2019 Newsmakers

By Rich Adams The Greater Lansing region is teeming with inventive and dedicated community leaders, entrepreneurs, dreamers and advocates who are helping to build a strong and s…

By Rich Adams

The Greater Lansing region is teeming with inventive and dedicated community leaders, entrepreneurs, dreamers and advocates who are helping to build a strong and safe community. They were asked questions about what was important in 2019 and looked into the future to discuss plans for the new year.

Laurie Strauss Baumer

Executive vice president, Capital Region Community Foundation


What impact do you think Rotary Park had after completion this year? Will it evolve into a busy event center next year?

The new Rotary Park, a glittering jewel on Lansing’s downtown riverfront, is sparking pride in our community. I love sitting in the park, seeing people of all ages and walks of life and listening to the “wows” as they explore it, day and evening. I’ve heard more than a few times, “I can’t believe this is Lansing!” It’s a popular destination even when no events are going on, and residents are proud to show it off to their out-of-town guests. Photographers are taking family pictures in the park at night for holiday greeting cards. But it’s more than just a cool park – it’s a catalyst for more placemaking along the riverfront. The Community Foundation is proud to lead riverfront development and seeks investors for our next projects in partnership with the city of Lansing. Ultimately, a vibrant downtown will attract and retain a talented workforce for the entire region. That’s where we’ll see the real impact.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

President, Michigan State University


2019 was a busy time for you, taking the helm of Michigan State University. What’s next?

Since I arrived as the 21st president of Michigan State last August, I’ve focused on listening to the concerns of our campus community. What I heard reinforces my very top priority: building a safer, more respectful and more welcoming campus.

This and other input will help inform our strategic planning. One aspect of that is our continued work to improve prevention and response to relationship violence and sexual misconduct, assessing our institutional culture, and building a community on a foundation of respect and accountability.

Campus members must be able to feel safe to be able to succeed and thrive. Improving our approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion will be another focus of our attention.

We will continue our momentum in student success, research and outreach that place us among the world’s top 100 universities. Our close engagement with community partners and stakeholders will continue to be an important part of our land-grant mission.

Finally, the national search for a new provost to oversee our academic programs and support the initiatives above is well underway, and I expect the outcome will be an outstanding pool of candidates from which to select later this year.

Andrew Brisbo

Executive director, Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency


What’s next for you as MRA director? What do you do until and after adult recreational use goes active in the spring?

While the name of our regulatory team has changed from Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation to Bureau of Marijuana Regulation to Marijuana Regulatory Agency over the years, something that hasn’t changed is our priority to focus on outreach, education and collaboration with industry stakeholders. From patients and advocacy groups to municipalities and licensees, I have made time to meet with pretty much any group that wants to share their input and opinions.

Even though medical marijuana is continuing to grow – and adult-use licensing is now underway – that outward focus will continue in order to ensure that the regulatory program in Michigan is the model for ensuring safe consumer access while also stimulating business growth. We have a lot of work ahead to ensure the success of our social equity program and implement a permanent administrative rule framework that will position Michigan as a leader in the industry on both a regional and national scale.

Priscilla Bordayo

Author, motivational speaker and advocate


You’ve been recognized as one of the “10 Over the Next Ten” award recipients for your important work addressing the rehabilitation of victims of incest. What are your plans for 2020?

My plan for 2020 is to continue to discuss the difficult yet important topic of incest – rehabilitation for victims, perpetrators and felons. Personally, I’d like to get the attention of all of those who are involved in lawmaking and changing to further discuss the importance of attaching mandatory counseling to an individual’s sentence. It is crucial to get to the root of the problem of why people make the decisions that they make. It is a disservice for us not to assist in uprooting bad behaviors and patterns instilled into adults. We live in a society where dysfunction takes root in many forms, and it begins when they are a child. I believe we can’t leave people where they are. We offer free education to people behind bars, yet the percentage of people recommitting crimes is too high. I am for education, but I am even more for getting people healed and helped from the inside out.

Andy Schor

Mayor, city of Lansing


Lansing was named the third best metro in the nation for sustainable development by Site Selection magazine. How do you plan to maintain this status?

