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Heartwell fills in for Mayor Daley at Econ Club event

November 17, 2009

Mayor George Heartwell spoke Monday afternoon on short notice to the Grand Rapids Economics Club.  The scheduled speaker was to be Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago.  Daley was forced to cancel at the last minute due to the apparent suicide of Michael Scott, President of the Chicago School Board.  Heartwell used the opportunity to make a speech full of plenty of nice quotes about where he would like to see Grand Rapids in the future, but did not seem to have much substance to actually back it up.

Calling Grand Rapids “a little Chicago” and stating that the city is “making a transformation from manufacturing to a knowledge based economy”, the mayor put great emphasis on the city’s attempts to retain young professionals.  The same sentiment was recently put forward by Frey Foundation President Milt Rohwer in the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

According to Heartwell, this young talent will be “lured to Grand Rapids by things like Founders Brewing Company and Metallica concerts”, but had few words on what jobs might be here for these people. 

He also spoke briefly about Grand Rapids Public Schools, stating that on a recent tour of a few of them, he found “the learning environment different from that of popular mythology” and that “students were engaged and discipline was not an issue.”

While only once at the beginning mentioning that the city is facing a “budget deficit of $28 million”, and not bringing up at all the recent decision to lay off 125 city workers, the mayor talked about grandiose plans to bring about more public transportation and bike paths. 

As the mayor wrapped up his talk with the quote, “I am so damn proud of Grand Rapids,” he was given a standing ovation by the crowd of around 500, most of which represent the area’s economic elite.

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