Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Grand Rapids likely to gain fifth Sister City

Tuesday, December 18, 2007
By Jim Harger
The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS -- The city's family of Sister Cities is about to get bigger.

Zapopan, a city of nearly 1.2 million residents in the Mexican state of Jalisco, is about to become Grand Rapids' fifth Sister City.

City commissioners were expected to approve the relationship today, ending a six-year search for a municipal sibling in Mexico.

Susan Camp, president of Grand Rapids' Sister City International organization, said the new site was chosen from several compatible Mexican cities.

Camp said the local group has been looking for a Mexican sister city in response to Grand Rapids' growing Hispanic community, most of whom have roots in Mexico.
"It just seems to make sense for Grand Rapids Sister City to have that kind of connection and partnership," she said.

Zapopan (pronounced Zah-PO-pahn) is the second largest city in the state of Jalisco and an educational and cultural center, she said.

Like Grand Rapids, there are 13 colleges and universities with campuses in Zapopan. Michigan State University's College of Law has a program in Zapopan.

Assistant to the City Manager Jose Reyna was among several city officials who visited Zapopan this year. Mayor George Heartwell and 1st Ward City Commissioner Roy Schmidt were among the group.

Though Zapopan is much larger than Grand Rapids, its residents face many of the same issues as people in Grand Rapids, Reyna said.

"The difference is that U.S. cities tend to be much more developed with regard to infrastructure," said Reyna, whose mother was born near Zapopan.
"Although they have larger populations, the sophistication of their systems is not as highly developed."

Reyna said they expect to host a delegation from Zapopan in the early summer for a formal Sister City signing ceremony. Grand Rapids will send a delegation for a formal ceremony later this year.
Grand Rapids Sister City International is a nonprofit group largely funded by the individual Sister City organizations, Camp said.

The agreement with Zapopan is the first since 1994, when the city signed an agreement with Ga District, a city in the West African nation of Ghana. Grand Rapids also has sister city ties with Bielsko-Biala, Poland; Omihachiman, Japan; and Perugia, Italy.

The city's new JW Marriott hotel has featured the sister cities in its public spaces, meeting and guest rooms and parking decks.

JW Marriott and Sister City officials hope the theme will help land a Sister Cities International Convention in 2009. The four-day event would host about 1,000 international and domestic visitors.

Zapopan Delegation visits Grand Rapids

On October 29, 2007, our city had the honor of hosting representatives from our future Sister City: Zapopan, Jalisco. Dra. Patricia E. Malfavón, International Affairs and Sister Cities Coordinator for Zapopan and Lic. Maria del Carmen Mendoza, Comptroller for the State of Jalisco, visited several tourist spots in Grand Rapids and met with City leaders to exchange ideas for future collaboration.

“We are much exited to be here. On behalf of Sr. Juan Sánchez Aldana Ramírez, Mayor of Zapopan, we want to thank everyone for your gracious hospitality and want to deliver a message of commitment to work in developing projects for our sister city relationship”, expressed Dra. Patricia Malfavón. “We are working in several areas to develop cultural, economic technological and social projects”.

According to Dra. Malfavón, Zapopan has a very diverse economy with an emphasis in technology, culture and education “There are 13 internationally recognized Universities in Zapopan, with student exchange programs all over the world. Our objective is to increase this number with rand Rapids and Zapopan; this is just one of the topics we explored with the Grand Rapids Mayor, George Heartwell, who, by the way, is a very amiable person and very committed”.

As for technology, “we have are recipients of heavy investments from multinational corporations, most of them focused in Information Technology”, Dra. Malfavón added.

“Tourism is also very important for us. In Zapopan, we have the largest Convention Center in Latin America, home of many international exhibits and expos. Ours is a very strong municipality, we are part of the metropolitan area of Guadalajara, and 60% of our population is of young people”.

Although Dra. Malfavón considered Grand Rapids a modern city, she finds many similarities between cities, she stressed that “we share the same objectives towards the future; this will allow us to work together, in projects for growth and opportunities for our citizens”.

Finally, Dra. Malfavón expressed that this visit had impressed her “it was a great experience, one that we will share with our Mayor and, of course, with President Calderon, whose administration is very much focused in internationalization; here his words: México en el Mundo…“Dear people of Grand Rapids, we wait for you with open arms, we will support you in any way we can… Zapopanos in Grand Rapids, we would love for your children to know their culture and to get involved in many of the projects that will develop from this marvelous relationship”.

Amongst the many activities in their agenda, Dra. Malfavón and Lic. Maria del Carmen Mendoza met with Mayor George Heartwell; Juan Olivares, President, Grand
Rapids Community College, Vicente Sánchez Ventura, Consul of Mexico, Luis García, IME Councilperson for Michigan; representatives of Grand Valley State University; they also visited the Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Meijer Gardens, and of course, the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Expo.

