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Published in Economic Development

Grand Action 2.0 names Kara Wood as new executive director

BY Tuesday, May 31, 2022 04:31pm

Grand Action 2.0, the revamped group of executives behind some of the largest downtown Grand Rapids developments over the past couple of decades, has named Kara Wood as its new executive director.

Wood replaces longtime Executive Director Jon Nunn, who will step down on July 5, the organization announced today. 

Kara Wood COURTESY PHOTO

Wood has worked for three years as the associate vice president for community partnerships in the office of government relations at Western Michigan University. She previously worked for 12 years as the city of Grand Rapids’ economic development director and the managing director of economic development and Mobile GR parking services. Wood also served at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. before joining the city of Grand Rapids. 

“With 22 years of experience in urban economic development, government relations and community development, Kara is well-prepared to take the reins,” Grand Action 2.0 co-chair Carol Van Andel said in a statement. “She knows the people, the processes and how to forge the kind of public-private partnerships required to take the initiatives currently underway to the finish line. We’re very happy to welcome her aboard.”

While at the city of Grand Rapids, Wood played a role in creating the Equitable Economic Development and Mobility strategic plan, as well as growing neighborhood business districts and bolstering corridor improvement authorities. 

Grand Action formed in 1992 and went on hiatus in early 2018 when co-chairs John Canepa and David Frey retired. The private economic development group resumed operations in March 2020 as Grand Action 2.0, and is now among the organizations leading the development of 31 acres along the Grand River in Grand Rapids. Plans for the waterfront include a 12,000-person capacity amphitheater, new riverfront trails and mixed-income housing ranging from 1,200 to 1,700 units. 

After starting in July, Wood said she will focus on advancing the amphitheater proof of concept plan with architecture and design firms Rosetti and Progressive AE Inc. Nunn will provide consultation throughout the transition period. 

“The initiatives that Grand Action 2.0 is leading will have a generational impact throughout West Michigan,” Wood said in a statement. “I’m excited to leverage my experience, relationships and passion for the Grand Rapids community to advance this work. It will be an honor to lead the implementation of Grand Action’s vision for the benefit of all.”

Grand Action 2.0 board members started discussing a leadership succession plan shortly after relaunching the organization in 2020, according to Grand Action 2.0 co-chair Tom Welch, who also serves as regional president for Fifth Third Bank.

“Projects of the magnitude we were about to undertake would require years to complete,” Welch said in a statement. “Jon has done terrific work for nearly three decades. Now, as we look at the decade to come, we agreed that it made sense to bring on an executive director who can take ownership early on and help lead these projects to fruition. Kara is the right person for the job.”

Nunn said he is confident that Wood has the skill set from her public sector work and commitment to the community to be an effective leader.

“I’m confident that I will leave this position in capable hands,” Nunn said in a statement. “As I close this exciting chapter, I thank Dick DeVos, Carol Van Andel, Tom Welch, David Frey and the late John Canepa for their trust, and I look forward to remaining involved in this vibrant community.” 

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