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Private sector leaders proposing Kent County, Grand Rapids merger

Grand Rapids City Hall and Kent County's Administration Building are located right next to one another.
Steven Depolo
Creative Commons
Grand Rapids City Hall and Kent County's Administration Building are located right next to one another.

More than a dozen private business leaders are taking steps that would make it possible to merge Kent County and Grand Rapids to a single government. The One Kent Coalition includes more than a dozen lawyers, businessmen, and former elected officials.

Attorney Nyal Deems (former mayor of East Grand Rapids) presented the One Kent proposal to the Kent County Board of Commissioners Thursday. He says the coalition would like to see broader approach to governing the metro Grand Rapids region, rather than a number of smaller municipal governments.

“All of our flow and economic interaction and cultural and social interaction ignores all those boundaries but governmentally we live by them. It would be good to mirror our communities more to match the way we live and work and function."

Three reasons to merge

Together, he says Grand Rapids and Kent County would represent a much larger population center, making it easier to:

  1.  Attract economic development
  2. Promote efficiencies
  3. Offer better and broader services
“Right now we’ve cut so many services it’d be nice to find some savings so we can restore some.”

The coalition is working to draft legislation that, if passed, would remove many of the legal hurdles associated with a possible merger. Deems says that legislation would specifically target the Grand Rapids area, but says it could certainly have an effect on other municipalities if passed.

One Kent members have spoken with Governor Snyder’s office, legislators with part of their districts in Kent County, and leaders of Grand Rapids and neighboring cities. Deems says the coalition would like to see Grand Rapids and Kent County merge to a single metropolitan government, but wants it to be possible for other cities to join services. 

He says the group is following Indianapolis, Nashville, and Louisvilleas possible examples.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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