It is important to mention that this visit was made possible thanks to the excellent coordination of the Sister Cities-Mexico Committee; and its President Arturo Armijo, who plans to have the official signing ceremony on June, 2008.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More good news; this time from:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — In the last decade or so, this city has been the beneficiary of investments in new academic campuses, a civic arena, a convention center, new parks, a transit center and more than 1,500 new units of downtown housing.

Even so, Grand Rapids has never experienced anything near the concentrated magnitude of the medical research, training and patient facility construction now occurring on Health Hill.

From the summit of the hill, on this city’s north end, and stretching roughly half a mile in both directions along Michigan Street, a stunning array of buildings is under construction, reflecting a commitment of nearly $1 billion by the area’s prominent families and medical institutions. There are a new medical school, a children’s hospital, a biomedical research center, a cancer treatment center, and two medical treatment and office buildings. Also under construction is a seven-level underground parking garage; it will hold 2,300 cars and cost $30 million.

All told, construction managers say, the buildings will cover 1.2 million square feet. By 2010, when construction is completed, those buildings, several designed by world-renowned architects, will provide enough space to treat thousands of people a day and employ 5,000 people, 2,500 more jobs than exist now on Health Hill.

The hill, also called Pill Hill here, earned its nicknames a few years ago when a medical research institute opened there.________________________________________
To read the rest of the article, click here

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Article from a newspaper in Boston, MA

Why can’t we be more like Grand Rapids?

It’s such a big country, America. I don’t know it well, haven’t traveled from sea to shining sea, except by airplane from East to West several times. Last weekend I was in Michigan, not quite the heartland but close enough.The combined effect of television programs, chain stores and restaurants and electronic gadgets is that we think we’ve been homogenized.But it’s not so, thank goodness.I know that when I visited New Orleans, before and after Hurricane Katrina, this is a place very different from Boston or anywhere else in America.Texas, too. But what of the vast Midwest? Is it really different from New England or California?Darned right, it is. I was in Grand Rapids, Mich., for a wedding. What I knew about Grand Rapids before going there was that it was the hometown of President Gerald Ford and site of his presidential library and museum. And also the home of Amway, though I and other out-of-town guests had only a vague idea of what Amway sells.The small talk that predominates at events like this was punctuated repeatedly by wedding guests proclaiming to one another, ‘‘What a nice town, what a surprise!’’ Many if not most of the guests flew in from both coasts and interesting places in between, such as Santa Fe. There was elitism to spare but at the same time a willingness to be charmed by a place that truly seems to represent good old-fashioned American values.If there are surreptitious litter police, they keep themselves well hidden, but the streets of Grand Rapids are as gleaming as the refurbished buildings throughout the downtown. Community pride is everywhere. I couldn’t help but compare what I saw to cities and towns back home.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Boston and New England, from the coastline to the old mill towns like the one where I grew up, Manchester, N.H. But there’s no disputing that the quality of life in this area continues to deteriorate. We blame government for not investing more in parks and beaches, but who’s dropping the garbage? It’s not the government; it’s us. The mounds of Dunkin’ Donuts cups scarring off-ramps on our highways is disgusting. Local streets are no better and because we seem not to care, the habit just grows.In Grand Rapids, Midwestern friendliness and helpfulness were everywhere. I left my camera in a cab and within minutes of calling the hotel, staff was on the case. They called back 15 minutes later, not having located it yet but to let me know I had not been forgotten. I nearly fainted from the shock of random kindness. (Yes, I got it back.) When was the last time someone actually cared that you lost an item in their store, or even that you were shopping there?Downtown Grand Rapids, a city of about 200,000, is a laboratory of urban renewal. Formerly a manufacturing city - home of Kelvinator, for example - it faces a huge challenge in reshaping its economy. The state of Michigan is no help, since its automobile-reliant economy has been in the hopper for years, with more bad news sure to come.So what is Grand Rapids turning to? Health care. And here is where it could be interesting to Massachusetts. Spectrum Health, Grand Rapids’ biggest employer, is creating a cancer center and also expanding its medical research, including a new center for molecular medicine.

Michigan State University is moving its medical school to the city. You may say, ‘‘So what?’’ But think about all those Boston-area college graduates, our biggest source of human capital, and the cost of living in Massachusetts, and then compare it to Grand Rapids. There you can buy a five-bedroom house in the historic district for $400,000. Yup, $400,000, and you could walk to work, breathe clean air and not worry about litter blowing in your face. And your children could attend a neighborhood school. The historic district, a microcosm of American architectural styles, was rehabilitated decades ago solely because of the efforts of public-spirited citizens.

