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THE NEXT GOVERNOR: OUR CANDIDATE SERIES CONTINUES WITH THE MAN BEHIND THE SHERIFF’S BADGE — MIKE BOUCHARD, I1

FINDING THEIR INNER DADS Unlikely father brings up unexpected son who pays it forward to the next generation. B1

POWERHOUSE PULLS IT OFF Unity Christian girls capture sixth straight soccer title. C1

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To our readers: Attracting and retaining younger people is vital to the future of Grand Rapids and Michigan. In the sixth installment of our series, we examine ways our community can reverse the “brain drain.� — Editor Paul M. Keep.

BACK TO THE

DRAWING BOARD?

The Press invited some top local high school students from the Class of 2010 to discuss what they look for in a cool city. For more about the brainstorming session, see page A11. For more on what readers, policymakers and others say must be done to reinvent the state, read on. PRESS ILLUSTRATION/MILT KLINGENSMITH

WHAT EXPERTS ARE SAYING

MICHIGAN’S CHALLENGE: KEEPING OUR COOL THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

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RAND RAPIDS — Bridget Clark Whitney oozes youthful energy from every pore. She is 30, executive director of a fast-growing nonproďŹ t and bubbling over with reasons this city should be a hotbed for 21- to 35-year-olds. “The culture, the excitement, the nightlife, the sociability and the people all together create an incredible place to live,â€? raves Whitney, who leads Kids’ Food Basket in delivering after-school meals to children from low-

COURTESY PHOTO

Has her doubts: Zeeland High and Grand Valley State University graduate Leslie Perales moved to Virginia three years ago and hasn’t looked back.

Š2010, The Grand Rapids Press

Selma Tucker, organizational efficiency analyst in Grand Rapids’ Technology and Change Management Department: “There’s something energizing about Grand Rapids. ... There’s an undercurrent of people who push the edge.� Daniel Estrada, president of the D.C. Estrada legal technology consulting firm: “Grand Rapids is a tremendously connected community of people. ... (But it’s) too risk-averse and too much against change, and those things make a young professional starting a new career ... feel like an outsider.�

PRESS PHOTO/T.J. HAMILTON

income families. “There’s an incredible generosity that exists. It’s part of the culture. ... There’s nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.� The Pittsburgh native and 2003 Aquinas College graduate even blogged: “I’ll say it: Grand Rapids. Best. City. Ever.� Unfortunately for those trying to bring talented millennials to Michigan, for every Bridget Clark Whitney, there is a Leslie Perales. The Zeeland High School graduate, who earned a journalism degree from Grand Valley State University in 2007, adores her new home in Reston, Va., just outside Washington, D.C. Grand Rapids’ progress doesn’t guarantee a job, and it’s unlikely to bring her back here anytime soon.

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Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future Inc.: “Getting older and less educated is not a good place to end up. Young professionals move to the city out of college, fall in love, have kids and raise those kids in Chicago’s suburbs, not ours, and that’s the challenge.�

She’s a believer: Bridget Clark Whitney dances with her husband, Matt, at a Peninsular Club party. Whitney, a Pittsburgh transplant, calls Grand Rapids “Best. City. Ever.�

BY JOHN SINKEVICS







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After her boyfriend, GVSU grad Steve Loges, couldn’t ďŹ nd work in Michigan three years ago, he accepted a position with his brother’s Internet marketing ďŹ rm outside Washington. Perales joined him four months later. In just three weeks, she found work as a newspaper reporter and has since taken a better-paying job as content editor for Knowlera Media, which specializes in how-to videos. Now Perales wonders if Grand Rapids could ever match the Washington area’s cosmopolitan vibe and robust economy. “At this point, I’m not sure if I want to come back at all,â€? she concedes. “I love it here. It seems like a lot of young people in the area really enjoy living here. ... “You just don’t feel like you have to go searching for those more diverse opportunities. They’re just everywhere here.â€? That’s the challenge: stopping the brain drain of millennials drawn to vibrant urban centers, and making Michigan a magnet for creative minds. It is a hot topic online and on the street. Groups such as the Great Lakes

