Newsweek published something on America's Dying Cities last week using the most recent census data on population loss to examine those cities with the most total population loss and loss of those younger than age 18.
On this list is Grand Rapids, which happened to upset a bunch of people, prompted the mayor to write a response, and created a mini-firestorm on my Facebook homepage... I get it. Being from the Grand Rapids area helps me understand those angry people and the fault of Newsweek. By simply using the census data, they only see a total population loss over a ten year period, but they fail to notice the low point was four years ago and the city is now rebounding.
Pittsburgh is on the list too in a similar situation, and I think what is written for it gives better insight that could be used for GR than the general stuff about Michigan that was actually given. Since the populations have gone down, especially in the younger age groups, these cities will have a harder time moving forward than others like San Francisco or Portland that are attractive simply by existing...
I really like that Grand Rapids and Mayor Heartwell stepped up and pointed out Newsweek's flaws and the strengths of the city. It needs to be done. Negative media portrayal leads to situations like Detroit's where the good gets totally overshadowed by the bad.
However, we shouldn't just say Newsweek got it totally wrong and stop there. We did lose population, and we have not gotten back to where we were before. In terms of income on the metro level (suburbs included) taking a class in economic development last semester informed me the median income in Metro Grand Rapids is lower than the median for Metro Detroit. Yes. Worse than Detroit.
Obviously, Detroit is skewed upward by Oakland County, but Grand Rapids is probably affected in a similar way by EGR, Ada, etc. Plus, we should also look at the low end of the spectrum where Detroit probably (extrapolating from its larger population) has a higher number of individuals and families with lower incomes. Therefore, some kind of balance may be expected between the two. In total dollars and wages for employees, our region is not anywhere near the economic power we may think.
ArtPrize, "green" building, and sustainability are great (I love them all), but they are just a start. Success includes so much more than that. In some ways we may be "thriving," but the opposite still exists too, and we need to continue working hard on making Grand Rapids the best city it can be.