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Grand Rapids Power Structure: The People and Organizations that make up Tier 2

October 15, 2020

In 2018, we wrote a 10 part series on the Grand Rapids Power Structure. We then created a visual depiction of this same power structure.

We continue to write about the Grand Rapids Power Structure, as they continue to wield tremendous influence in the political, economic, social and cultural aspects of West Michigan.

It is important to note that the Grand Rapids Power Structure that we have written about is a small group of people, families, organizations and businesses that make up the .01% of the Capitalist Class. However, there are other people, to use the language of the Occupy Movement, that make up the 1%. 

I was reminded of this while writing a piece about the new proposal for an outdoor amphitheater and soccer stadium, which is being promoted by Grand Action 2.0.

In the process of researching the Grand Action proposal, I kept coming across names that I have seen in other places, people who are not the most powerful in Grand Rapids, yet are part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure. These are people in leadership positions with businesses and other institutions that have tremendous saying in what happens in Grand Rapids. We might refer to them as Tier 2 of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, people who are part of the 1%, but are not super wealthy or have their own private foundations. However, if we are to come to terms with how power functions in this city, it is important to name and group these people, which areas they have influence and which entities they represent.

I looked at the following entities – business associations, some  non-profit groups and other institutions, all of which play a significant role in making decisions about the future of Grand Rapids, often decisions that involve using public money, which most of us never know about and have no say in. Make no mistake about it, all of these entities are part of a larger system of oppression, a system which maintains the status quo, creates a larger wealth gap and knowingly or unknowingly embraces White Supremacy and other forms of oppression. It does not matter that these groups might promote diversity & inclusion, these are spaces that benefit from oppression and must be dismantled. 

Here are the entities that I looked at: Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, The Right Place Inc., Econ Club of Grand Rapids, West Michigan Policy Forum, Acton Institute, Talent 2025, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority, GVSU, Spectrum Health, West Michigan United Way, the Downtown Development Authority, 

Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce – Nelson Sanchez (RoMan Manufacturing), Meredith Bronk (OST), Joan Budden (Priority Health), Jeff Connolly (BCBS), Brad Thomas (Progressive AE), William Brennan (Bissell Inc), Beth O’Shaughnessy (Steelcase Inc), Doug Young (Behler-Young Company), Rick Baker (CEO of GR Chamber), Jennifer Baker (Grand Rapids Junior Chamber), Johnny Brann Jr. (Kitchen 67), James Byl (Multi-Automatic Tool & Supply Company), Tom Bylenga (Star Truck Rentals), Alisha Cieslak (Gordon Food Services), Jennifer Crowley (Highland Group), Michael Davenport (Jireh Metal Products Inc), Birgit Klohs (The Right Place Inc), Diane Lawson (GVSU), Lou Moran (Deloitte), Michael Nelson (Amway Corporation), Javier Olvera (Supermercado Mexico, Inc), Ted Vaughn (Tolman’s Wholesale Meats), and  Tom Welch (Fifth Third Bank). 

Right Place Inc. – Sean Welsh (PNC Bank), Mitch Joppich (PwC), Tina Freese Decker (Spectrum Health), Stephen Abbott (JPMorgan Chase), Rick Baker (GR Chamber), Norman Beauchamp Jr. (MSU), Mathew Becker (BDO USA), David Beemer (TerryBerry), Wayman Britt (Kent County Admin), Ronald DeWaard (Varnum Law), Steve Downing (Gentex Corp.), Douglas Dozeman (Warner, Norcross & Judd), Denis Edison (Spartan/Nash), Krista Flynn (Chemical Bank), Anthony Gagliardo (Lake County Govt), John Irwin (Huntington Bank), Jim Keane (Steelcase Inc.), John Kennedy (Autocam), Hyung Kim (Mercy Health, Saint Mary’s), Birgit Klohs (Right Place Inc.), Blake Krueger (Wolverine World Wide), Greg Madura (Alpine Township), Philomena Mantela (GVSU), Michael McGee (Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone), Hank Meijer (Meijer Inc), Andi Owen (Herman Miller), Richard Pappas (Davenport Unn), Matt Paul (DTE), William Payne )Amway Corp), Bill Pink (GRCC), John Porterfield (Comerica Bank), Julie Rietberg (Alliance of Realtors), Garrick Rochow (Consumers Energy), Richard Sorota (Perrigo), Renee Tabben (Bank of America), Jim Teets (ADAC Automotive), avid Van Andel (Van Andel Institute), Mike VanGessel (Rockford Construction), Mark Washington (GR City Manager), Tom Welch (Fifth Third Bank), and Bob Wolford (Miller Johnson). 