The city of Lansing continues to be a leader in redeveloping obsolete and formerly contaminated sites, which is a major criterion for rating sustainability. By supporting projects that clean up brownfield sites, we are repurposing blighted properties, protecting the environment and preventing sprawl. We are proud of the many brownfield projects being worked on throughout Lansing, including the mixed-use hotel, grocery store and housing in our downtown. The city of Lansing is also home to the world’s first LEED triple-platinum project, the Christman Building.

The city of Lansing is looking internally for how to make city properties more sustainable by working with a consultant to help set an energy-use baseline for our buildings and vehicles, along with goals to improve our energy efficiency. Additionally, we are completing a comprehensive audit of our building operations, with the goal of implementing energy efficiency improvements in summer of 2020.

The Board of Water & Light, our municipally owned public utility, has committed to 30% clean energy by 2020 and 40% by 2030, which means improved air quality and environmental health and a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2025.

These shared sustainability goals, help attract development and businesses to Lansing.

Ron Boji

President, Boji Group


Boji Group acquired the Farnum Building, now known as The Louie. What are you looking forward to in 2020? More downtown development?

Boji Group’s team is thankful for the opportunities we’ve been afforded in Lansing for more than 20 years and we’re eager to continue this work in the coming year.

As our portfolio of private-public partnerships and developments across the state grows, we’re always proud to call Lansing home. We’re very excited about The Louie; after the purchase of the historic Farnum building in 2018, we’ve renamed the site to The Louie honoring our chairman, Louie Boji.

We’ve worked closely with the (Michigan Economic Development Corp.), the city of Lansing and local agencies to realize this project. Our team is enthusiastic to complete $20 million in renovations and welcome the tenants, including Dickinson Wright, who will occupy the building as early as mid-2020.

Entering the new decade, Boji Group will continue to grow, creating innovative solutions to challenging opportunities. Boji Group has a tradition of exceeding expectations of our partners and will remain true to that as we enter 2020.

Chris Strzalkowski

Executive project manager, Red Cedar project for Ferguson Development


The Red Cedar development is going to have a tremendous impact on the Michigan Avenue corridor. What’s are you looking forward to in 2020?

The change is real. From the recent renovation of the Michigan State Capitol to a state-commissioned approval for a $40 million welcome center on the lawn of the Michigan statehouse and the construction of the Meijer’s 600 block development, the Michigan Avenue corridor is transforming. The $270 million private investment for the Red Cedar development is the largest in Lansing’s history and breaking ground on this site was the next step toward the revitalization of the east side. The measurable impact of investment in the region’s most critical avenue will affect the region for years to come. Several development projects in East Lansing have been completed or are in progress, expanding to Okemos and Williamston. The celebrated diversity of people, places and housing will add to the attractiveness of living, working and playing in the metro Lansing region. We embrace the opportunity to participate in this change well into 2020 and beyond.

Pat Gillespie

President, Gillespie Group


BLOCK600 is beginning to take shape. What’s next for Gillespie Group in the coming year?

The development of BLOCK600 has gained the attention of entrepreneurs and business owners from outside of the downtown Lansing area and beyond to look at what is going on in the Stadium District – they are looking at Lansing and want to know what they can do to be involved and plant roots here now. We knew the inquiries

would pick up and Lansing would get the attention it deserves, but it is beyond what we expected. For 2020, expect to hear many more announcements of our other commercial properties filling up with businesses who want to be here – right in the Stadium District. Our team is excited for what is ahead and the energy and life it will continue to breath into our city. #ProudToBeLansing

Jim Grant



You’ve identified your new North American headquarters. What are you looking forward to in 2020?

At EDL, our vision is to be the leading global producer of sustainable distributed energy, and our growing North American business is a critical component of achieving that goal. 

As part of the North American business’s growth plans, I’m most looking forward to moving into our new East Lansing headquarters and expanding our relationships with regional stakeholders.

East Lansing was a logical hub for the business with excellent facilities and close proximity to our key customers in the Great Lakes region. Additionally, we will be near our Wood Road generating station; Michigan State University, from which to source talent; and a strong pool of skilled mechanical and electrical labor to support the safe operation of our facilities.

We have an ambitious Canadian growth plan, so being close to the border is also important.  My team and I are looking forward to strengthening our presence in the area and being a local conduit to global resources.


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Woman wearing a surgical mask during the covid-19 pandemic holding a business award.Woman wearing a surgical mask during the covid-19 pandemic holding a business award.

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