GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A networking event taking place in Grand Rapids Wednesday evening is encouraging those who have moved away to “ReThink West Michigan.”

ReThink West Michigan, hosted by Hello West Michigan and The Right Place, is taking place at the B.O.B. from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Those who are home for the holidays are invited to stop by for a casual networking event with more than a dozen local employers, Hello West Michigan executive director Rachel Gray said.

“The reason we do it on the night before Thanksgiving is because that’s when former Michiganders come home for the holiday,” she said of the 12th annual event. “And believe or not, Thanksgiving Eve is the biggest bar night of the year, so we like to meet them where they’re at, which is out at the bar.”

Along with meeting with local employers to talk about career opportunities, attendees can also speak with community ambassadors like Brandy Martin, who attended a ReThink West Michigan event in 2016 and ultimately got a job in Grand Rapids.

Martin was born and raised in West Michigan but eventually moved out to Las Vegas, where she worked in event management and event planning. After building a career and hitting a transition period, she started looking at moving back to Grand Rapids.

“It was just time to move back home,” she said.

A friend told her about the ReThink West Michigan event two weeks before it happened.

“Because I was really excited about moving back and learning more about what Grand Rapids had to offer, I changed my flight and attended Rethink West Michigan in November of 2016,” she said.

Through networking that started at that event, she eventually got a job in Grand Rapids in 2017. In 2018, she was hired by Experience Grand Rapids, where she is now the director of convention services.

Since moving, she said she has thrived. She got back with her high school boyfriend and built a life with him in West Michigan: the two have since gotten married, had a baby and bought a house.

“That’s the beauty and the magic of the night, of ReThink West Michigan, is because we get to watch people take the first step in changing their lives,” Gray said, adding she’s passionate about attracting talent to the area because she knows it’s a great place to live and work.

Gray said they know of around 100 people who found jobs as a result of the event, or the event was a “catalyst” for their return to West Michigan. She encouraged residents who love living in the area to tell loved ones visiting for the holidays about the event.

“This is really where the whole community can help invest in the community that you love by inviting others to be a part of it,” she said.

You don’t have to be a “boomerang” or college student home for the holidays to attend the event, Martin said, adding local professionals are welcome to stop by as well.

“It’s a great networking opportunity. You never know who you’ll meet. Be confident in your skill set and your abilities, and we’ll talk and figure out something together. I will be there and more than willing to share my story and any pieces of feedback or advice that I can give those that are rethinking West Michigan,” she said.

You can register for the event for free at rethinkwm.com, though walk-ins are also welcome.