Home Sweet Home: Why Grand Rapids a Surprising Top Choice for Your HQ
Author: Birgit Klohs
The experience of a small business owner has shifted throughout the years, and even more so for BIPOC. The numbers are staggering:
- As of 2022, there are approximately 32.5 million small businesses.
- Of these, roughly 3.12 million are Black-owned businesses, generating $206 billion in annual revenue.
- Approximately 4.65 million small businesses are Hispanic-owned, generating about $700+ billion in annual revenue.
- Approximately 2.2 million small businesses are owned by people in the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community, generating $700 billion in annual revenue.
- There are about 300,000 Native American-owned small businesses, generating around $50 billion of revenue a year.
With such a substantial market share yet, weak representation, finding a home for your business as a BIPOC business owner (or anyone, for that matter) can seem like a tall order. Factors such as target audience location, industry growth, cost of doing business; cost of living, available talent, culture, all play a role in this life-altering decision. It can be risky. So how do you mitigate that risk.
On the west side of Michigan, just 35 minutes from Lake Michigan, between Detroit and Chicago, you find Grand Rapids, the 16th best city to live in the United States. But why has this Midwest City become so desirable?
Grand Rapids was first introduced as the Furniture City in 1876. Since then, it has extended the business profile with technical expertise and innovation. Greater Grand Rapids is now known to have a tremendous supply chain for many businesses by diversifying beyond the furniture industry to advanced manufacturing (2500+ manufactures), health and life sciences (6% growth rate1), food processing and agriculture (18.2% growth rate1), and information technology (26.6% growth rate). More than 130 international companies are located here, as well as four of Forbes Largest Private Companies. For all companies in Greater Grand Rapids, it offers an abundant of talent with more than 20 colleges and universities.
Kent County’s population has increased a whopping 9.2 percent from 2010 to 2020, which for Grand Rapids is 55,000 people. This includes diversity with over 100 languages spoken1 and multiple ethnic backgrounds. While the rest of Michigan cities are dropping in population, Grand Rapids’ population continues to increase yearly. If you are searching for an urban environment to call home, look no further than Michigan’s second-largest city. And if the bright lights aren’t your thing, you’re in luck - our suburbs are growing at unprecedented rates, some as much as 28 percent in the past 10 years.2 As people flood into Grand Rapids, the demand and anticipation of new creative businesses are high.
Low living cost
Grand Rapids ranks 11th on the cheapest place to live in the country - something anyone in tune with the housing market should consider2. Obtaining real estate for businesses is significantly less daunting than in other cities for housing and office space.
U.S. News & World Report cites Grand Rapids’s air of “small-town warmth” and “special culture.”2 As a city with four seasons and a bustling downtown, there is no shortage of activities in a place like Grand Rapids. Named “Beer City USA” by a nationwide poll and “Best Beer City” in 2021 & 2022 by USA Today, Grand Rapids is the perfect place to live if you enjoy supporting local breweries (or their delicious cuisine).
Alongside award-winning brewpubs comes Art Prize, Grand Rapids’ international art competition hosted by various local venues, bringing in thousands of artists since its inception in 2009. For organizations focused on the arts, this event creates the perfect opportunity. In addition, Grand Rapids has many museums, a Grammy winning symphony orchestra, the only ballet company in Michigan, as well as Broadway theater and opera.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, this is your region. It is only 40 minutes from the world’s second largest lake, Lake Michigan, providing water sports of all kinds. This region offers several miles of trails for the hiker or biker, many waters for world class fly fishing and so much more.
NCTF Venture Capital Benefits on top of Grand Rapids Benefits
As an organization focused on the growth of our community, we can attest to the expansion of our city and the potential it holds for business owners. New Community Transformation Fund invests in multiple industries including healthcare, information technology, and advanced manufacturing industries, which have seen a sizable increase in opportunity in the last ten years. U.S. News & World Report describes the healthcare sector as “booming” in the region.2 This region has built support organizations, like The Right Place and HelloWestMichigan, to help you grow your business here. This support, coupled with the West Michigan culture, people are sticking around.
Grand Rapids may not have been on your radar to move your business, but with the growing market, low living cost, culture, and help from NCTF, it is a city worth your consideration.
For entrepreneurs interested in applying, visit our website at: https://bit.ly/3Ve8IKP
1 West Michigan Overview from The Right Place