As many of you know, Michigan State University is moving its medical school to Grand Rapids. The school will need a new building in the vicinity of Spectrum Health, the DeVos-Cook Center, and the Van Andel Institute. The university's board of trustees have approved the expenditure of $70 million for the construction of that building, and Spectrum Health has agreed to pony up $55 million toward that cost. And that's only the start. So far $100 million has been committed to the project by MSU, Spectrum, and the VAI.
Well, folks, just taking account of nothing more than the money put up for bricks and mortar, there's a lot of public money from taxpayers and health-care ratepayers sloshing around. So who's the contractor who'll get his hands on all that dough? Is it really any surprise that it will be Amway co-founder Rich DeVos? The university trustees favor building the medical school at the Michigan Hill medical complex that DeVos's RDV Corp. is currently developing in conjunction with Christman Co. of Lansing. It's no coincidence that the Michigan Hill location found that favor after Spectrum Health, of which DeVos is a current board member, past chairman, and high profile benefactor, announced that it will cover most of the cost of construction plus another $30 million for operations.
(And I'm sure it didn't hurt when the other Amway clan, the Van Andels, committed $16 million over the next eight years from the Van Andel Institute to finance research at the new medical school. Then again, maybe it didn't make much of a difference. If you think about it, for the scale of the medical school project, what the Van Andels promised is a paltry sum -- two million bucks a year -- compared to Spectrum Health's gift of $85 million up front. But then the $16 million is coming out the pockets of the Van Andels, whereas the $85 million is ultimately coming from you, Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Public, as health-care consumers. Little wonder then that DeVos's Spectrum Health is more generous with your money than the Van Andels are with their own.)
Mind you, the Michigan Hill medical complex is probably a good spot for the MSU medical school. I should certainly think so, because I own a home in Heritage Hill only a couple of blocks away. All this development will only increase its value. Yet, precisely what is the value that the taxpayers and health-care ratepayers will realize from this expensive project? We know how the DeVoses will benefit from the construction of the medical school and how the Van Andels will benefit from a research alliance between the VAI and MSU. But what does the public get from the expenditure of all this public money? Many grand promises so far about a bio-tech boom in River City, but so far no particulars about how ordinary people paying the bill reap any benefit from that.