Newsweek published an article on the top 10 dying cities in the U.S. Three Michigan cities made the list. Unsurprisingly, two of them were Flint and Detroit. Considerably less unsurprising was the inclusion of Grand Rapids. Their criteria seem to have been population decline in the last decade and decline in the age of residents under the age of 18. Seems reasonable for pinpointing which cities are in overall decline, but…Grand Rapids?
You probably don’t know Grand Rapids any better than I know most of the other cities on the list, but in Michigan Grand Rapids has the reputation of the only economically growing city. While the state unemployment rate has been in double digits for some time now, with Detroit’s official rate being over 25% (and the real rate probably close to 50%) and Flint’s around 20%, Grand Rapids was hovering around 9%; high, but not at chronic depression levels. Grand Rapids is home to a booming medical industry and the brilliant ArtPrize. More directly indicative of Grand Rapids’ trend, its population decline over the past decade began to reverse in the last several years, while the population for its home county grew almost 5% in the past decade, not sunbelt type growth, but not exactly evidence the place is dying.
Grand Rapids is a beautiful city (it’s only noticeable downside being that it’s dominated by conservative Dutch Calvinists). And their response to Newsweek is beautiful, too, an almost 10 minute long music video featuring 5,000 people that takes you through downtown Grand Rapids, across the river, and up into a helicopter without a single cut, a brilliant achievement (oh, yeah, Grand Rapids has also become an important regional player in the film industry).