Climate change has influenced consumer preferences, business models and potentially most important, where people are choosing or being forced to live. With rising sea levels in the South, droughts and wildfires in the West, and hurricanes and flooding in the East, the upper Midwest is poised to be a hot spot for people relocating due to climate crises across the nation.
An average 24 million people have already been displaced by catastrophic weather since 2008 and an expected 13 million Americans will be displaced by 2100 from rising seas alone. Cities like Grand Rapids, with one of the fastest-growing economies in the U.S., are here to welcome climate migrants needing to relocate or those looking to avoid the stress of uncontrolled threats.
Grand Rapids, with a small-town vibe, but all the amenities of a big city, is ready to capitalize on this trend and what is looking like a strategic advantage for the region. Even with a hot housing market, prices remain 12% lower than the national average.
Grand Rapids also is being proactive in its impact on the environment. The city’s 2020 strategic plan includes benchmark goals for reducing carbon emissions, minimizing waste, protecting water sources and, ultimately, increasing climate resiliency.
West Michigan has even seen business growth from the increased benefits of choosing a location with a lower risk of natural disasters and the impact of climate change. For example, a key reason Switch invested millions into a new data center here, one of the largest in the country, was due to the reduced risk of earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.
The global pandemic has tested communities across the nation, but Grand Rapids has shown itself to be resilient. It is a city with the opportunity to grow and open arms for newcomers.