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$10M in Kent County ARPA funds will go toward youth development programming

Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair, Stan Stek, said in a statement the funded projects sit at a broad cross section, helping end the cycle of homelessness, enhance educational and fitness opportunities, and create a better future.

The Kent County Board of Commissioners announced Thursday it has secured formal contracts to award $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grants to benefit diverse groups of young people throughout the county.

“Investing in our young people is vitally important because it can have a positive impact on the region and our residents over several generations,” said Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Stan Stek. “These projects benefit a broad cross section of young people by helping end the cycle of homelessness, enhancing educational and fitness opportunities, and making dreams of a better future become a reality.”

The four projects announced include:

  • The Grand Agricultural Center of West Michigan, Raising Barns, Building Youth Campaign
    The Kent County Youth Agricultural Association is leading a $36 million project to repurpose a former golf course in Lowell Township into a multipurpose public space and premier youth, family, and visitor entertainment and educational venue. The venue will offer hands-on, year-round agricultural educational programming as well as arts and cultural opportunities. When completed, the fairgrounds will host large agricultural shows and exhibits that will draw thousands of people from throughout Michigan and the Midwest. The first phase is scheduled to be completed this summer in time to host the annual Kent County Youth
  • Junior Achievement Free Enterprise Center
    Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes completed renovations of a 35,000-square-foot facility to house its new Free Enterprise Center. The center includes three lab spaces to facilitate youth programming pertaining to financial literacy, workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and civic engagement. Program pilots will launch later in 2023.
  • Live. Work. Thrive.
    The AYA Youth Collective is expanding its Comprehensive Health Initiative to address the social determinants of health for youth who are experiencing homelessness. Having a safe space that youth trust is vital for them to access necessary health services. This project creates that space and reduces barriers for access. The funding will allow the AYA Youth Collective to expand its capacity to serve youth at its drop-in center in Grand Rapids.
  • Meijer Sports Complex
    The West Michigan Sports Commission is planning an $11 million expansion of the Meijer Sports Complex to increase capacity to host youth sports tournaments, increase parity for female softball events, sustain capacity for children and adults with disabilities to participate in baseball and serve the growing need for championship pickleball facilities. Groundbreaking is anticipated in late 2023 or early 2024.

In December, the Kent County Board of Commissioners voted to fund 30 projects that draw on the $127.6 million Kent County received through ARPA. In total, more than $108 million was allocated in this round of funding.

The remaining funds were placed in a contingency fund for unanticipated needs or new/increased expenses to complete a funded proposal. All ARPA funding commitments must be allocated by Dec. 31, 2024, but the County has until December 2026 to spend the funds.

The Board will announce other ARPA projects in the coming weeks.

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