Merging with GR could be boost for Grand Haven

On the surface, the recent announcement that the Holland-Grand Haven metropolitan statistical area is being absorbed into the Grand Rapids region seems like a blow to our community.
Feb 13, 2014

We love to single out our quiet Lakeshore community, bragging about our beaches, our schools and the quality of life it affords.

Grouping us in with Grand Rapids is almost like stealing our identity.

But dig a little deeper, and we learn that this move is one that could lead to tremendous benefits to West Michigan.

One of the biggest boosts is that, with the two areas merged together, the population jumps to well over 1 million people — and, according to economists, that’s a key number. Big businesses looking to relocate will often bypass any region that doesn’t top 1 million people.

This immediately makes Grand Rapids and its surrounding communities a much more viable option for new business, which would boost our local economy.

When those new companies come to town, the employees they bring with them need a place to live — and Grand Haven, Spring Lake and other Lakeshore communities have plenty of wonderful things to offer those families. Like some of the state’s top schools, safe neighborhoods in which to raise their children and beautiful surroundings.

While being grouped with Grand Rapids might mean we miss out on being named to the next "best beaches" list by some obscure travel publication, we feel it’s a fair trade-off if the merging of our statistical areas brings more business to town.

Besides, we don’t need statistics to know that our community is one of the most special places to live in our great state.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



Sorry I can't can't see the positives of this. If I wanted to live in a big town I wouldn't have picked Grand Haven for my family to live in. I want our small town to stay that way. Grand Rapids is not that far away if there's something that we don't have here I'm more than willing to drive.


Just great, hookers on Third and Washington and crack dealers behind all the business's downtown.......

Former Grandhavenite

Now that's the type of convenience and small town charm that makes GH a very Special Place. If you had to drive all the way across town to pick up a rock or two and then go to yet another area to hire a companion for the evening it would begin to feel as though we'd lost a war or something. They might as well make you grow and process the coca leaf yourself if it's going to be that inconvenient just to get high. The politicians should be focusing more on bread-and-butter economic issues such as reducing liquor prices instead of worrying about which MSA Ottawa county belongs in.


Thanks for my chuckle of day!!! Seriously what 'intelligent' human being thought this up??? Good grief, leave G.H the way it is. Personally, I liked it way back when Harbor Avenue was picturesque, not overcrowded with condos, etc. That's bad enough...let's not make it worse!!

Real estate maven

Helps GR a lot more than it helps GH, if it helps GH at all. Mostly a non event for us.

Cycle Guy

Makes more sense to group Grand Haven with Muskegon


I'm an isolationist. The antithesis of The New World Order. Not interested in being assimilated by Grand Rapids, Muskegon or even Ferrysburg. Each area has it's own unique facets. Some degree of separation is a good thing.

You can visit and spend your money, but like a German friend of mine says "visitors are like fish, after 3 days they both stink".


This news story is vague and ambiguous to say the very least. Perhaps the Tribune could write a follow up story about this proposed merger with facts like; Where did this idea originate from? What are the specific idiosyncrasies of this proposed plan? Is this mostly "on paper" rather than "physical" transformations that would take place? What is the specific reason this merger plan was even suggested? Who are the specific people (Names & Titles) in charge of this proposed idea? What are the specific, factual selling points (reasons) why this is a good idea? What are the specific intended benefits that will result if this plan goes into effect and who will benefit the most? Who will this merger plan benefit (adults, children, teenagers, schools, businesses, other)? Which will legally oversee this plan; "City(s), County(s), Township(s) or the State of Michigan? I suggest having a "fact finding committee" to cover all aspects of this proposed plan in order to write an article(s)that would answer as many questions they can come up with ahead of time so people can be well informed about this merger idea as well as possible. I'm sure I could come up with more questions, but I think you get the idea which is writing the most complete, comprehensive, and factual article that you feel covers everything. To do this I would also suggest talking with the residents that live in the communities involved and please interview a wide selection of people and seeing them as Human beings rather than politically correct "professional job titles" such as; Police Officer, Judge, CEO's, Ministers, Reverends, Airline Pilot, Mayors, City Council Persons, Senator, Congress Person, etc. Who a person really is, is not what they do for work, a person is not their job title, they're a Human being, Period.


Yes! I feel the Tribune no longer knows how to report news. Just opinions. Prove me wrong, Tribune!


