Economic Development

Overview 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, small business owner, or CEO of a corporation, Grand Rapids is a great place to do business. We'll help you grow your business by working alongside with you to get what you need. 

We help to improve the City's business environment. This helps to create employment opportunities and encourage sustainable business development. We also work to ensure economic prosperity.

We've assisted 568 projects over the past 15 years. Explore the project reports below. 

The City’s Economic Development Department administers many programs and initiatives. These are all described int the sections below. We track and report on the outcomes of these programs and initiatives each year. You can see the most recent results below, and can click on the links for reports from previous years.

Our report from 2017 shows that the City is getting a 74% return on investment from its investment in Economic Development programs. That means that for every $1 the City invests, it receives $1.74 in financial benefit.

Survey Results

 Project Projections

Since 2003, we’ve supported 568 projects which have resulted in $3.5 billion of private investment. This resulted in nearly 20,000 new jobs. These projects are estimated to generate more than $13 million of taxes for the City each year.

 
A JPG of a table showing the amount of private investment and jobs created by Economic Development projects by year from 2003 to 2018

Business Benefits 

Grand Rapids is set for an explosion of growth. The City features:

  • Industrial parks
  • Technology centers
  • Colleges & Universities
  • Public transportation
  • Arts, Culture and Entertainment venues 

These, and so much more, make Grand Rapids a great place to work and play.

Utilities 

Here's an overview of the utilities the City has to offer: 

  • Fresh Water supplied from Lake Michigan through the City's Water System
  • High-speed telecommunications services 
  • Natural gas services from Detroit-based company, DTE Energy
  • Electricity services from Michigan's largest utility, Consumers Energy  
  • Green Power is now available to Michigan businesses and residents through Consumers Energy's Renewable Energy Programs

Transportation 

By Bus

Greyhound/Indian Trails provides regional service

The Rapid bus system provides bus routes all over the city, parking lot shuttles, and dial-a-ride services. The Silverline system offers free transportation to eight downtown locations.

By Car 

Major highways connect Grand Rapids to cities like Detroit, Chicago, Indianapolis and Cleveland. 

By Plane 

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport includes eight airlines, 120 daily commercial flights between domestic and international markets, and daily non-stop travel to 15 U.S. airports. 

By Train 

The Amtrak passenger service links Grand Rapids with several major cities, including Chicago. Commercial lines by CSX, Grand Rapids Eastern Railroad, Norfolk Southern, Mid-Michigan offer freight transportation.  

 

 

Location 
Grand Rapids is located in southwest Michigan in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. The City is less than 30 minutes from Lake Michigan and less than three hours from Detroit and Chicago. 

Our Government 
We operate under Commission-Manager form of government. This includes six elected Commissioners who serve four-year terms and appoint the Manager. A Mayor is also elected every four years. Learn more about our government here. 

Police and Fire 
Grand Rapids has over 500 full-time police and fire employees.  

Water and Wastewater 
Grand Rapids' fresh water supply comes from Lake Michigan. The city's Wastewater Treatment system commits to energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. View the brochure to learn more. 

Hospitals 
Eight local hospitals make Grand Rapids is the center for medical services in West Michigan:

  • Spectrum Health
  • Helen DeVos Children's Hospital
  • Metropolitan Hospital
  • Mary Free Bed Hospital and Rehabilitation Services
  • Kent Community Hospital
  • Mercy's Hospital
  • Forest View Hospital
  • Pine Rest Mental Health Services

Higher Education 
Grand Rapids is home to over 12 public and private colleges and universities.

Some of these include:

  • Calvin College
  • Cornerstone University
  • Kendall College of Art and Design
  • Grand Rapids Community College
  • Grand Valley State University

Culture and Entertainment 
Grand Rapids offers a wide range of cultural and entertainment activities including the Grand Rapids Symphony, Grand Rapids Ballet, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, Gerald R. Ford Museum, and more. 

The City is supportive of private investment in Grand Rapids. We have several programs that can support your investment in real estate. These programs provide property tax benefits for investment in vacant, underutilized, contaminated or obsolete property.

Brownfield Redevelopment Program
The City has a Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (BRA). BRA works with private companies to redevelop contaminated or obsolete properties. Since 1998, more than 135 projects have been supported by the BRA. We use tax increment financing to help pay for the costs of redevelopment. We also work with state and federal partners. These partners include the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Through these organizations, we receive grant dollars to support important community projects.

Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act (OPRA)
OPRA gives an abatement on commercial properties qualified as obsolete. The project costs are estimated to be at least $30 per square foot. A project can receive up to 12 years of reduced taxes if approved by the City Commission.

Neighborhood Enterprise Zone (NEZ)

NEZs allow communities to offer property tax exemptions on housing development and rehab. If a property owner wants to invest in their property, and that property is in a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone, they can apply for an NEZ tax exemption. A project can receive up to 15 years of reduced taxes if approved by the City Commission. There are five (5) NEZ districts in the City.

  • North Baxter
  • Belknap Lookout
  • Turner Gateway
  • Heritage Square
  • Wealthy Heughts
A rental apartment project can also qualify for an NEZ exemption under the following conditions:
  • Retail on the ground floor
  • At least five rental apartments
  • Located in an area that is zoned and primarily used for business
If approved by the City Commission, a rental apartment project can also qualify for up to 15 years of reduced taxes.

