5 reasons to stay in Grand Rapids


This past summer, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation recently hosted another “knotty” discussion as part of its Knotty Cocktails event series. Designed to encourage transparent dialogue about an issue the foundation has taken a stance on, guests for the evening were presented with two questions:

1. How can Grand Rapids attract and retain young talent?

2. What role does diversity and inclusion play in our ideal model of community?

As a law firm representing clients in nearly every sector of the economy, we recognize that diversity is both a strength and an asset that advances our rich and dynamic environment where individuals are respected for their uniqueness. That being said, we naturally got to thinking about the reasons we choose Grand Rapids every day. (Beer, food and more beer topped the list, of course). However, the spirit of our great city extends beyond the libations it is most commonly affiliated with. West Michigan is a lifestyle, and we’re pretty smitten with the mitten.

In case you’ve found yourself searching for a few reasons to stick around lately, we’ve decided to share our Top Five with you in the weeks to come.

1. Equal parts work and play

For many, maintaining healthy amounts of work and play is an impossible feat – one late night turns into a weekly routine and, before you know it, years have passed by with very few memories outside office walls. To ensure a work/life balance is attainable, many West Michigan companies are finding ways to keep every member of their team happy and healthy.

2. Happy living (sans sticker shock)

Grand Rapids has all the perks of a large city, without the outrageous price tag. Affordable housing in some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods and unique transportation options allow you to stay green while saving some green.

3. A little bit of everything for everyone

Here in GRMI, we’ve got a little bit of everything. From public museums, parks and ArtPrize, to food, music and our beloved BeerCity, U.S.A. title, every person can find something to pique their interest and make life a little sweeter.

4. Every business counts

Grand Rapids has come a long way in the last decade. The city continues to excel economically, giving rise to an entrepreneurial spirit fueled by the desire to turn a simple, unique idea into a successful business venture. As a community, we are doing our part to help them succeed — monetarily and otherwise.

5. A philanthropic community of philanthropists

Grand Rapids is populated by givers — from the largest corporations to the single individual. Where there is a cause that requires support, leading local companies do not hesitate to lend a helping hand. Winston Churchill summed it up best: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Diversity is essential to bring about change in our organizations and the greater Grand Rapids community. To continue growing upward and advancing forward, we must embrace men and women from different nations, cultures, ethnic groups, generations, backgrounds, skills, abilities and all other unique differences that make each of us who we are. True diversity is a journey, not a destination.

How can you maintain a healthy balance?

But maintaining that balance for work and play is difficult for many, because working longer and harder typically reaps professional reward — a raise, promotion or bonus, to name a few — so the benefits of “switching off” are cashed in less and less. 

According to a survey conducted by the National Life Insurance Company, four out of 10 U.S. employees state their job is very or extremely stressful. Those in high-stress jobs are twice as likely to quit and three times more likely to suffer from stress-related medical conditions than others. The study also states that women, in particular, report stress surrounding the conflict between work and family. Work-life balance is characterized by appropriate prioritization between work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).

Set short, realistic goals

Every week (we suggest Sunday evening or early Monday morning), take a moment to meditate on what you want to accomplish for the week. Short-term goal setting will help you maintain a positive perspective and aid in time management. During the week, revisit your list to see how your progression is. By working at your goals a little each day, you will not feel overwhelmed or behind at the end of the week. Make sure the goals you set for yourself are realistic without putting too much pressure on yourself.

Make time

Grand Rapids has the most vibrant downtown scene in Michigan (okay, we may be a little biased), meaning there is always something fun to do. As a weekly goal, find one thing to do each week that interests you and do it. No excuses or cancellations. Just as you outline time for work, so too should you set aside personal time to kick back, relax and just “be.” Setting time aside each week for something you enjoy doing is imperative for keeping stress levels low and work productivity high. Not sure what’s going on in Grand Rapids? Multiple websites by the media and others, including Downtown Grand Rapids, keep a rolling list of what is happening in and around the city including event cost, location, date(s), time(s) and links to purchase tickets if needed.

Take advantage of perks

Many local employers, particularly large companies, offer a wide variety of perks included in your employment package. We strongly encourage you to learn what is available to you, be it a corporate gym membership (exercise is very important for a healthy body and mind), shortened workweeks during the summer months or casual Fridays. When done weekly and in conjunction with one another, employment perks can help break up the monotony of the day. Opportunities to boost morale do not end at what is offered to you — propose a monthly office potluck or organize a group fitness class during your lunch hour.

In all that you do, remember to take advantage of presented opportunities that will help you work better, live smarter and find your balance.

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Thomas Aycock is a defense lawyer at Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge in Grand Rapids, with extensive experience defending clients before judges and juries around the country. He represents clients in the areas of corporate insurance litigation, insurance coverage defense, business litigation, professional liability and personal civil litigation. Tom currently serves on the firm’s Associate Development Committee, Diversity Committee, Hiring Committee and Intern/Extern Committee. He is very active in his community with Ducks Unlimited, Caledonia/Gaines Rotary Club, American Legion Post 311 and the Calendonia Sportsman's Club. Tom joined the firm after relocating to Michigan following Hurricane Katrina. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, their daughter and Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Star.