Grand Rapids Downtown Market Generated $31 Million in New Economic Activity for Kent County in 2017

Posted on April 22, 2019 by Downtown Market

Overall Economic Impact is $85 Million in Total Output, Supporting 764 Jobs

The Grand Rapids Downtown Market has become a destination for hundreds of thousands of people since its opening, and a new study, released today by Grand Valley State University, estimates the overall economic impact caused by the Market to be more than $31 million in Kent County. GVSU estimates the Market also produces and supports more than 330 direct jobs in the county. The Seidman Research Office at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business performed the study.

When factoring casual visitors into the overall economic impact (visitors who were in Grand Rapids for other reasons, but also spent money at the Market) as well as primary visitors (visitors who indicated the Market was their primary reason for visiting), the result is $85 million in total output supporting 764 jobs, caused by and supported by the Downtown Market.

Small business tenants located within the Downtown Market generated more than half ($19.5 million) of the study’s $31 million in economic activity, which includes spending by customers as well as spending by Market Hall tenants with local suppliers. Equally important for the city as a whole, visitors whose primary purpose was a trip to the Market generated $10.9 million in economic impact by their spending outside of the Market, creating a halo effect that positively impacts the entire Kent County region.

“This study shows that food has the power to bring people together and to Grand Rapids, making the Downtown Market an economic anchor for our city and region,” said John Green, treasurer of the Downtown Market board of directors. “The Market tenants and employees have created an amazing public space and they are creating a positive year-over-year impact.”

The purpose of the study was to examine the economic impact of the Market from four perspectives:

  1. Visitors who traveled for the expressed purpose of visiting the Market
  2. Visitors who came to the Market while already in Grand Rapids
  3. Tenant activity within the Market
  4. The Market’s impact on local business revenue and job creation

Spending by non-local visitors is the key driver in economic impact studies. In this study, 41.6 percent of visitors surveyed were non-local, meaning their primary residence is outside Kent County and the primary reason for their visit to Grand Rapids is the Downtown Market. Direct spending at the Downtown Market by all primary visitors was $6.6 million, with approximately 52 percent of that coming from people outside of Kent County. In 2016, the New York Times included Grand Rapids on its list of 52 places to go, noting the Downtown Market as one of the city’s major attractions.

"The Downtown Market is creating hundreds of jobs because of the efforts led by small business artisans, who are creating lasting impact for the city and region on a large scale," said Christian Glupker, economics professor at GVSU’s Seidman College of Business. "We found that the Market is successfully spurring business, creating jobs and adding significantly to the economy of West Michigan.”

To calculate the economic impact of the Downtown Market, data was collected by GVSU to determine visitor count, how many days visitors visited, and how much each visitor spent. The team administered an intercept survey at random times throughout the week from May 2018 to July 2018 resulting in approximately 135 hours and 34 days of surveying, to determine how much money visitors spent in the city.

During the past five years, the Market has launched 118 businesses and counseled more than 500. More than 961,000 people visited the Downtown Market during 2017, and the Market facility rental program hosted more than 400 events during 2018.

"The Market gave us not only a place to launch our family business, but also a community,” said Shelby Kibler, owner of Field & Fire Bakery. “As a result of the success we found with our bakery in the Market, we were able to open a second café location, expanding our business and opportunities."

The Grand Rapids Downtown Market opened in 2013, with the mission to be a vibrant gathering place offering dynamic food-centered experiences, education, and entrepreneurship opportunities dedicated to a healthier community and economy.

The indoor facility features a market hall filled with small businesses, while dozens of artisans line the outdoor market shed during special events. The Market offers exceptional public spaces, including a rentable Incubator Kitchen, rooftop greenhouse and the nation’s first kid-friendly demonstration kitchen. The Market is LEED Gold certified, with a green roof, live walls, geotherm wells, a rain garden, and numerous other innovative, sustainable features.