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The 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders of 2022: Celebrating those who are responsible for making sure that Structural Racism and Economic disparities are normalized

October 24, 2022

Well, another year, and another of the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders in West Michigan have been chosen. Actually, many on the 200 list were on the list last year. 

The Grand Rapids Business Journal has chosen their 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders, without providing a definition or criterion for what makes one a leader. However, it might seem obvious to people, if we are thinking in terms of the most powerful. Indeed, there are a great deal of names in this year’s 200 that have significant economic and political power. GRIID has for years monitored that power and written a great deal about what we refer to as the Grand Rapids Power Structure. So let’s try to provide a little perspective on who was chosen to be part of the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders in West Michigan for 2022.

DeVos Family members and those who manage their assets – 12 people. This family has a long history of being anti-labor union, undermining public education, being anti-LGBTQ, forcing Christianity into the public sphere and funding candidates that support structural racism.

West Michigan Policy Forum Board Members – 17 people. The West Michigan Policy Forum has a history of supporting the interests of the wealthiest in West Michigan – tax breaks for the rich and business community, anti-union, undermining public education, dismantling public services, using public money for private benefit.

Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Staff/Board Members – 5 people. The GR Chamber of Commerce is part of the Grand Rapids Power Structure, has consistently opposed labor unions, supported public policy that benefits the Capitalist Class and funds candidates that will protect those interests.

The Economic Club of Grand Rapids – 23 people. This group provides regular “networking” opportunities for the most powerful in West Michigan. 

The categories that the Grand Rapids Business Journal includes for those on the Most Powerful 200 list:

Art & Entertainment – primarily venues that cater to those with higher incomes and venues that are driven by profits

Banking & Finance – people who decide who has access to money and how it will be spent.

Business Services – This group includes Chambers of Commerce, PR Firms, Consultants, Security firms, and investment firms.

Civic Leaders – This group includes those who work in government, which is a very narrow definition of what it means to be civic.

Construction & Design – This group consists of developers, construction companies and design agencies.

Economic Development – This group is made up of entities that help “grow the economy”, which means they will threaten the interests of the Capitalist Class.

Education – This group only consists of the Presidents of local colleges and the Superintendent of the Grand Rapids Public Schools – a very narrow definition of education.

Food & Beverage – This group primarily consists those who own restaurants, bars, breweries or distilleries. 

Foundations & Philanthropy – Wealthy people hiding some of their wealth from being taxed and providing funds to community groups with strings attached.

Health Care – This group primarily consists of the for-profit health care sector, with a few non-corporate representatives.

Insurance – Companies making money off of the lack of community care.

Law – Private and government attorneys

Manufacturing – companies that use workers to make stuff.

Media – This group consists of corporate media and a few media sources that don’t threaten corporate media interests.

Non-Profits – Organizations that often rely on funding from foundations (money from rich people) and that don’t generally address root causes of problems. 

Real Estate Development – Companies that use property/land to make money, in order to purchase even more property/land.

Retail – Companies that rely on low wage workers.

Sports – Business people who make profits off of people being spectators.

Technology – IT people who make profits.

Travel & Tourism – Hotel owners, Ford Airport directors, and ballpark CEOs. 

Living Legends – David Frey and Fred Keller – rich White guys.

Lastly, over half pf the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders in West Michigan document is made up of ads from companies which celebrate the same people who are on the list of 200. 

In the end, the 200 Most Powerful Business Leaders in West Michigan is simply another way of normalizing the fact that there is a class of people and organizations that wield tremendous political and economic influence in this area. These so-called leaders also make sure to maintain a business as usual approach to things, which often means they make sure that only a small percentage of people have access to wealth, they perpetuate inequality and they defend and promote structural racism, despite their Neo-liberal diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. 

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