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Booming business. Sun-soaked beaches. Awesome events. It’s no wonder that Grand Rapids residents are so eager to share what they love about this vibrant community. We tracked down some of the area’s savviest locals—from CEOs to hotel managers and restaurant owners—for the inside scoop on what makes this friendly city a great place to live, work, and relax. (Hint: It’s not just the tasty beer selection.) Their insight sheds light on what life is really like in Michigan’s second-largest metropolis.
Live in Grand Rapids
“The Gerald R. Ford International Airport turns 50 this year, and we are excited to celebrate its growth by welcoming Southwest Airlines to Grand Rapids. We have some exciting additions in our airport’s future, all of which will add comfort and convenience for passengers. West Michigan has so much to offer, and our airport makes it convenient to travel no matter where your final destination may be. Grand Rapids has a unique culture of people from all backgrounds, races, and ethnicities that make up a tremendous melting pot. Plus, you may think it’s awful to live here in the winter, but having four seasons with plenty of activities in each keeps us busy year-round.”
Gerald R. Ford International Airport
“At Meijer, we’re committed to strengthening the communities where our customers and team members work and live. We gladly welcome Southwest Airlines to Grand Rapids, a city comprised of local businesses that genuinely care and willingly support the community and its residents.”
“Grand Rapids is a humble city full of passionate people who work hard to make their community and world a better place. It’s a city where you can dive in and make a difference and where leadership, creativity, and entrepreneurship are respected.”
Facts of Life in Grand Rapids
• The estimated population in 2012 was 190,411.
• According to the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in Grand Rapids is $115,000.
• The average high in August is 80 degrees.
• In April 2012, Grand Rapids topped Forbes’ list of “Best Places to Raise a Family.”
• Grand Rapids’ Heritage Hill neighborhood was named one of the country’s “Great Neighborhoods” of 2012 by the American Planning Association.
Work in Grand Rapids
“The strong work ethic, commitment to helping others, and talent pool in Grand Rapids has helped fuel our growth over the decades. The business culture reflects the overall culture of West Michigan—people are passionate about their work and dedicated to making the community better. Amway employs about 5,000 people in West Michigan and more than 20,000 globally. [My father and President Doug DeVos’ father]were entrepreneurs who believed in the power of business ownership to change lives. They started this company right here in Grand Rapids. Today Amway has helped millions of people prosper through their own businesses, and we appreciate the role Grand Rapids has played in helping us be successful.”
—Steve Van Andel
“In Grand Rapids, public-private partnerships really work. Philanthropists work with business and civic leaders in the spirit of community growth, and this has made the city a model of investment, transformation, and collaboration for the rest of the country. Our local municipalities understand the need for growth and work openly with businesses and the local community to build solutions that work to benefit both.”
President and CEO
The Right Place, Inc.
“Steelcase is fortunate to be based in an area with a long history of furniture making, but Grand Rapids is much more than that. This city has a diverse heritage that’s steeped in strong, hard-working values. It’s a wonderful example of a partnership between businesses and residents, who have joined forces in Grand Rapids’ focus to become more competitive in attracting other individuals to our wonderful city. It’s the kind of excellent, pro-business environment that has enabled Steelcase to continually succeed for more than 100 years. Our employees are our greatest asset, and living these values is at the core of all that we do, just as it was in the past. Our people continue to create a close-knit, family-like culture in Grand Rapids as well as around the globe. Meanwhile, Grand Rapids is really growing into its own urban center, celebrating the quaintness of a small town while welcoming the growing commotion of a big city.”
—James P. Hackett
“West Michigan boasts a skilled workforce with an outstanding work ethic, as well as a diverse economic base that includes furniture, appliances, automotive, health care, life sciences, professional services, and agriculture. These strengths, combined with a community spirit of cooperation and business leaders who are committed to the success of the region, make for a great economic environment. The West Michigan region is the original furniture capital of America, and still is for the office furniture industry, with three major office furniture companies headquartered in the region. Herman Miller is the oldest of the office furniture makers, with its founding in 1905 as the Michigan Star Furniture Company. It’s widely credited as the industry’s design and innovation leader, having pioneered nearly every major design innovation since the ’30s.”
