Government Affairs: Q2 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 

Learn more about what our team has been up to in Q2.

Destination Kent

Last month, the Acrisure Amphitheater took an important step forward, but there is still a major action coming that Kent County voters need to take to ensure the next generation of transformational projects are successful. 

Destination Kent has launched to encourage residents to vote yes on August 6 to allow an increase in the Kent County lodging (hotel/motel) tax

The proposed increase from 5% to 8% will generate the predictable revenue to support the public financing components of catalytic public-private projects. We have successfully done this before for projects such as DeVos Place Convention Center. 

This includes projects such as the Acrisure Amphitheater and an 8,500-person professional soccer stadium. Research shows these projects will create more than $1B in net new economic impact and create hundreds of jobs in the region.  

With nearly 90% of the funding coming from visitors outside of the region, this has been coined as “the tax you don’t pay.” 

The Grand Rapids Chamber is strongly supporting a YES vote and urges you to share this information with friends, family and colleagues. Learn more about Destination Kent here: Yes Destination Kent.

Dash of Data – DDA Visitor Activity 

Source: DGRI April Vitals Report

Learning from Houston on Homelessness

What Happened:

In March, a delegation of public, private, and philanthropic stakeholders from Grand Rapids traveled to Houston to meet with leaders who helped lead a significant turnaround in homelessness outcomes over the last decade. 

Why Houston?

In 2011, the metro had ~8,500 unsheltered individuals, landing it in the top 10 for homelessness in the country. Since then, they’ve made significant and lasting progress in addressing chronic and other types of homelessness.  


The group, which included the City, County, Chamber Continuum of Care and other partners, benefited from time to work together on pressing issues and engaging with Houston leaders, donors, and nonprofit executives. Here are a few key items: 

  • Grand Rapids can use a similar model of public-private partnerships that have helped our region succeed to address this challenging issue. 
  • We need to have a bias for action. Advice from the Special Advisor to the Mayor of Houston was to “move fast and modify as needed.” The first few wins will build support. 
  • Alignment, communication, and transparency are important. 
  • Houston didn’t have a magical solution. It came down to commitment. If Grand Rapids can commit to solving chronic homelessness, it can be done.

What’s Next:

Public and private partners are joining the Continuum of Care (CoC) in Grand Rapids to launch a 100 in 100 effort later this year to house many of the most vulnerable individuals on the streets. The goal is to house 100 individuals in 100 days. Mayor Bliss publicly declared her support for this effort at her final State of the City address. 

“If there is any city that can end chronic homelessness, it is Grand Rapids,” the mayor said, before asking the community to partner in the coming effort.

The CoC team is working to pull together the planning team to launch the effort later this summer. More details will be available as the team identifies opportunities for support. 

Go Deeper:

Metros across the United States have struggled with addressing chronic homelessness, particularly since the pandemic. Unfortunately, finding a solution can quickly get “political.” Houston warns that balancing effective policy with reputational risks and political needs is difficult. Thankfully our community continues to show the courage to stay at the table even when philosophies don’t completely align.

The good news? Success is a win for everyone. Helping chronic homeless individuals find permanent housing solutions with appropriate services will significantly improve their quality of life. We also know it will reduce emergency room visits, enhance vibrancy in public spaces, and support additional investment in our urban core leading to more revenue for the City to invest into essential services. 

Stay tuned for more information on how the business community can support these efforts.

Dash of DataDowntown Office Vacancy Rates

Source: DGRI April Vitals Report

Local PAC Endorsed Candidates

The Grand Rapids Chamber Political Action Committee (PAC) has announced its slate of endorsed candidates for this August in several city and county elections. 

The Chamber PAC is supported by the personal contributions of its members and is not supported by member dollars. Endorsement considerations include policy alignment with Chamber priorities, voting record for incumbents, questionnaires, interviews and public statements of candidates. All endorsement decisions require a two-thirds majority vote of the PAC Board. 

Learn more here. 

City Races: 

For Mayor of Grand Rapids, the PAC endorsed David LaGrand, former Second Ward Commissioner and State Representative, as well as the owner of Long Road Distillery. LaGrand will face off against former Third Ward Commissioner Senita Lenear, Steve Owens, and Hailey Lynch-Bastion.      

In the First Ward, the Chamber PAC endorsed Dean Pacific, partner at Warner Norcross + Judd who also has experience on the Grand Rapids Civilian Appeals Board and Heas Start for Kent County Board of Directors. Pacific will face Melanie Droski, Alicia Marie Belchak, and Mike Fassbender in August. 

For Third Ward Commissioner, the PAC endorsed John Krajewski, a principal at Hopkins Elementary with 20 years in public school administration and former GRPD officer. The Third Ward seat is the most crowded primary of the city races, including sitting-commissioner Bing Goei, Marshall Kilgore, Al Willis, Reggie Howard, and Joyce Priscilla Gipson. 

County Races: 

In Kent County District 2, the PAC endorsed Elizabeth Morse, the Downtown Development Director for the City of Sparta. She will face off against Joel Langlois in the August Republican Primary. 

For Kent County District 10, the PAC endorsed Robin Halsted, a Marketing Assistant and former executive director at the Cutlerville-Gaines Chamber of Commerce. She will face Bill Hirsch in the August Republican Primary. 

In Kent County District 18, the PAC endorsed Steve Faber, the communications and marketing director for the Kent County Department of Public Works. Faber will compete against Dan Hesse and James Rinck in the August Democratic Primary 

 In Kent County’s 19th District, the PAC endorsed sitting County Commissioner Kris Pachla, who also serves as the Director of the Center for Experiential Learning at Grand Valley State University. Pachla is unopposed in this August’s Democratic Primary. 

 These candidates join the slate of candidates at the county level that the Chamber PAC previously announced early-endorsements for: 

  • Kent County Clerk: Lisa Posthumus-Lyons (R) 
  • Kent County Drain Commissioner: Ken Yonker (R) 
  • Kent County Sheriff: Michelle LaJoye-Young (R) 
  • Kent County Treasurer: Peter MacGregor (R) 
  • Kent County Prosecuting Attorney: Chris Becker (R) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 1: Ben Greene (R) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 3: Jennifer Merchant (R) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 5: Dave Hildenbrand (R) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 6: Stan Stek (R) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 8: Dan Burrill (R) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 11: Lindsey Thiel (R) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 12: Monica Sparks (D) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 13: Michelle McCloud (D) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 14: Carol Hennessy (D) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 15: Lisa Oliver-King (D) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 16: Melissa LaGrand (D) 
  • Kent County Commissioner District 17: Tony Baker (D) 

How Can I Get More Engaged?

Upcoming Events:

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

Our next Chamber Issue Forum on June 14 will focus on electric vehicles. West Michigan’s automotive industry is rapidly expanding to meet the needs of electric vehicles – investing in new facilities, creating jobs, and transforming manufacturing operations across the region. But where exactly does business and policy stand amid these transitions? How will these shifts affect neighboring industries? Sign up here to learn more.

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. There’s no cost for members and it’s easy to sign up! 


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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