I am not writing this to encourage young people to leave Massachusetts. I think it’s important to recognize, though, that we don’t necessarily have it all here. We have first-class hospitals and colleges with costs to match and housing prices that make building a future here ever more difficult. We also have a shortage of the kind of community spirit I saw in Grand Rapids.There, the Amway Corp. and its founders put their names all over downtown, investing in public buildings they hope will rejuvenate the city.Here, corporations hand out a few dollars to local charities, but there is less to donate as they are bought up by national companies more interested in naming rights on arenas than in philanthropy or rebuilding communities.Look around your town: Can it be improved? Probably. I am tired of dirty streets and blaring car horns, bad manners and shoddy service. We’re better than that, aren’t we?
JoAnn Fitzpatrick, former editorial page editor, can be reached at .
Copyright 2007 The Patriot LedgerTransmitted Saturday, June 16, 2007

First Learning Community Center for senior citizens opens in Zapopan

The Tecnológico de Monterrey, in its ongoing commitment to Mexico’s development and empowering its people to generate wealth and welfare, together with the Zapopan, Jalisco Municipal DIF Family Development Office, opened the first Learning Community Center for senior citizens (CCA), located at the Metropolitan Senior Citizens’ Center (CEMAM), in the Santa Margarita neighborhood.

During the CCA’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, which currently has 300 students in its various workshops, Guadalajara Campus General Director Víctor Gutiérrez mentioned that these installations “will allow people to learn to use a number of computer programs and to surf the internet, and even obtain their high school diploma through its distance-learning program.”

Also, he announced that this center marks the first of eight CCAs to be created, with the support of the Social Programs Office and the Learning Community Centers’ education and entrepreneurship development network, in concert with the Zapopan DIF, with the aim of impacting their communities. This one, in fact, is the first time the Tecnológico de Monterrey has devised a CCA whose services target senior citizens.

Friday, May 18, 2007

La Pachanga del 5 de Mayo

On May 5, 2007 The Grand Rapids Sister Cities-Mexico Committee successfully hosted the 1st annual "5 de Mayo Pachanga" at The Intersection in Grand Rapids. Close to one hundred people enjoyed authentic food by Maggie's Kitchen, El Ganadero and El Matador; and a wide variety of music such as La Famiglia, Grupo Falcón and South Side Evolución.

Of course, all this was possible thanks to the generosity of our sponsors; Chuck & Stella Royce, Mercantile Bank, Grand Rapids Community College, Kent Beverage and West Side Beer Distributing. Thank you also to the people of the Arena District for their support in selling tickets and promoting the event.

The party began promptly at 7:00 PM with GRCC's Mariachi Band and Gabriel Estrada (who had been playing since 5:00 at various venues in downtown) and ended sometime around midnight. We were able to see young people, middle aged adults and even families with their young kids; thank you all for attending this first annual event!

Thank you also to WOOD TV8 and the Grand Rapids Press for their promotional support. Rosie Del Valle and La Maquina Musical where also on location broadcasting Live.

Congratulations to Oswaldo Garces, winner of the trip for two people to Zapopan, Jalisco (courtesy of Dolphin Travel).
Stay tuned for our next event in 2007 and, of course for Pachanga 2008!

Monday, April 16, 2007



Help Support Sister Cities with Latino Music, Culture and Cuisine

The Cinco de Mayo Pachanga 2007 (Pachanga translates to bash) is the inaugural fund raising event for the Grand Rapids Mexico Sister City Committee. The Committee is in the final year of formalizing a partnership with Zapopan, a city outside of Guadalajara, Jalisco.

The Cinco de Mayo bash will be held on May 5th at the Intersection Bar in downtown Grand Rapids. The event will feature live Latin music from La Famiglia, Grupo Falcon and South Side Evolucion. Grand Rapids Community College's Mariachi Azul y Oro also will be making a special appearance. There will also be authentic Mexican food provided from area restaurants including El Ganadero, El Matador and Maggie’s Kitchen. The food will be availalable beginning at 7 p.m. Music begins at 8 p.m.

Tickets to Pachanga 2007 are $25 and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets, as well as participating restaurants.

If you show your ticket at particpating restaurants from Thursday, May 3 through Saturday, May 5, you will receive 25 percent off food purchases. The participating "Arena District" restaurants include Bar Divani, Black Rose, Margarita Grill, the B.O.B., Grand Woods Lounge, Louis Benton, McFadden’s, Taps Sports Bar, 48 West and One Trick Pony.

Additional Cinco de Mayo Pachanga 2007 sponsors include the Grand Rapids Press, WGRD, 1410 AM La Maquina Musical and Mercantile Bank.

Contact: Jose Reyna 616-456-4075 and/or Arturo Armijo 616-234-3170

Friday, March 09, 2007

Article from the "JW Connection"

Gorgeous photographs of the Sister Cities.

The entire hotel will feature photographs of Grand Rapids’ five sister cities. Renowned local photographer Dan Watts traveled to each city to capture the beauty and people unique to each culture. “Cherry blossoms and the Fire Festival in Omihachiman, Japan; the amazing architecture of Perugia, Italy and Bielsko-Biala, Poland; and the people of the Ga District of Ghana in West Africa and Zapopan, Mexico make up the largest single collection of Sister City photography in the world, a total of 16,855 photographs.” Watts said. After a month of editing, the collection consists of 250 first class photographs. “That means only the best are being used,” Watts said. The photographs will be displayed in the guestrooms, meeting rooms, and public areas of the hotel.