Econ Club of Grand Rapids – Tina Freese Decker (Spectrum Health), Stacey Behler (Meijer Inc), Natalia Kovicak (Econ Club President), Bob Wolford (Miller Johnson), Bob Herr (Crowe), Justin Amash (Congress), Rick Baker (GR Chamber), Tasha Blackmon (Cherry Health), Rosalynn Bliss (Mayor of GR), Johnny Brann Jr. (Kitchen 67), Meredith Bronk (OST), Joan Budden (Priority Health), Guillermo Cisnero (Hispanic Chamber), Paul Doyle (Inclusive Performance Strategies), Chip George (Comfort Research), Tim Gortsma (Grand Rapids Griffins), Peter Hahn (Metro Health), Bill Heuzinga (Congress), Lynn Jarman-Johnson (Consumers Credit Union), Lynn Jekkals (AON), Joe Jones (GR Urban League), Sandy Jelinski (Lake MI Credit Union), Jim Keane (Steelcase Inc.), Stephanie Leonardos (Amerikam), Scott Lewis (YMCA), JD Loeks (Studio C), Jeff Maddox (Gordon Foods), Rachel Mraz (Merrill Lynch), Bill Pink (GRCC), Bob Roth (RoMan Manufacturing), Carlos Sanchez (Ferris State Unn), Charlie Secchia (SIBSCO), Kris Spaulding (Brewery Vivant), Kevin Stots (Talent 2025), John Truscott (Truscott Rossman), Mary Tuuk (GR Symphony), Mike VanGessel (Rockford Construction), Mark Washington (GR City Manager), and Donna Zalewski (ITC Holdings).

West Michigan Policy Forum – John Kennedy (Autocam), Jim Dunlap (Huntington Bank), Doug DeVos (Amway), Matthew Haworth (Haworth), Jeff Connolly (BCBS), Michael Jandernoa (42 North Partners), Rick Baker (GR Chamber), Ginny Seyferth (Seyferth PR), Johnny Brann Jr. (Kitchen 67), J.C. Huizenga (National Heritage Academies), Diane Maher (DP Fox Ventures), Dan Meyering (Trillium Ventures), Marge Potter (Continental Rail Gateway, Peter Secchia (SIBSCO), Roger Spoelman (Cure International) and Mike VanGessel (Rockford Construction). 

Acton Institute – Kyle Bode (Kern Family Foundation), Nathan Bond (Rifle Paper Co.), John Crowe (John Crowe Company), Rick DeVos (Wakestream Ventures), David Durell (George Durell Foundation), Nathaniel Fischer (NF Macro), Leslie Graves (Ballotpedia), Frank Hanna (Hanna Capital), J.C. Huizenga (National Heritage Academies), David Humphreys (Tamko Building Products Inc), John Kennedy (Autocam), Kris Mauren (Acton Institute), Michael Muraski (Kent Manufacturing Co.), and Robert Sirico (Acton Institute).

Talent 2025 – Franco Bianchi (Haworth Inc), Leslie Brown (Metal Flow Corporation), Rhonda Huismann (Crowne Horwath), Fred Keller (Cascade Engineering), John Kennedy (Autocam), Bruce Los (Gentex Corporation), Dale Nesbary (Muskegon Community College), Ginny Seyferth (SeyferthPR), Jim Teets (ADAC Automotive), PJ Thompson (Trans-Matic Manufacturing), and Sean Welsh (PNC Bank).

Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. – Brian Harris, Stephanie Adams (Friends of Grand Rapids Parks), Rick Baker (GR Chamber), Shaun Biel (Spectrum Health), Rosalynn Bliss (Mayor, Grand Rapids), Mandy Bolter (Kent County Commission), Wayman Britt (Kent County Admin), Kayem Dunn (Consultant), Nikos Monoyios (The Rapid), Birgit Klohs (Right Place Inc.), Eddie Tadlock (SMG), Jorge Gonzalez (Start Garden), Jon Nunn (Grand Action), Mark Washington (GR City Manager), Kristian Grant (GRPS), Doug Small (Experience GR), Richard Winn (Amway Hotel Corporation), Bob Herr, and Monica Steimle-App (Rockford Construction). 

Downtown Development Authority – Richard Winn (Amway Hotel Corporation), Jermale Eddie (Malamiah Juice Bar), Jen Schottke (ABC Western Michigan), Rosalynn Bliss (Mayor, Grand Rapids), Greg McNeilly (Windquest Group), Luis Avila (Varnum Law), Jim Talen (Kent County Commissioner), Kayem Dunn ( Consultant), and Diana Sieger (Grand Rapids Community Foundation). 

Grand Rapids-Kent County Convention/Arena Authority – Steve Heacock (Grand Rapids Whitewater), Birgit Klohs (Right Place Inc.), Charlie Secchia (SIBSCO), Floyd Wilson (Cancer & Hematology Centers of Western Michigan), Rosalynn Bliss (Mayor, Grand Rapids), Lew Chamberlin ( West Michigan Whitecaps), and Richard Winn (Amway Hotel Corporation). 

Grand Valley State University – Victor Cardenas (Novi City Manager), Randall Damstra (RDV Corporation), Elizabeth Emmitt (Spectrum Health), Susan Jandernoa, Mary Kramer (Crain Communications), John Russell (Consumers Energy), Meagan Small (Deputy City Manager of Wyoming), and Kate Pew Wolters (Steelcase Foundation). 

Spectrum Health – Robert Roth (RoMan Manufacturing Inc), Melonie Ice (Grand Valley Medical Specialists PLC), Dick DeVos (Windquest Group), Tina Freese Decker (Spectrum Health), Stephen Boshoven (Farmers Specialty & Foremost Brand), Steve Ender (GRCC), Daniel Hopp (Whirlpool Corp), Michael Jandernoa (42 North Partners), Mehmood Khan (Life Biosciences Inc.), Gloria Lara (Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance), M. Ashraf Mansour (Spectrum Health), William Payne (BP Ventures), Michael Todman (TMA Limited), Michelle Van Dyke (West Michigan United Way), and Sean Welsh (PNC Bank). 

West Michigan United Way – Robert Kaminski (Mercantile Bank), Bill Pink (GRCC), Mary Command (Williams Group), Doug Young (Behler-Young), Jamykal Badger (DTE Energy), Shauna Bagin (UAW), Ovell Barbee (Spectrum Health), Michael Bohnsack (Bohnsack & Associates, LLC), Renwick Brutus (Achievement Resources, LLC), Khumbo Croft (Gordon Food Service), Tim Duflo (Deloitte), Greg Hahn (Crowe), Teresa Hendricks (Migrant Legal Aid), Kris Kurtz (Metro Health), Terry Lenhardt (Steelcase), Ryan McLean (Bissell), Jamie Mills (JRM Holdings, LLC), Juan Salaza, Gwen Sandefur (Spectrum Health), Yvonne Trupiano ( Spartan/Nash), and Tim Williams (Meijer).

Now, this is not an exhaustive look at the Grand Rapids Power Structure, but it does provide us with a clearer idea of what people and entities make significant decisions about what happens in Grand Rapids – politically, economically, socially and culturally. These groups make decisions with little public input and they often use public money to fund the projects they are making decisions about. 

Since everyone like visuals, here, on the right, is a visual for the people and organizations that make up Tier 2 of the Grand Rapids Power Structure.

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