IN TODAY’S PRESS:

Jeremy Grossenbacher, 26: “For the first 22 years of my life, I grew up in Coopersville. I have been in Chicago now for almost four years. Last year, (my girlfriend and I) were downtown (Grand Rapids) for a wedding, and both of us were very encouraged by what we saw. We saw more new and more intriguing restaurants, more modern living areas and some younger demographics downtown. ... It is also encouraging to see the city focusing on the medical industry. ... If Michigan did one thing wrong, it was its stubbornness to realize that manufacturing was a dying industry.�

MORE  One who stayed, one who left: Meet some young people who made decisions about living in Michigan, A10

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SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2010

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COOL

WHY AREN’T WE KEEPING UP WITH OUR NEIGHBORS?

GRAND RAPIDS HAS KNACK FOR SOCIAL NETWORKING

THE DRAIN OF BRAINS

CONTINUED FROM A1

Urban Exchange (GLUE), seek to revitalize industrial cities, in part, by targeting these “post-boomer urbanists” whom experts consider linchpins in spurring growth, innovation and economic recovery. Although Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and other Michigan cities have bolstered promotional efforts to retain and attract these bright, mobile 20- and 30-somethings, there’s also the inescapable reality the Great Lakes State has been less than great in creating job opportunities these professionals demand. And when comparing Grand Rapids to the cultural, social and intellectual scene of Chicago or New York City — or even Minneapolis or Madison, Wis. — many simply choose to leave. But that might be changing. Some professionals, artists and hip urbanites connected via social media and club networks gush about the progress Grand Rapids has made, citing its active nightlife, volunteer opportunities, emerging small-business spirit and imaginative events, such as the ArtPrize competition. One of those social media champions, Paul Jendrasiak, 38, co-creator of SpamBully anti-spam software, envisions “almost a perfect storm here because of what you’ve got going in the creative community and the business community and the medical community and the education community. It’s going to put this city on the map in a big way. ... There’s great creativity in this young group of up-and-comers who’ve embraced the city.” “It’s the energy,” adds Ryan Vaughn, 24, a writer and graduate assistant at Grand Valley’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. He is launching his own company, Varsinet, “an online solution for high school athletic departments to promote themselves” and athletes. Vaughn says Grand Rapids has embraced social networking via Twitter and Facebook to give young professionals a way to promote each other, publicize daily events and rally around community causes such as last spring’s Google Fiber campaign aimed at luring a highspeed communications network. That boosts the city’s reputation with young adults beyond its borders. “That’s really provided an online persona of Grand Rapids. Anybody looking at that says there’s awesome stuff going on here,” he says. “It’s going to continue to evolve as a hotbutton city.” But others caution that Grand Rapids, like other cities hindered by Michigan’s sluggish economy, has a long way to go to broaden network opportunities, develop mass transit and make the city a more welcoming place for diverse

A LOOK AT WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE STATE’S YOUNG PROFESSIONALS Young professionals, mostly college-educated 25- to 34-year-olds, gravitate toward large metropolitan areas. Detroit and Grand Rapids retain fewer of these individuals than Midwest cities such as Chicago and Minneapolis, leaving experts to conclude that Michigan must get younger and more educated.

YOUNG PROFESSIONALS MAKE UP:

11.2% of Michigan households, compared with 16.6 percent in Illinois and 15.6 percent in Minnesota 14.1% of Grand Rapids metro residents and 14.7 percent of Detroit metro residents, compared with 21.3 percent of those living in Chicago and Minneapolis.

MORE YOUNG PROFESSIONALS STATS:

49%

of Michigan’s college graduates had left the state, based on a 2007-2008 survey of students from all of Michigan’s public colleges/universities.

Top 3 states attracting Michigan’s college graduates: Illinois, California and New York; 53 percent of graduates choose the place they wanted to live first over finding the best job.

