Together with local businesses and foundations, the greater Grand Rapids community raised more than $17 million to fund the first phase of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Gateway Transformation Project. Without using any tax dollars, the renovation addressed the needs of the thousands of passengers who use the airport every day with major improvements in security and amenities.
Phase two of renovations will begin in late 2018 and will feature improvements to airline ticketing, baggage screening and baggage claim areas. The entire project will cost $45 million.
Travelers now can utilize the updated business centers or rent a private meeting room; both offer complimentary Wi-Fi and charging stations. Families will appreciate the updated kid play area and nursing stations. The addition of a Starbucks, before and after the new streamlined security areas, will make flights just a bit more bearable.
“Michigan’s economy is booming. The airport has seen four years of record passenger growth and those increases show no signs of slowing down. We needed to become more efficient,” says Tara Hernandez, the airport’s marketing and communications director.
“During the renovation, we always kept security priority No. 1, but we also wanted to show our guests what makes West Michigan so special. Four years ago, you could walk off a plane and not know where you were; the airport didn’t reflect the community.”
That’s changed as the upgrades now show travelers what makes West Michigan such a popular destination with its Beer City USA title. Gift shops strive to reflect the identity of the community, moving beyond the cliché T-shirt or key chain. Located just past the airport's newly updated security checkpoints, The Prospect Hill Brewhouse features all local beers on tap. The award-winning airport will also be cutting its environmental footprint so passengers can admire West Michigan’s iconic views and waterways for years to come.
The new Gerald R. Ford Tribute Room showcases the life and accomplishments of the 38th U.S. president. The minimuseum features a 7-foot-long aircraft carrier, videos and personal artifacts.
Although Hernandez is proud of all the recent ribbon cuttings at the airport, the newly unveiled military welcome center is a bit more personal. Being the granddaughter, daughter, and wife of Marines, she understands what this space means for those in the service. “Coming home is an adjustment; you’re in a different state of mind,” she says. “The space provides a calm and private environment. Complete with drinks and snacks, this area offers our troops a quiet space to share stories, relax, and greet loved ones.”