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Crain's Grand Rapids Business Brief

Crain's Grand Rapids Business

Senior writer Mark Sanchez joins us to discuss:

-West Michigan aquarium feasibility study

-MSU-backed high-tech start-ups

-State of Michigan career outlook

Patrick Center: Wednesday afternoon, time for our bi-monthly conversation with Crain’s Grand Rapids Business senior writer Mark Sanchez. The feasibility of a nationally renowned a call aquarium either being constructed in Grand Rapids or Muskegon. There's more talk and there is a study that I believe Kate Carlson produced in this week's edition.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, Kate wrote about for a first story we posted on our website crainsgrandrapids.com yesterday. And, this little bit of background: for as long as I lived in West Michigan, going back many years, you've heard from time to time talk about some kind of an aquarium, whether on the Lake Michigan shoreline or Muskegon Lake in Muskegon or more recently, part of this new plan for downtown Grand Rapids along the riverfront. And this is an idea that's finally got some legs. Grand Action 2.0 that came back together, Grand Action is the group that has done a lot of the major projects in Grand Rapids and pulled them off and it kind of came back together couple years ago and threw this vision out on what we could do next. And that's the question that's always there. What's next? So you saw the idea for the soccer stadium, the amphitheater, and this idea for a world class aquarium is in this vision plan as well. So they went out, they hired an outfit, Canopy Strategic Partners to take a look. It was John Ball Zoo and Kent County and the city of Muskegon that kind of came together around this. Basically the study comes up, it says; boy, this type of aquarium, a major aquarium, and you think Shedd Aquarium that many of us have visited in Chicago along the lakefront there could generate billions of dollars in economic activity over a decade. It could be a destination draw, bringing a lot of folks to town to go take a look at this. And you know, many of us, again, when we’ve gone to Chicago Shedd Aquarium is one of those must stops to go through that facility. So here's an idea. It's gotten a little legs. It's gotten some legs. There's a big cost to it: about 3 to 400 million dollars. If everything were ready to go today, obviously, construction costs may increase in the future. So that's something to keep an eye on and when it may happen, perhaps over the next decade.

But right now it's an idea like a lot of the ideas that have been talk about in Grand Rapids over the years. Some have come through. Some have not. But it's an idea that's out there and getting some legs with this new feasibility study that says, yep, this could work.

PC: And this is dream big stuff. You mentioned the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. There are also comparisons in the study to Monterey Bay Aquarium in California and the National Aquarium in Maryland. Now it comes down to the landing spot because that's the big question here. When you talk about that feasibility study, downtown Muskegon, downtown Grand Rapids, both seem to be in play and for different reasons.

MS: You know, Muskegon’s really done a lot to redevelop the downtown there and bring new life into the downtown. And it’s a lakefront. You got those big crush water inland lakes next to Lake Michigan, deep water port. Again, this is, I heard this come and go over the years many times about Muskegon doing this type of project. And then you look at the vision for the Grand River along the river front south of downtown and through downtown. There's some of these big projects. The market was one big one that came about years ago. And now you're talking about a soccer stadium [and] amphitheater. So it’s one more big vision, big dream, big idea to make Grand rapids even more of a destination community.

PC: We're talking with Crain’s Grand Rapids Business, senior writer Mark Sanchez. The state is approving an additional 5 million dollars for a Michigan State University backed fund targeting high tech startups.

MS: Yeah, this is something we've seen. These kind of funds come over the years. These are for entrepreneurs, men and women who have an idea for a technology that can come to market and solve an issue, solve a problem. There's a lot of these funds around these days, certainly much more than maybe 10, 20 years ago. This was called “Michigan Rise” it's operated by The Michigan State University Research Foundation. Couple years ago the Michigan Strategic Fund decided to form this and gave it a 6.4 million dollar allocation. Follow that up a little later with another 8 million dollars. And then yesterday the strategic fund board allocated another 5 million dollars in capital that will go to Michigan Rise to invest in the high tech start-up companies. What's this money done with a couple of years? Well, Michigan rise has invested nearly 12.8 million dollars into 61 promising high tech startups. About 30% of those companies were spun out of university research. 70% are led by a diverse and underserved founders. What's that resulted in? Well, those companies were able to go on and attract about 341 million dollars and follow on private capital. And they've created almost 600 jobs so far. So they're young, growing high-tech companies in this digital age, digital economy, that we're in. This precede fund operated by the MSU Research Foundation has backed them. They've attracted more capital and this is the future economy. The board yesterday, said good job, let’s put 5 million dollars more into this and keep seeding these new companies.

PC: Let's continue down that path of the jobs of the future. The state of Michigan has produced its career outlook and this takes us through the year 2030.

MS: Yeah, this is an employment outlook the state does every couple of years on a statewide basis. And then the between years does regional outlooks and some of the agencies that presented this at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce yesterday, it’s an updated outlook, bottom line for the rest of this decade West Michigan's job growth should outpace the state. We're looking at about a 9.7% job growth during the decade in West Michigan, 91,000 positions. Across the state they're looking at about 8.8% job growth. So we’re doing a little better than the state as a whole here in this region. And one of the things that those who presented this information with the Department of Technology Management and Budget for the state, he said the jobs that are projected to be the highest growth come from really a cross-section, a broad cross-section of economic sectors; health care, manufacturing, professional services. And that's just kind of indicative and really shows that it’s a good diverse economy here, good economic base that's diverse. Although still 20% or more of the jobs in West Michigan are tied to manufacturing. But the director of the Department of Insurance and Financial Services, Anita Fox, mentioned look at the insurance industry in Michigan, for instance. Yes, it's one industry, but you said often that, insurance agents, people selling insurance, adjusters, things like that. But that industry needs people across occupations from IT to marketing to administrative positions just like every other sector of the economy. So that's just one example where this region has some diversity to the economy. And the bottom line, the outlook says it's going to grow a little faster than the rest of the state of the over the rest of the decade.

PC: Are there any other trend lines that you see? This is a long view between now and 2030, what we see at the tail end of this survey?

MS: Well, one of the one of the comments, I can’t remember who made it yesterday is, you know, when you think about jobs of the future, you know, think back 20, 30, 40 years. Jobs of the future from where we were at that point, if you look at today and how fast just change is occurring and how fast things move in this this age we’re in, you cannot even imagine today what most of the jobs are in 10 years from now. 30 years ago, who was looking for work as a web developer? Who was looking for work as a social media administrator? Things like that. So the economy moves fast. And that's one of the things they pointed out here in a panel discussion that followed the presentation yesterday. Here's what we've seen now based on what we know now. But some of the jobs of the future have not even been invented yet.

PC: Crain’s Grand Rapids Business, senior writer Mark Sanchez, thank you so much.

MS: Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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