51% of Michigan college graduates didn’t receive a job offer from a Michigan company. 51st Where Grand Rapids ranked out of 54 metro areas in per-capita income in 2007. City ranked 44th in education attainment. Detroit ranked 25th and 36th. Minneapolis ranked 10th and seventh. SOURCES: Michigan Future Inc. “Young Talent in the Great Lakes” 2008 report (Claritas 2006 PRIZM data, Michigan State Housing Development Authority), Michigan Future 2007-2008 E-survey, April 2010 Economy Up-Close Report.

PRESS PHOTO/T.J. HAMILTON

Bright lights, medium-size city: Downtown Grand Rapids has been revitalized in the past 15 years or so, but many see room for improvement.

cultures and lifestyles. A 2007 task force report by a West Michigan business coalition showed minorities consider the area “cliquish.” That’s “slowly changing” yet more needs to be done, says Sonya Hughes, vice president of diversity initiatives for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and a founder of the Multiracial Association of Professionals. Some also contend the area’s reputation for being religiously

PRESS PHOTO/KATY BATDORFF

Age: 27 Hometown: Grand Rapids Current residence: Portland, Ore. Education: Attending Portland State University college for child and family studies/social work Current occupation: Mother of two preschoolers and an infant Why she left Michigan: “I lived in Grand Rapids my whole life. Each time I took a trip to anywhere outside of Michigan I was (exposed) to all of the

The ‘bright flight’ Any way experts choose to slice it, the stakes are high. Michigan Future’s 2008 report concluded that metro Detroit and Grand Rapids must do a better job in attracting millennials, because “unless Michigan, compared to the country, gets younger and bettereducated, we will continue to get poorer.” Across the United States, central cities are growing and gaining population from the suburbs, especially in drawing young, educated whites, according to The Brookings Institution, which earlier this year released “The State of Metropolitan Areas” report. This “bright flight” to popular cities with plentiful public transportation and high-tech jobs puts the country’s metro areas “on the front lines of demographic transformation,” the Washington, D.C., public policy organization maintains. That’s led to more educational disparities, with the number of college-educated adults growing in cities already considered highly educated, such as New York and San Francisco. “As long as the educational attainment gap between metropolitan regions persists, so will the gap in economic prosperity,” asserts the website education-portal.com, which analyzed the Brookings report.

GR’s silver lining

Encouraged: Ryan Vaughn, 24, who has launched his own company, says the city has a good reputation among young adults for the way it has embraced social media.

Why I left: Carmen Van Eck

also incorporate key ingredients to support young professionals, says Alan Bart, a recent Michigan State University graduate from the James Madison College of Public Affairs who last year helped lead a research seminar on retaining 18- to 30-year-olds. The seminar’s conclusion? It takes several factors, including strong networks to connect urbanites and put them in leadership roles, cooperation between universities and city leaders, and a support system for young entrepreneurs. Bart, 21, cautions against an “if we build it, they will come” approach or a “we just need more bars downtown” mentality as a cureall: “The things that would make me locate to an area are being able to plug into different people and exposure to people my age who have different ideas.”

possibilities out there. After I graduated from City High, I wanted to see more of the world and decided to leave the state.” Best thing about where she lives: “Most neighborhoods in Portland have a great restaurant, park, theater/music venue, art store, community organization, market and bike shop that is walkable and bikable, so people have a strong sense of loyalty to their community. Also, it’s a great place to raise children. Portland has an amazing park system, library system, farmers markets, museums and other great supports for families. The culture is healthy — it’s not uncommon for Portlanders to use cloth diapers, compost their food

conservative and racially segregated continues to be an obstacle in drawing college graduates. Ultimately, of course, it might come down to improving the job climate, especially for high-tech and higher-paying careers. But experts also say that’s not enough: Many college grads now choose where they want to live first, then go for their ideal work.

