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The Associated Press March 17, 2011, 1:20PM ET

Michigan design hub opens in Grand Rapids

Business leaders hoping to help fuel the state's economy opened a new design hub in southwestern Michigan on Thursday to foster creative and innovative ideas.

GRid70 in downtown Grand Rapids is billed as Michigan's first such design hub. Its name is short for Grand Rapids Innovation and Design at 70 Ionia Ave.

The center -- in a four-story, 28,000-square-foot building -- brings together employees from Michigan-based businesses Amway, Meijer Inc., Steelcase Inc. and Wolverine World Wide Inc., as well as the Pennant Health Alliance. They share about 6,000 square feet in the building.

Leaders of the organizations involved plan to collaborate to find new and creative ways to do business.

"We look at industry trends in lifestyle, design and food in many of the same ways Wolverine, Amway and Steelcase might," Hank Meijer, co-chairman and CEO of Grand Rapids-based Meijer, said in a statement. "But the potential for new approaches to our challenges and new creative solutions will be limitless when we work together."

Organizers said the center represents a $5 million investment to help in the region's efforts to attract and retain highly skilled workers. It's nearly three years in the making.

On the first floor, the Meijer Innovation Center features a test kitchen for researching food trends as well as testing and developing recipes. Shoe maker Wolverine World Wide occupies the entire third floor, with 30 to 40 footwear design and product developers.

"We wanted an urban environment that leads to the sharing of ideas and makes connections with like-minded peers," said Blake Krueger, chairman and CEO of Rockford-based Wolverine.

Pennant Health Alliance is a collaboration that includes health care systems Trinity Health, Metro Health and the University of Michigan Health System. Its focus is on innovation and testing new ways to cut health care costs and increase the quality of care.

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