After a year that many Grand Rapids communities can mark by an unprecedented rise in downtown redevelopment and urban renewal efforts, it’s hard not to watch the introduction of so many new brewpubs and boutiques and wonder which of these businesses can offer something uniquely valuable, and what it takes to create the kind of venture that is, simply put, good for Grand Rapids.
Though there’s no one, simple solution to community-based sustainable growth, the Good for Grand Rapids campaign by nonprofit Local First
is committed to navigating the many more complex avenues through which local businesses can help build thriving communities. With nearly 100 area businesses joining the Good for Grand Rapids campaign over the past year, the organization is celebrating those taking steps toward making a more positive community impact with its first-ever Good for Grand Rapids Awards, slated for March of 2018.
Hannah Schulze is Program and Fund Development Manager for Local First and says that with over a decade of working with locally-owned businesses under its belt and handfuls of research studies to back it up, the nonprofit knows one thing for sure—locally-owned businesses are more likely to be vested in the way their operations impacts their surroundings.
“We know that that locally-owned businesses tend to be more holistically sustainable than their non-local counterparts,” Schulze says. “Because if you live in the same place where you own your businesses, you’re going to steward your environment and treat your employees well and give back to that community more than if you owned a business halfway across the country and weren’t there to see those community results on a day-to-day basis.”
As of the Dec. 1 deadline, any business to complete the 60-minute online Quick Impact Assessment became eligible for consideration to be selected as winner in any of the Good for Grand Rapids Awards categories: Best for the Environment, Best for the Employees, Best for the Community, and a fourth “governance” category for those businesses with a more mission-based approach.
Based on the Quick Impact Assessment—which is designed to measure dozens of best practices on employee, community, and environmental impact that can be stacked up against other businesses on a national scale—the 2018 awards ceremony will select the top two performers in each of the four categories to receive an award. At the March 2018 ceremony, Schulze says Local First leaders will also talk more about what the 2018 Good for Grand Rapids campaign will look like, and encourage those businesses to retake the QIA each year so the organization can begin to build progress benchmarks that only further the shared learning experience.
While the QIA is completely free and totally confidential, businesses can opt to share their “impact cloud” information with Local First, which then aggregates that information against all of the other area businesses and subsequently builds a workshop calendar based on all of the gaps the organization is seeing where businesses need to improve.
Schulze says every month from May until November, Local First will host a workshop based on those QIA improvement areas, partnering with the city of Grand Rapids and over a dozen other chambers of commerce and community leadership organizations to find the right experts that help make the programming happen.
In 2017, Local First’s “Measure What Matters” series featured topics like energy efficiency, employee benefits, board of director demographics, and mission/inclusivity statements, and Schulze says in 2018, the organization expects its base of shared knowledge and support to continue to grow and create even more meaningful and valuable opportunities to engage with one and other.
“Overall, it’s going to help Grand Rapids to continue to grow and it’s going to help Grand Rapids attract talent, which is helpful for everyone,” she says. “The goal is to grow in an inclusive way that helps build wealth for everyone in our communities.”
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Local First