President and CEO
“Grand Rapids is home to many family businesses that care deeply about investing in the community’s future through jobs, education, and broader philanthropic efforts. It’s also a beautiful area with a high quality of life, which helps us attract and retain talent. At Autocam, we offer clean, high-tech, and high-paying jobs. And for more than 20 years, we’ve offered earn-and-learn opportunities that give on-the-job, paid training and educational scholarships. You can earn a living while completing the education needed to become a machinist, technician, or engineer—and graduate without any educational debt.”
—John C. Kennedy
President and CEO
Facts of Work in Grand Rapids
• In April, Forbes ranked Grand Rapids No.4 on its list of the “10 Best Cities For Finding Employment.”
• Top employers in the Grand Rapids area include Spectrum Health, Meijer, Amway, and Steelcase Inc. Grand Rapids and West Michigan are home to the global office furniture industry—Steelcase, Herman Miller, and Haworth collectively account for half of the industry’s $10 billion market.
• Grand Rapids was the first U.S. city recognized by the United Nations as a Regional Centre for Sustainable Development.
Meet in Grand Rapids
“The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, JW Marriott, and Downtown Courtyard by Marriott each offer an abundance of meeting space, and our Midwest location makes these hotels an ideal choice to host conventions and meetings. Business and leisure travelers alike are drawn to Grand Rapids due to its affordability, variety of dining experiences, culture, nightlife, and the fact it’s a very walkable city.”
VP/Corporate Director of Sales
Amway Hotel Corporation
“Our three hotels offer distinct options for business and leisure travelers. Guests can experience the modern and hip JW Marriott; the timeless beauty of the historic Amway Grand Plaza; and the Downtown Courtyard is located in the heart of the arena and entertainment district. Grand Rapids has everything a big city has—arts, dining, leisure, sports—except for traffic, high crime, and pollution.”
Amway Hotel Corporation
“Not only is Grand Rapids a convenient location to travel to, but it’s also a thriving city offering an array of entertainment options all within walking distance to satisfy all who visit us. The Downtown Courtyard is located within the entertainment district, providing easy access to Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center, and countless restaurants and nightclubs through the climate-controlled skywalk.”
Downtown Courtyard by Marriott
Play in Grand Rapids
“As soon as you enter Gun Lake Casino, there’s an air of excitement—lots of action at the table games, a captivating allure from the latest slot machines, four distinctive places to eat, two bars, and a stage with every genre of live, daily entertainment. Serious and casual gamers of every age make Gun Lake Casino their ongoing casino of choice. From the moment they walk in the door until they leave, we’re always providing the friendliest service and doing the unexpected to make the visit a memorable one.”
Gun Lake Casino
“We take great pride in promoting the area’s art and culture, local food, craft beer, family playcations, music, and the lakeshore; it is these experiences that create a Grand Rapids vibe that visitors and locals alike fall in love with. Grand Rapids also recently won the title of Beer City USA, an annual public poll that recognizes the city with not only the best craft beer scene but also a passionate beer culture. The title has been instrumental in building local collaborations, luring visitors to the area, and attracting customers to local breweries.”
Experience Grand Rapids
“Grand Valley is home to 25,000 students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide array of fields. The city is big enough to be exciting yet small enough for students to network with employers. Grand Rapids has more big-town amenities than you might expect. Symphony, museums, ballet—enhanced by national championship college athletics—make Grand Rapids a successful place.”
Grand Valley State University
“Life in the Holland/Grand Rapids area is an eclectic mix of small town meets big city, with a Great Lake thrown in. Holland’s friendly, resort-town ambience is the perfect balance to the big-city amenities of Grand Rapids. Both communities are college towns, and with that comes the energy of young people eager to learn. Downtown Holland is filled with life-size bronze sculptures, Victorian park benches, and cobblestone sidewalks—the perfect backdrop to the historic buildings that place downtown on the National Register of Historic Places. Holland appeals to people of all interests, whether you prefer to shop downtown or climb to the top of a 250-year-old working Dutch windmill. An added bonus: Downtown Holland is snow-free in the winter, thanks to the largest municipally run snowmelt system in the country.”