Locations over jobs “You can’t imagine the number of kids who go to Chicago and initially just wait tables. It’s not just the job. Place matters,” says Lou Glazer, president of Ann Arbor’s Michigan Future Inc., a nonprofit think tank that produced the 2008 report, “Young Talent in the Great Lakes: How Michigan is Faring.” “Young professionals increasingly are concentrating in central cities. We need central cities to work to stay in the game.” That means snaring talent right out of college. “Mobility goes down with age and kids. They move to the city out of college, fall in love, have kids and raise those kids in Chicago’s suburbs, not ours, and that’s the challenge,” Glazer says. “(In Michigan), we still have fewer high school kids going to college and getting degrees than the national

average.” Perhaps even more troubling: One-third of college graduates who left the state “had a full-time job offer in Michigan,” Glazer says of a recent survey. “No one believes that until you look at the data. It’s not the job.” Says Mandee Rick, 34, president of the 1,800-member Grand Rapids Young Professionals: “People are looking for where they want to live and the job follows, especially in the young professional market. They’re looking for a good work-life balance. What they’re doing after work is important.”

‘Walkability’ factor Glazer says research collected by Michigan Future shows 20-somethings increasingly want “viable, walkable urban neighborhoods,” a dynamic mass transit system, accessible parks and recreational facilities, and arts and cultural opportunities. That doesn’t mean Grand Rapids should try to compete with Chicago. Rather, Glazer says, it might better emulate smaller Midwest cities such as Madison, Wis., or Minneapolis-St. Paul, which boast high percentages of professional, college-educated 25to 34-year-olds. Indeed, “bigger cities are not necessarily better” unless they

scraps, raise chickens ... bike to school and work.”

Why I stayed: Amanda St. Pierre

What would make Grand Rapids better for 20- and 30-somethings: “Better grocery stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. More innovation visible — bike lanes, a supported art scene, independent theaters, and more things to do in the winter.”

Age: 29 Hometown: Durand (between Flint and Lansing) Current residence: Grand Rapids’ Northwest Side

What, if anything, would bring her back to Michigan? “The people, especially my large and supportive family. The other main appeal is low-cost housing. ... There is little difference in wages. I don’t think I will ever be able to afford a house in Portland, while in Michigan there are a lot of affordable homes.”

On the plus side, Grand Valley State, with campuses in downtown Grand Rapids and Allendale, boasts that 97 percent of its graduates stay in Michigan, either to work or to attend graduate school here. That’s far higher than colleges in the rest of the state: A recent Michigan Future survey of graduates showed about half flee Michigan within a year. “I’ve lived in many places in my career, and talent drives communities,” says GVSU President Thomas Haas, who attributes his university’s high retention rate to a strong downtown presence and co-op and internship programs that link students with local businesses. “The more we wrap our arms around that, the more we can see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. We have to recruit it; we have to nurture it; and we have to retain it.” Grand Rapids has made great strides in that regard, he says. The city is “a much different place than it was 15 years ago, and I think the downtown has the type of atmosphere that millennials want ... a vibrant livable city.” Much of that attractiveness centers on the increased vitality of downtown’s nightlife, restaurant and music/cultural scene, with the 12,500-seat Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place convention center and new Grand Rapids Art Museum. “It’s not like development that’s artificial. There’s something energizing about Grand Rapids,” says Selma Tucker, 23, a city employee.

Education: Bachelor of arts in public relations and health communications, Grand Valley State University

Why still in Michigan: “I was very fortunate to land an internship that evolved into full-time employment right after college. I’ve chosen to stay here, because I am happily employed and I have a great network of family, friends and professional peers in the area. Plus, I think West Michigan is beautiful. I appreciate our parks and recreational offerings. I also love the connectivity and collaboration that occurs here — it is really outstanding.”

