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Crain's Grand Rapids Business Brief

Crain's Grand Rapids Business

Crain’s Grand Rapids Business senior writer Mark Sanchez talk about Michigan’s improving health care staffing levels. Two Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods are experiencing economic development benefits including Roosevelt Park's four major projects.  

Mark Sanchez: This is a story that my coworker her at Crain’s Grand Rapids, did this week, Kate Carlson, taking a look at that Roosevelt Park neighborhood. It's kind of known as the Ellis Island of Grand Rapids. It's kind of a largely Hispanic, majority Hispanic community. And there's just kind of an unprecedented once in a generation level of investment going into that neighborhood, just to name the four big projects. There's the $147 million Factory Yards project. That's kind of a mixed-use development on a 15 and a half acre and former industrial site that used to house a furniture plant and auto seat manufacturer. There's the new headquarters for the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. That's about a $6.5 million to $7 million project. And that will include kind of a Latino economic and talent advancement kind of a business incubator there. There's a $6 million project by the Supermercado Mexico folks to refurbish a vacant building for the fourth store for that family-owned chain and the corporate offices. And then the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan has plans for a multimillion-dollar renovation of a vacant church building to host some of its programming. So, it's really an unprecedented level of investment beginning to go into that neighborhood, the Roosevelt Park neighborhood, which runs along the side of US-131 as it goes south from downtown Grand Rapids. And it's going to be interesting to see how these investments really, maybe spark more investments in that neighborhood and begin to change the landscape down there in that neighborhood.

Patrick Center: What is some of the appeal that these developers are seeing in that stretch of the city?

Mark Sanchez: Well, like anything you see opportunity. Obviously for the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, it's been 20 years old now, that organization that's going into that neighborhood, that community, to really help those Hispanic entrepreneurs in that neighborhood, those businesses that are owned in that neighborhood. So that's one reason. One obvious connection that it has with that neighborhood. But that Factory Yards, boy, that's an old industrial site that's been vacant for a long time. So, the developer, just like any developer taking on a project they see opportunity to kind of bring that property back to life and put it back to good use.

Patrick Center: We're talking with Crain's Grand Rapids Business Senior Writer Mark Sanchez. Healthcare, healthcare staffing has been in the news really for a number of years. And now we're seeing it referred to as a crisis that is easing.

Mark Sanchez: Maybe a little bit. There's a, you know, I mean, we've had a nursing shortage for a long time in this country and in the state. We have a physician shortage and in the pandemic that hit more than four years ago, it really worsened the shortage for a lot of these healthcare professions. And nurses, a lot of them have left the profession because of the stress, the burnout, retired early, went to another setting or decided just to look at another profession. And it's a real problem for hospitals. And last week, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association published an annual report based on surveys with most of the hospitals. Kind of asking them, how's your job vacancies going? How have you, what progress have you made? And bottom line, job vacancies down at hospitals are down by 29% in the last year. Hospitals filled 61,000 positions. Now those are positions that are open, then you have positions that came up through attrition. And hospitals alone, just for nursing positions, filled 13,000 nursing, open nursing positions. And that reduced job vacancies by that profession by 44%. That was the single biggest improvement in the association's report that it came out a week ago. So, there's progress being made, and this is obviously effected care. There are a lot of beds. I think last time the MHA estimated there were about 1,700 beds that were unstaffed at hospitals in Michigan. We've seen hospitals have to, the one in Muskegon a year or more ago had to close a surgical ward because it did not have enough staff, enough nurses. So, we've seen these issues coming, and here's a little bit of good news. It's one year data. But we'll see if this continues because a lot of hospitals, they've stepped up their pay. You've seen some big union contract settlements in the last year or two. Hospitals are doing more with higher pay, higher wages, more retention and sign-on bonuses, offering tuition reimbursement, helping retire debt for those students after they go and they earn their nursing degree or degree in whatever profession and get certified. The hospital will help them pay off some of that college debt. So, you've seen a lot of efforts in the last year, including the health and hospital association a year ago, started a promotional campaign to draw people into the healthcare profession. And it's not just clinical positions. It's also administrative and support positions. So, there's progress being made bottom line, and hopefully this continues.

Patrick Center: Acrisure CEO, he has come out and publicly said that an IPO is coming sooner rather than later.

Mark Sanchez: This is of course, the insurance broker here in Grand Rapids that over the last decade plus has been the biggest by far acquirer of independent insurance and broker agencies here in the country. And it's gotten big. It's a big corporation now. You see its new corporate headquarters on the south side of downtown. And it's been long speculated. They've addressed it in the past. But Greg Williams, a CEO there who has really built this company into what it is today, our managing editor Andy Balascovitz caught up with him at the Mackinac Policy Conference last week up on Mackinac Island and sat down and talked to Greg and he said, this IPO, Acrisure becoming a publicly traded company with initial public offering, that's potentially coming sooner than later. So that would bring another obviously large corporation being headquartered here that has been homegrown here in Grand Rapids, but it would become just the latest company based here in Grand Rapids that's a publicly traded company. So, we'll watch for that. There's a lot of speculation, especially in the trade media that covers all of that industry on if and more of when Acrisure will move and file the documents with the SEC to do an IPO.

Patrick Center: Before we let you go, a lot of activity over on Grand Rapids’ West Side. The soccer stadium scheduled to open in 2026. But you can see the businesses getting their ducks in a row for lack of a better term along Bridge Street and the West Side.

Mark Sanchez: Yeah, this is an issue. I guess you could probably put this under a good problem to have, which is a parking issue in that Bridge Street corridor or that Bridge Street neighborhood. It's a busy neighborhood these days if you go down there in the evening on a Friday and Saturday night especially. There's a lot of folks coming into that neighborhood. Now we've got this soccer stadium proposed just a little south of Bridge Street there on the other side of the highway. And it's raising those questions. Where's all this parking going to go? Where are people coming to this venue going to park? You know, the businesses there and my coworker, Abby Poirier, went and talked to some of the business owners down there and they say, hey, this is a good project. They're bullish on the project and what it can do for the city and for the neighborhood. However, we've got this emerging issue here with parking. It's getting tight. It's getting difficult to find a parking space. And now we're going to have this venue coming into the neighborhood here within a couple of years. That could make it even tighter. So, it's an issue where the business owners are telling us they like the project, but where to park in that neighborhood, especially with that stadium coming online here in a couple of years, presuming it goes forward. That's going to create an even bigger parking issue. So, it's, it's thought that's coming down the line and that is going into the issue and we'll see what type of resolution they come up with.

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.