In the words of Ms Pelosi: "We have to pass the law to see what's in it..." Let's all just embrace change.

Tri-cities realist

Mr. Williams, this was an opinion piece by the Trib editorial board, not a news story. To their credit, they did post an article, see , that stated that the primary reason for the change was that the rate of people commuting to Kent county exceeds 25%, thus the merger of MSA's.

As for your list of suggested items to investigate, remember this is the GH Trib.


i thought of the whole idea was, West Michigan includes Muskegon, Holland and Grand Rapids as a group, you can live in anyone of these towns and shop, work and live and have not to drive very far, thats my thought.


If I wanted anything to do with GR, I'd be living there. There is very little housing, etc. in the tri-cities area as it is. We have more than enough tourist. What's the draw? We don't need it.

Former Grandhavenite

After each of the past few decennial censuses Ottawa County has been shuffled around between the different neighboring MSAs. If I remember correctly there was a lot of griping about it the last time this happened. I'm kind of surprised that anyone aside from my fellow statisticians, economists, and other assorted members of the nerd community actually cares about this. It would be hard to argue that GH, Muskegon, GR, and Holland aren't all pretty closely connected economically and in terms of commuting patterns. The US-31 bypass will probably strengthen the connection with Grand Rapids and unfortunately Grand Haven will likely sprawl over time to the east. It's already hard to tell along US-31 where the southern edge of the GH area ends and the northern edge of the Holland area begins.

There's a long tradition of cities and counties not being happy about which MSA they're part of, and some cities have even taken additional censuses in an effort to prove to the federal government that they're just above or just below some important threshold value for funding. Every township board, county commissioner, and mayor out there is eyeing the neighboring jurisdictions for juicy morsels of tax base to target for annexation. In some states it's pretty common for cities and townships to try attaching to a different county if they're along the border. In Virginia there's something of a tradition that if you don't like your county, you can often become an independent city instead.

A general rule of thumb is that being lumped in with an area that has negative characteristics such as higher crime and poverty rates makes the area less attractive since it pulls down the statistics reported at the MSA level. Outsiders considering a relocation to the area might not bother to distinguish between GR and GH, and would just see a worse number overall for the MSA. This is a double-edged sword however, because having higher rates of crime and poverty also makes an area more eligible for additional funding and grants from the state and federal governments to address those issues. Smart businesses and people look at characteristics of an area at a more 'micro' level in making decisions. Smaller units give a more fine-grained picture of an area like the "micropolitan statistical area", county, township, census tract, block group, block, etc. Whole Foods for example is obsessed with the income level of an area (it's nicknamed "Whole Paycheck" for a reason) and will definitely take the time to distinguish between southern Division Ave in GR and Forest Hills/Cascade Township. A pizza chain opening a new store will hopefully understand that college students aren't evenly distributed across Allendale Township. A business that might succeed at Lake Michigan Drive and 48th Ave probably couldn't make it by selling to the farmers and migrant blueberry pickers in western Allendale near the Robinson Township line.


Saying it ain't so and stamping your feet is not going to change reality. Look around you, Grand Haven, Holland and to a lesser degree the Muskegon regions are expanding. Yes the city of Grand Haven has the same population it's had for 30 years, within its fixed boundaries... its full. However the rural areas surrounding these cities have been quietly changing from agriculture zones to retail, industry, and suburbs.
Remember humble little Grand Valley State College tucked away in the middle of cornfields? The cornfields are gone and the little college has grown up into Grand Valley State University.
Zelenka Nursery has been sold and consolidated. Reenders Blueberries is now broken up and living under the auspices of cute yuppy names that appeal so much to the new urban populations.
The vast rural farm fields that once thrived between Grand Haven, Holland and Grand Rapids are now small rural farm "pockets".
It matters not how much the people who comment here lament, the change has already happened. It's nothing more than semantics now.
The 30 (or so) of you who comment here regularly remind me of people who are fixing the worlds problems over a beer or two. The more you drink the more you live in your memories and the past. Oh well, as long as you don't drink and drive there is nothing wrong with that. :o)


Does anyone notice that when Grand Rapids advertises 'West Michigan' it's all about them? I often wonder if this 'bugs' others as much as it 'bugs' me!! Since when are 'they' West Michigan??? NOT!!!

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