Current occupation: Public relations and marketing for Grand Rapids Community Foundation

Best thing about where she lives: “There’s this constant buzz of excitement in Grand Rapids. I never long

SEE IMAGE, A12

for something cool to do. From street fairs to young professional groups, to arts and cultural offerings, great neighborhood shops, tasty restaurants and more — I have to make a conscious effort to schedule nights at home.” What would make Grand Rapids better for 20- and 30-somethings: “I would love to see more diversity in our arts and cultural offerings. It’s happening in some venues here and there, but I think more could be done. I fully support anything to make this a more welcoming and inclusive community.” — Compiled by Press staff


THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2010

A11

GR needs a future as bright as its young people GUEST COLUMN BY SUZANNE SCHULZ

G

reat places are known to attract talent, which in turn attracts venture capital and entrepreneurs. So, what do we need to do to attract or retain the talent in West Michigan that will lead us to a successful future? A small group of superachieving college-bound students sat down with me to talk about what they think makes a great place. Everything green, from parks to alternative energy, was at the top of their list. Better retail and more family-oriented restaurants in downtown Grand Rapids are needed. High scores were given for safety, cleanliness and walkability. More art, enhanced transit and increased recreational use (perhaps a kayak course) of the Grand River would bring more people downtown. The group addressed living environments, from wanting exciting urban surroundings to the peaceful countryside. The Van Andel Arena is a big draw for entertainment. Studies reveal 77 percent of millennials, a demographic that

Suzanne Schulz, 38, is the city’s planning director, and considered by many a forward thinker when it comes to a city’s walkability, use of bike lanes and all things green. She is the mastermind behind “Green Grand Rapids,” a redesign of the city’s master plan. She and her husband, Scott, own the Cherry Deli in East Hills and the new 4th Street Deli on the West Side of Grand Rapids. includes the ages in the focus group, wish to live in an urban environment. At the same time, 75 percent of retired baby boomers don’t want to resign themselves to living in an “old folks” home as they age; yet they wish to abandon mowing their sprawling lawns. What these groups want and what

MONDAY

it means for cities is important. Quality of life and place-making is no longer viewed as being a warmand-fuzzy topic, but rather a key economic growth strategy. Urban living is rapidly gaining traction because it is viewed as greener, cheaper and healthier. In mixed-use neighborhoods, the need to drive everywhere for everything is greatly reduced and the trips are shorter. Not only is reducing the number of trips by car more environmentally friendly by reducing greenhouse gases and oil dependence, it also can make a significant difference to the pocketbook in fuel and ownership costs. Recent studies from the Centers for Disease Control have linked the physical form of a community to lower health costs, better mental health and reduced obesity rates. What does a great place look like? Over the past decade, nearly 5,000 Grand Rapidians have provided input through various planning efforts to create a vision for the largest city in the region. These residents describe walkable and transit-friendly mixed-use neighborhoods, bike lanes and trails, street trees, quality parks, an urban

TUESDAY

market, attractive development in character with its surroundings and, yes, even a kayak course. Efforts to create Grand Rapids as a vibrant urban center have resulted in changes to public policy and local ordinances, new projects and partnerships. Business leaders advanced the development of the arena, convention center and MSU medical school. Investment in the arts has encompassed new or improved facilities for the ballet, opera, art museum, UICA and Civic Theatre. And there’s ArtPrize. The Downtown Development Authority has made sizable investments in infrastructure and improvements to the Grand River’s edges. Enthusiastic, locally owned businesses are popping up in storefronts to revitalize once-tired districts. There is more work to be done. Being competitive in the New Economy means West Michigan is competing in the global market of places. Knowledge workers choose where they want to live before they find or create a job. We want to keep our college graduates, retain our design community, and attract more

NEXT SUNDAY

 Social media clinched the deal for a young Southern Californian who recently moved to Grand Rapids.

individuals in health care and medical sciences. New nonprofit organizations, such as Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Grand Rapids White Water and the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition are working to improve parks, build a whitewater course and make the region more bicyclefriendly. The Rapid has plans to create a Bus Rapid Transit line. West Michigan Environmental Action Council is planting street trees. Grand Action hopes to build a true downtown urban market, and the Downtown Development Authority is examining ways to enhance recreation opportunities on the Grand River. In the focus group of collegebound students, few thought that they would be returning to West Michigan. It is incumbent upon all of us to laud the good work that is being done and make a concerted effort to support the building of great places if we are to change their minds. Our collective future depends upon it. E-mail: sschulz@ci.grand-rapids.mi.us

ABOUT THIS SERIES

JANUARY: What will it take to get Michigan working again? FEBRUARY: Is it time to pay the toll for roads? MARCH: Is selling natural resources a solution?

