Magazine praises Grand Rapids’ ‘Manufacturing Comeback’

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — “Manufacturing Comeback”: It’s what West Michigan has seen in recent years and it’s the headline of a recent article in a national urban policy magazine.

Writer and researcher Aaron Renn said Grand Rapids kept coming up as he researched job growth across the country.

“What’s going on in Grand Rapids? So I decided to take a dive into the city and see what had caused this dramatic bubbling up of performance there,” Renn told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday in a Skype interview.

His article appeared in City Journal, a New York City-based quarterly magazine published by an economic growth and urban policy think tank called the Manhattan Institute. It starts out with something most Grand Rapidians would like to forget: a 2011 Newsweek article pegging Grand Rapids as one of “America’s Dying Cities.”

Like cities across the Midwest and country, West Michigan was hit hard by the recession — but it was about to rally.

In his article, Renn examined many of the industries, ideas and people that have made Grand Rapids what it is today. He touched on the furniture industry, Dutch settlers, ArtPrize and the Beer City, USA title. He also discussed the wealthy families who have given a lot to the city — a practice that used to be more common across the country.

“Particularly as banks and utilities got bought out, everything became national, there was this loss of local commitment that has been retained in Grand Rapids for some reason,” Renn said.

Another key to success is that the region doesn’t rely heavily on only a few big businesses, like Flint and Detroit, which felt the blow when the automotive industry took a hit during the recession. In West Michigan, investment from a variety of industries has led to an impressive resurgence in manufacturing. Renn’s research found Grand Rapids is the only metropolitan city in the Midwest that has more manufacturing jobs now than it did in 1990.

“The fact that there’s a lot of manufacturing in Grand Rapids means it remains exposed to that, although GR is not manufacturing-dependent in the way cities were 50 years ago,” Renn said.

“Provided this trajectory keeps up, this would be very impressive for the future,” he added.

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