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Crain’s Grand Rapids Business Brief

Crain's Grand Rapids Business

- Hospital Report Cards
- Public funding GR's "Transformational Projects"
- Glimpse of Grand Rapids soccer stadium renderings

Mark Sanchez: A glimpse. That's a good way to put it. So, we can go online. We've got the first, what's described as very preliminary renderings of a ‘maybe’ soccer stadium there on the west side of downtown. We posted this story by my coworker, Kate Carlson here this week. Saw the renderings online and wrote a story about it. The folks at the convention and arena authority kind of confirmed that this is something under consideration as far as the look at this place. They're described as sneak peak, very preliminary, but it does give you some kind of idea of the direction the project's going. And of course, the to be determined is exactly where the soccer stadium would get developed. The most speculated site is in behind the YMCA and the Big Boy there in downtown, just west of US-131. That's been confirmed as a site under consideration. There may be more. Folks aren't saying a whole heck of a lot about this process as it plays out. But we know that's one site under consideration. And now with these renderings coming out, we've got some idea, again, very preliminary, but we got a little bit of an idea of what this site could look like.

Patrick Center: You mentioned preliminary renderings. We're in that early phase where the powers that be are probably figuring out amenities, still consolidating a look. There are dollars involved in all of this. This is a process.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah. And it's a big process and the single biggest question mark we can talk about looks, designs, architecture, traffic, transportation sites. Well, the big thing to figure out is money. How do you pay for all this? Because there's not just this idea for a soccer stadium there in downtown. There's also the Acrisure amphitheater down on the riverfront on the south end of downtown and that project's going forward. And of course, there's the idea of how do you pay for all this? And there's some legislation making its way through Lansing, the state house, just last week passed the bill. And that would allow cities and townships in Kent County to levy a lodging tax to fund what's called transformational and generational projects, such as an amphitheater and a soccer stadium. This is house bill 5048. It would allow cities and townships in the county to ask voters that would need voter approval to ask them to appropriate or levy a 2% lodging tax. So that's one possible way if this works its way through the legislature and then ultimately goes on the ballot here locally. That's one possible way to raise some of that capital to fund these projects.

Patrick Center: And there's a second house bill that's also out there. That would be a county hotel/motel tax up to 10%.

Mark Sanchez: It's competing or complimentary. We'll see where that one goes as well. That's all to be decided now in the legislature and which one goes forward? How do they reconcile these two versions?

Patrick Center: There's a time frame here. Both of these transformational projects, the amphitheater, the soccer stadium, the goal is to have these constructed and open in 2026. Both these have to pass the House, the Senate, get to the governor's desk, signed off on, and then you've got to sell this to the voters.

Mark Sanchez: Yep, everything's a process and a situation, isn't it? It's got to get through the legislature. Presumably it will. It's being pushed hard. Governor has to sign the legislation and then of course, locally the cities, townships and the county that wish to levy this assessment on lodging, that has to go on the ballot. And ultimately, it's the voters that have to approve it. So, there's a lot of steps to go. But you're right, this is a fast timeframe when folks are talking about having this done within three years. So, it's a lot of efforts going on and it's one of those ‘stay tuned’ there's a lot more to come.

Patrick Center: Hotel/motel taxes, I presume, are a little easier to sell to voters.

Mark Sanchez: Well, that is an issue of, you know, you're not taxing yourself. You're taxing folks coming into your community. It's kind of like Florida with some of its taxes. Tax the tourists. You get millions of tourists going there each year, raise the revenue from them. So, this is a levy that's going to be applied to folks coming in from out of town. Mostly, obviously some folks who maybe they come from this region, they come into downtown for whatever event they decide to stay the night, they're going to pay it. But largely it's going to be revenue generated by visitors to the community.