 Press readers share their ideas for the Grand Rapids area.

APRIL: Tax changes could eliminate the deficit, but at what cost? MAY: Is it time to take some communities off the map? JUNE: Can we ever be cool? A look at stopping “brain drain.” JULY: Do tax incentives bring new jobs?

PRESS PHOTO/T.J. HAMILTON

 A closer look at one of the coolest parts of Grand Rapids, and why it stands out.  The state’s “cool cities” initiative. Did it do any good?  ArtPrize: In some ways, it introduced us to the world.  Guest columns by filmmaker Hopwood DePree and urban event organizer Rob Bliss.

Hopwood DePree

AUGUST: Does Michigan really need 553 school districts?

Kevin Buist

 LIVE CHAT: At 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, join the conversation online at mlive.com/mi10. Participants include Hopwood DePree, cofounder of the Waterfront Film Festival and appointee to the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council, and Kevin Buist, director of artist relations for ArtPrize and co-founder of a Facebook group called Michigan by Choice.

 For sheer people-drawing power, nothing competes with big-time professional sports. What are Grand Rapids’ chances of drawing a franchise?  How does the area stack up for the recreational sports favored by the coveted millennial age group?

SEPTEMBER Are labor unions the problem? OCTOBER Time to tear up the state constitution?

MISS AN INSTALLMENT? Go to mlive.com/mi10


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SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2010

THE GRAND RAPIDS PRESS

IMAGE

Upstairs downtown: George Bosnjak and his wife, Jill, dine on the deck at The B.O.B., one of the places they often hang out. As business development manager for The Right Place, George Bosnjak says the city exceeds the expectations of visitors.

GR NEEDS TO LEARN ‘TO BRAG A LITTLE BIT’ CONTINUED FROM A10

Perhaps no millennial gets to see reaction to this turnaround more often than George Bosnjak, 28, business development manager for The Right Place, a regional nonprofit economic development corporation. As part of his job, Bosnjak regularly brings out-ofstate visitors and potential employers here. “It exceeds expectations of people from outside the region 100 percent of the time,” says Bosnjak, who earned a master’s degree in public administration from GVSU in 2007. “We’re a lot bigger city than we’ve made ourselves out to be. People are impressed by downtown and the vibrancy of it ... and by the types of companies with a global reach.” Yet the perception of Grand Rapids as “a standard Midwest small town” in an economically challenged state remains tough to shake nationally. That’s true even as advocates hail ArtPrize, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, the Grand Rapids Symphony and Grand Rapids Ballet Co., the resurgent downtown district and the city’s proximity to recreational meccas on Lake Michigan. That means the city has to learn “to brag a little bit” more, Bosnjak concedes. Glazer says Grand Rapids’ burgeoning health care facilities on the “Medical Mile,” with the Van Andel Institute and Michigan State

University’s new $90 million medical school, are “particularly good signs,” especially if the institutions “get actively engaged in high-density neighborhoods” around them. Indeed, 56 percent of Van Andel Institute’s staff — including summer interns — are younger than 40, with 127 of them between the allimportant ages of 22 and 35. All of that health care synergy “helps a lot in being able to attract (young) people to the area. It’s going to be a magnet for a long time,” predicts Elly Park, 31, a post-doctoral fellow at Van Andel Institute who moved here from New Orleans to do prostate cancer research. Granted, she says, Grand Rapids doesn’t boast the bustling singles scene or musical entertainment options found in New Orleans, but it’s also “not your typical Midwestern town” either.