 
Other Resources
Here are other organizations and programs that can be used to help with a real estate development project.

The SBA 504 loan puts financing within reach for small businesses. They offer low down payments and long-term, low, fixed interest rates. It also reduces the risk to lenders through a shared financing structure.

Historic Preservation Tax Credits
The National Parks Service offers 10% and 20% tax credits on historic building rehab projects.

The SmartZoneSM

We have a SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority (aka the "SmartZone LDFA"). The SmartZone LDFA provides support to high-tech entrepreneurs and businesses. Click here to learn more about the SmartZone LDFA's programs and initiatives.

Neighborhood businesses and business districts make the City a vibrant place to live. It is important to support the local businesses in our neighborhoods. One of the ways we do this is through Corridor Improvement Districts (CIDs) and Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).

Stakeholders from the business districts and surrounding neighborhoods oversee both CIDs and BIDs. The Mayor appoints the members of the board. The City Commission confirms the appointed members.

Corridor Improvement Districts

Corridor Improvement Authorities oversee Corridor Improvement Districts. CIDs do not raise taxes on property owners. Instead, they use some of the tax dollars already collected from their district. CIDs can use these funds to:

  • Assist the projects and developments supported by their community
  • Sponsor special events
  • Make permanent, one time improvements within a district

If you want more info, read this fact sheet from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

We currently have six CIDs. Find out more about them using the links below:

CID Maps

The City currently has six CIDs. You can view all six CIDs on our interactive map.

CID Map

Business Improvement Districts

Business Improvement Districts are special assessment districts. This means that they can collect revenue if enough property owners vote to support doing so. BIDs promote and encourage economic vitality and growth in their communities. BIDs can use these funds to: 

  • Support neighborhood businesses through marketing and business development
  • Provide enhanced services to the district (like extra street cleaning)
  • Maintain improvements made by a CID

For more information you can read this fact sheet from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The City currently has one Business Improvement District:

The City of Grand Rapids is open for business! Whether you are

  • an entrepreneur looking to start a business 
  • a small business looking to grow, or
  • a company considering an expansion or relocation

we are here to help make Grand Rapids your first choice for all your business needs.

We offer many financing and incentive options to help you grow your business. Below is a list of programs that the City offers to qualifying businesses located in Grand Rapids.

You can apply for any of these programs through our Citizen Access Portal. You can view the schedule for fees for all of these programs here(PDF, 57KB).

Industrial and High Tech Tax Abatements- PA 198 of 1974

This program provides tax incentives for businesses to invest in buildings and equipment.  The program is for industrial/manufacturing companies and high-technology companies.

Obsolete Property Tax Abatement- PA 146 of 200

This program provides tax incentives for investment in certain types of commercial and residential properties that qualify as obsolete.

Personal Property Tax Abatement

This program allows for a reduction of new personal property taxes for businesses that create at least 25 jobs.

Tax-Exempt Industrial Revenue Bonds (IDRBs) PA 62 of 1963

These loans can be made for manufacturing projects, not-for-profit corporation projects, and solid or hazardous waste disposal facilities. They may provide better terms than other debt options. 

Taxable Revenue Bonds

These bonds provide companies with potentially longer-term financing (10-20 years) at a fixed rate. They may be at a lower cost than conventional financing. They can be used

  • as working capital
  • to finance projects of more than $10 million, or
  • to finance commercial, pollution control, agricultural, or recreational projects.

Processes Flow Charts

The following flow charts can help give you an idea of the processes of some of our programs follow from start to finish.

Other Programs

We also support partner programs that provide resources to entrepreneurs.  More information is available on our Economic Development Corporation page. 

View our interactive maps to learn about zones the programs and initiatives we work on.  Each map has information about the different projects that have been completed in a specific program.  You can click on a property to learn more about each project.

Here's a list of other programs that are offered by partners. These may be helpful if you're interested in Economic Development in the City of Grand Rapids.

Small Business Association (SBA) 504 Loans
The SBA 504 loan puts financing within reach for small businesses through low down payments and long-term, low, fixed interest rates. It also reduces the risk to lenders through a shared financing structure. 

Historic Preservation Tax Credits
The National Parks Service offers 10 % and 20% tax credits on historic building rehab projects. To see if your project qualifies, visit the National Parks Service

Downtown Development Authority 
The Downtown Development Authority helps eliminates causes for deterioration in Downtown's buildings.


The Right Place, Inc.
The Right Place provide business growth assistance to local and international companies.


West Michigan Works!
West Michigan Works! works in partnership with employers, educators, economic developers and community organizations. They work to create a qualified workforce that meets our region's current and future talent needs.


Michigan Economic Development Corporation
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation offers business assistance services and capital programs for business attraction and acceleration.

Development at these sites may be eligible for financing and/or abatements. Eligibility will be determined based on the selected site and proposed project.

Walker View Industrial Development (230 acres)

Walker View.jpg

Learn more

Grand Rapids Commerce Center

Grand Rapids Commerce Center.jpg

Learn more