Patrick Center: And the state has appropriated some funding for another, what we consider here at Grand Valley State University, a transformational project. I’m located in the very building, that's the Eberhardt Center, it would become part of what is called the Blue Dot Project.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, and this was a $30 million appropriation for Grand Valley State University for kind of a local innovation ecosystem. It's a $625 million budget supplemental bill that was approved. The Blue Dot Lab is a $140 million project there at the Eberhardt Center for the Computer Science, Data Science, and other degrees in Business, Computing, and Humanities. It's a big project for Grand Valley and the legislature last week appropriated $30 million to help it out.

Patrick Center: This is a proactive move by the university as leaders here in town, business leaders, are looking to make Grand Rapids a Midwest tech hub.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, this all plays into that broader strategy, doesn't it? It's an economic development strategy to make Grand Rapids a magnet for tech workers because every industry, every business across the economy needs tech workers. You need those IT folks to run your systems and across manufacturing, retail, consumer businesses, not just tech focused businesses. You think folks a lot of times think of the tech focused businesses, the app companies that are doing a service through apps or web development, but every single business across the economy needs tech workers. So yes, this fits into that broader strategy on how to make this community, this marketplace, kind of a magnet for that tech talent to come not just to the Midwest but come to Grand Rapids.

Patrick Center: We're talking with Crane's Grand Rapids Business senior writer, Mark Sanchez. You've written a piece on hospital safety. There's a report card that's out and it's not that strong when it comes to hospital patient safety grades.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, this has been going on since the pandemic. First, this is an organization called the Leapfrog Group. It was started many years ago out of a report that really talked about some real serious issues with patient safety and quality at hospitals in America. And twice a year, the Leapfrog Group puts out a report card where it grades each hospital. There's just any number of metrics they use and they issue letter grades for patient safety. And as the pandemic was waning and it was using data from the pandemic, there was very noticeable starting to slip here about a year and a half ago in the grades that hospitals were getting. Fewer hospitals were receiving A grades. More were receiving C grades. And in the latest report card from the Leapfrog Group that was the case that played out for this fall and through 2023. Twenty-four of the 83 hospitals rated in the fall report card earned an A. That's one better than the spring but that's far fewer than what was happening a year and a half ago. So in the spring 2022, 41 hospitals. So from 41 to 24 that's a big decline and it's worrisome because you know, hospital quality, patient safety, when there are errors that occurred, falls, errors in administering medications, misdiagnoses, things like that, that leads to complications. That leads to possibly patient harm, and that leads to higher costs that all employers and people are paying for their healthcare. So, it's worrisome. I talked to Bret Jackson, he runs the Economic Alliance for Michigan. That's a labor business coalition out of Novi. And he says it's particularly worrisome because, you know, in his words, ‘you shouldn't have a good quality and good times and bad quality and bad times. That just shouldn't happen.’ Those are his words. And most worrisome for him was the fact there were three hospitals that received a D in the fall report card. They were over in Southeast Michigan. And there was one, and I don't remember one ever getting an F, but it was a hospital in Flint that received an F in the report card. So, it's something to keep an eye on. Hopefully things get better. And this could really be a product of, you know, hospitals were put under a lot of stress during the pandemic. There's some really serious staffing shortages, especially for nurses at hospitals. There's been financial pressures from a number of issues brought on by the pandemic. So hopefully this is a temporary thing and we'll see how things play out here this year in what transpires with the next report card in the spring.

Patrick Center: You mentioned hospital grades on the east side of the state. For our listeners here, how did our local hospitals fare?

Mark Sanchez: Pretty well. I'll just reel off real quick some of the hospitals that got an A grade. Ascension Borgess down in Kalamazoo, Holland Hospital, Trinity Health Grand Rapids, and Corewell Health Hospitals in Zeeland, Niles, St. Joseph, Greenville, and Big Rapids all got A's in this report card. Those are the ones based here in West Michigan. And there are a number of B's across the region as well. So West Michigan stacks up pretty darn well compared to the rest of the state.

Patrick Center: Crain’s Grand Rapids Business senior writer, Mark Sanchez. Thank you so much.

Mark Sanchez: 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.