Lagging in grads Still, Detroit and Grand Rapids lag well behind Washington, Denver and Minneapolis in their share of college-educated adults. Those 25 and older with at least a bachelor’s degree make up less than 24 percent of Detroit and Grand Rapids’ metro population compared with 37 percent in Washington, 35 percent in Denver and 33 percent in Minneapolis, according to Michigan Future’s 2006 report, “A New Agenda for a New Michigan.” Young entrepreneur Daniel Estrada, president of D.C. Estrada, a Grand Rapidsbased legal technology consulting firm, says to draw more inventive business minds, West Michigan must embrace change. “I think Grand Rapids is too risk-averse and too much against change, and those things make a young professional starting a new

Why I stayed: Brian Burch

and it defines who we are.”

Age: 32 Hometown: Rockford Current residence: Holland Education: 1 year at Aquinas College, 3.5 at Western Michigan University (bachelor’s degree in business administration) Current occupation: Senior Associate at Lambert, Edwards & Associates Inc., Holland City Council member

Why still in Michigan: After graduation, Burch moved to Chicago for four years, PRESS PHOTO eventually working for the city /T.J. HAMILTON of Chicago. Burch’s intention was always to live in a big career feel like an outsider,” city and then return to West he says. Michigan with skills to enhance On the flip side, Estrada, the area. Also, there was family: who has also worked in New York and Texas, says the city’s “My wife didn’t want to live in a big city,” Burch said. “Grand relatively low cost of living, Rapids is one of my favorite low cost of doing business cities in the entire world. and overall quality of life It just is. It’s an amazingly must be celebrated. growing community. It has a “Grand Rapids is a cosmopolitan flair, but it’s not tremendously connected defined by any single brand. ... community,” he says. “There There’s almost a blank slate to are a lot of people working who want to see us succeed.” work on as young people.” That kind of coordinated grass-roots effort in Grand Rapids and other forwardthinking Michigan cities will be needed as they target and attempt to energize the class of 2010 and beyond. “This used to be a place that would be labeled Bland Rapids. Now, there is never a shortage of things to do,” Jendrasiak says. “It’s the city’s renaissance period. It’s phenomenal to watch what’s going to happen. This city has had a lot of false starts, and now it’s in a real period of liftoff.” E-mail jsinkevics@grpress.com

Best thing about city where now living: Burch likes the “big ideas,” like bringing a working windmill from the Netherlands to Holland and starting a voter-based art competition like ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. “I think the region gets kind of a reputation for being outwardly conservative. But beneath that surface, people still are willing to try something new and things that will make their community better.” He also likes the quirkiness: “I love that every year, the city officials and the state officials come together and dance in wooden shoes. It’s weird, and it’s fun,

What would make it better for 20- and 30-somethings: In addition to creating a regional public transportation system, Burch wants to see more “big ideas” like ArtPrize. “What always defines the big cities is they were able to be so bold with their programs. And it’s not government programs. It’s the programs that people are instituting. ... Big cities do things big. We can also do those big things, big ideas.”

Why I’m leaving: Nhu Vien Nguyen Age: 26 Hometown: Grand Rapids Current residence: Kentwood Education: Bachelor of arts in history, Michigan State University Current occupation: Customer service associate at Foremost Insurance Company Why she’s still in Michigan: Saving up money to leave. Best thing about where she lives: My family is still here. What would make it better for 20- and 30-somethings? “To attempt to replicate what Chicago already has. I’m looking to relocate to Chicago and one of the main attractions for me is that the city seems to be up later at night, and I have more options as to what I can do in my free time. ... Chicago can offer multiple professional sports teams. ... The public transportation in Chicago is also much more convenient ... with larger concentrations of shopping areas/entertainment areas with a kind of ‘wander around’ vibe to it.”

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0620-Mi10-CoolCities  

The Press invited some top local high school students from the Class of 2010 to discuss what they look for in a cool city. For more about th...