shadow over and discourage potential investment in contaminated properties. The Chamber’s Infrastructure and Natural Resources Committee is meeting to discuss ways to inform legislators and other stakeholders of the benefits of the current process and the severe consequences of the current proposal.

Rumors/Behind the Scenes: Workers Compensation & Unemployment

Significant rumors and potential language are circulating about new legislation impacting workers compensation and unemployment policies in Michigan. This is concerning for business and the Chamber team will be watching developments closely.

Economic Development

The Governor made three economic development items a top priority. The first two, creating a Michigan R&D tax credit and Renaissance Zones changes passed the House and sit in the Senate.

The third component, the High-wage Incentive for Regional Employment (HIRE) incentive, was initially introduced in the Senate but has been introduced in the House with several changes to address concerns in the current Senate bill that led the Chamber and other organization to oppose the bill.

To deliver these bills to the Governor, the Senate would have to pass all three and the House would have to pass HIRE.

Child Care

Child care continues to be a policy focus for many legislators in Lansing. The Governor’s new Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP) now oversees all things childcare, from licensing, to quality, to the MI Tri-Share program.

We are focused on expansion of the MI Tri-Share program to become a statewide program that will allow for all employers to better utilize the program. This would also include an increase in the cap of qualified families.

In her budget presentation, Governor Whitmer also proposed $60 million for Child Care Benefits for Child Care Workers Pilot program. Details are still to come on what this program will look like, but potentially could show similarities to a program in Kentucky.

The Grand Rapids Chamber is positioned to advocate for a substantial increase in childcare investments across the state, ranging from MI Tri-Share expansion to grants for childcare providers. By addressing the extreme shortage of slots available and the cost associated with care, parents will have more flexibility to return to work and help address the workforce shortage throughout West Michigan.


Kent County Corridors Could Provide Housing Opportunities

What’s Happening:

Housing supply remains a top issue of discussion in West Michigan. Dr. Paul Isely stated it as one of the major opportunities to promote economic expansion for our relatively young and growing region.

What’s Being Done:

To help scale efforts, Housing Next has identified 21 corridors in Kent County that have the infrastructure and available land to solve a significant share of the regional housing need over the next decade.

As a roadmap for long term prosperity and some initial takeaways include:

  • 1600+ acres of vacant land with direct access to sewer/water have potential to produce 33,000 units.
  • Significant opportunities for redevelopment of functionally obsolete properties

What Happens Next:

Using these corridors effectively will require coordination between the public and private sector as well as lending partners and investors. Later this spring, Housing Next will be unveiling a strategy to support the region in an aligned approach to housing supply at all price points.


Dash of Data: Visitor Activity

Source: DGRI – DDA Downtown Vitals Report January 2024

Daily visitor activity for downtown Grand Rapids was 5% higher in January 2024 than the January 5-year average but was 8% lower than the daily average for January 2023, and 6% lower than December 2023.


Kentwood considers public safety millage

The Kentwood City Commission has placed a public safety millage on the May ballot. If approved by voters, the 1.95 mills would generate an additional $5.1 million to support the police and fire departments.

The City views the millage as a necessity to support emergency services. Kentwood’s population has increased 11.5% since 2010 to more than 54,000 residents. This comes with a 14% increase in calls for police service and a 36% increase in calls for fire and emergency medical services.

“Kentwood has had the same police staffing levels since 2000,” said Kentwood Mayor Stephen Kepley. “This proposal will allow us to enhance community safety by raising the minimum staffing levels from three to five police officers, and invest in training, necessary equipment, and proactive community engagement.”

The City also highlights that the dedicated funds will:

  • Support the creation of a basic public safety outdoor training facility, eliminating the need for additional travel and overtime.
  • Enable the Fire Department to add another EMS unit in the future when the demand for emergency services exceeds current staffing.
  • Fund increased simulation-based training for police and fire personnel
  • Add updated technology/equipment and enabling public safety departments to focus resources on proactive prevention and education

Wyoming voters passed a similar, dedicated 1.5 mill public safety millage last year with 64% support.


How Can I Get More Engaged?

Answer the Call:

Our monthly First Friday Call is the best way to get a quick update on the efforts of your Chamber government affairs team. No cost for members and easy to sign up! 

Start Your Week:

Our Breakfast with Legislators and Chamber Issue Forums provide opportunities to engage with lawmakers or dive deeper with experts on significant issues. 

Contribute:

The Friends of West Michigan Business Political Action Committee provides a voice to the business community to support pro-business and pro-growth candidates at the local, state, federal level.  

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