HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF THE WMRPC
The WMRPC was formally organized on May 18, 1973 with the adoption of bylaws and the election of officers. Over the years, the WMRPC has administrated a number of programs which address common needs or encourage regional co-operation. These programs have included the areas of land use planning, metropolitan and regional transportation planning, criminal justice, water quality management, economic development, coastal zone management, A-95 clearinghouse review, solid waste planning, technical assistance for local planning, and others. The number of WMRPC staff has fluctuated over the years, numbering as high as twenty.
Originally, Michigan's Region 8 included the nine counties of Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Newaygo, and Osceola. However, the administration of the Commission's functions has not always been smooth. During the years of 1990-1992, the WMRPC went through a difficult restructuring period. As a result of management and financial problems, the WMRPC closed its Grand Rapids office in November 1991.
During fiscal year 1992, the WMRPC maintained only an answering service, while it underwent restructuring to bring itself under fiscal control. Meanwhile, Region 8's OEDP work was temporarily contracted to the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC – Michigan's Region 14) which operates out of Muskegon. Region 8's "MPO" designation ("Metropolitan Planning Organization" under federal transportation ISTEA legislation) was eventually transferred to the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council (GVMC), which now houses the Grand Rapids and Environs Transportation Study (GRETS). The Region's RideShare program was taken over by the Grand Rapids Area Transit Authority (GRATA). The database which had been operated by the WMRPC was re-established in conjunction with the Office for Economic Expansion at the Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids downtown campus. The SBA 504 Business Loan program (REDCO – now the Growth Finance Corporation) was re-established at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, and the mini-grants program for the arts for Region 8 (ACORE) was transferred to the Grand Rapids Council for the Arts.
During this restructuring period, the counties of Lake, Mason, and Newaygo determined that it would be in their best interests to break ties with the WMRPC and join Region 14 to obtain services. At the same time, the County of Ottawa determined that it would be to its advantage to join the WMRPC given the shifting planning liaisons among several counties, particularly among Ottawa and Kent and Allegan counties. Therefore, in November 1992, under Michigan Governor Executive Directive 1992-2, the boundaries of Michigan's Region 8 were re-aligned to include the counties of Allegan, Ionia, Kent, Mecosta, Montcalm, Osceola, and Ottawa.
In February 1993, the WMRPC received its 1993 economic development planning grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (U.S. EDA). This grant, combined with member dues, enabled the WMRPC to re-open an office and hire an economic development planner to oversee the EDA grant program for Region 8. Eventually, the economic development planner position was elevated to the director of the WMRPC, and an administrative assistant was hired. During 1996, a half-time planner was hired.
Currently the WMRPC maintains a staff of three full-time employees consisting of a director, a planner and an administrative assistant. The existing director was hired in June 1999 and began as director in July 2000. The planner began in August 2010 and the administrative assistant began in June 2000.
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