Holland Area Convention &
“I love that Grand Rapids is big enough to offer great arts, entertainment, and sports, but not so big that you don’t know anyone. It’s a friendly city with a good business base, and our growing downtown is an active city center. Van Andel Arena is always filled with excitement during a Grand Rapids Griffins hockey game. We’re the top affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, and Griffins fans get the chance to watch the hockey stars of tomorrow at a fraction of the price of going to an NHL game. After 17 years, winning the Calder Cup this year makes it all worthwhile. There is nothing like winning a championship; it’s something few cities can boast.”
President & CEO
Grand Rapids Griffins
“Saugatuck and Douglas are known as the art coast of Michigan, so the vibe here is laid-back with a cosmopolitan interest in the arts. There’s a growing emphasis on fresh, local, and organic. This community has a multigenerational appeal, and everyone from fishermen and sailors to beach lovers and theater buffs are attracted to the area. This isn’t a cookie-cutter community. Our economic engine is fueled by mom-and-pop businesses, and residents work hard to keep it that way.”
Saugatuck-Douglas Convention &
“ArtPrize is an annual, open-call art competition where everything from sculptures to videos is entered. Grand Rapids is big enough to have influence and options for artists, but it’s still easy for visitors to walk around and experience the city. The whole area gets behind the event, which makes it impossible to ignore.”
Founder and Chairman
“Muskegon is the largest urban area on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. In the fall and winter, outdoor recreation reigns supreme, with one of the only publicly accessible luge runs in the country at the Muskegon Winter Sports Complex. In the summer, you can find any beach you like: quiet, packed—there are even dog beaches. If you’ve never been to Lake Michigan’s sunset side, you’ve got to see it. It’s a great place for relaxing.”
Community Development Director
Muskegon County Convention &
Facts of Play in Baltimore
ArtPrize, the world’s largest art competition, takes place September 18 through October 6. More than 1,500 artists are expected to enter the open competition, and 500,000 guests are expected to attend.
• At 1,500 acres, Millennium Park is one of the nation’s largest urban green spaces.
• Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is one of the world’s 100 most visited art museums.
• HopCat was named the third-best beer bar in the world for 2012 by beeradvocate.com.
Heal in Grand Rapids
“Grand Rapids’ growing Medical Mile is an impressive asset to the community. This emerging health- sciences corridor provides daily health care needs and research to combat our most debilitating conditions. It’s also a primary advanced- education hub for the future of our health system. Students, medical personnel, and medical conference attendees are coming to Grand Rapids from all over the country and the world, which adds economic strength and diversity to the community. Health care is thriving here due to the generous offerings of local private investors and a collaborative effort with the public sector. The Medical Mile, Mercy St. Mary’s, Mary Free Bed, and Metropolitan Hospital have allowed Grand Rapids to grow into one of the most impressive medical care and research centers in the country. The health care industry not only provides jobs, health, and economic well-being for the citizens of West Michigan, but is now a catalyst for future national and international conferences and conventions, while helping diversify the Grand Rapids demographic profile.”
President & CEO
Experience Grand Rapids
Facts of Health in Grand Rapids
• Medical Mile refers to a life-science development area bordering both sides of Michigan Street and includes more than 10 health care facilities.
• Spectrum Health is West Michigan’s largest employer with 20,000 employees.
• Spectrum Health was recognized by U.S. News & World Report in its Best Hospitals 2012-13 rankings.
• Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital is a 212-bed referral center and teaching hospital that offers advanced pediatric specialty care from more than 200 physicians.
Happening in Grand Rapids
August 1–May 3
Growing Up Grand
August 1–September 8
Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
August 1–November 30
Great Lakes Shipwrecks: Storms and Stories
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: Summer Concert Series at Frederik Meijer Gardens
34th Annual Celebration on the Grand
10th Annual Grand Haven Salmon Festival
September 18–October 6
Ringling Bros. presents: Dragons
GrandCon Gaming Convention
Iron Warrior Dash
Professional Bull Rider’s “Built Ford Tough Series” Invitational
Broadway Grand Rapids presents: Jersey Boys
Rockford Harvest Fest 2013
Wine, Women & Chocolate
Grand Rapids Comic-Con
10th Annual Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon
Josh Groban’s “In the Round” Tour
Grand Rapids Ballet presents: Dracula
Zoo Goes Boo!
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