Partners launch ‘Grand Rapids X GRAM’ video series

Producers plug Grand Rapids as a premier place to live for prospective residents.
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Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing employees sport “peace, love and vaccine” shirts to promote the company’s work producing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. Courtesy Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing

(As seen on WZZM 13 TV) A new talent attraction video series will show off Grand Rapids as a place that has it all.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing to produce a six-month video series, Grand Rapids X GRAM, which will feature local leaders and residents talking about all the job opportunities, industries and lifestyle attractions the region has to offer. The series is part of the chamber’s Opportunity Awaits program in partnership with Hello West Michigan and Experience Grand Rapids.

The trailer was released last month on YouTube at bit.ly/GrandRapidsXGRAM, and the first video installment went live last week. The series will feature guests such as U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer, R-Michigan, and Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, as well as provide tours of Medical Mile innovators and West Michigan destinations.

Andy Johnston, vice president of government and corporate affairs at the Grand Rapids Chamber, and Chelsea Keeton, marketing manager at Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing, recently spoke to the Business Journal about the partnership.

Keeton said from GRAM’s perspective, the video series is about continuing to attract quality talent to Grand Rapids by celebrating the booming life sciences industry in Grand Rapids and West Michigan, as well as the many other benefits of living here.

She said after moving from the east side of the state and joining GRAM just under two years ago, she was surprised by how many local people were ignorant of the company and its mission to make lifesaving, injectable drug products. At the same time, people she spoke to at trade shows knew very little about Grand Rapids and had all sorts of questions. She began doing presentations on why GRAM chose Grand Rapids and is staying here rather than relocating to the East Coast or West Coast, which have larger biotech clusters.

Keeton felt there was a better way to showcase the region and its life sciences industry than one-off conversations, so when she found out about the Opportunity Awaits initiative, she felt it was the perfect fit.

“It’s just so cool that we can collaborate with the chamber to connect ourselves with more local businesses and more local people and just get our name out there more and work together,” she said. “We’ve done a lot with the city of Grand Rapids and different organizations within Grand Rapids, but this is a new take on it that we’re really excited about … especially since we’re manufacturing the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, and people don’t understand that that’s happening in Grand Rapids, in their hometown.” 

Keeton said GRAM is hoping to show clients across the U.S. and Europe “what Grand Rapids is made of” and the factors that led to GRAM landing on the Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest-growing businesses for four of the 11 years it has existed, which could lead to new business development opportunities.

She said GRAM also wouldn’t mind persuading talented individuals to consider the company for their next career move. GRAM has hired about 125 people in the past year and currently has about 75 openings in quality assurance, manufacturing, management and more. While she said the company has done quite well sourcing talent from within Grand Rapids so far due to the plethora of universities and research institutions here, she thinks the video series will do a good job of educating professionals from outside the region that GRAM is not an island; it’s part of a burgeoning health and life sciences scene, with many different opportunities.

Johnston said the Opportunity Awaits project was born during the pandemic as the chamber watched the “Zoom Town” trend of people moving out of high-density, high-cost urban areas to smaller communities with more natural resources.

“If you can work from anywhere, why not in beautiful West Michigan? We’re that mid-sized city that has the urban amenities that we all want, but also enough room to be outside and alive and still have great affordability and value,” he said. “We thought … this was an opportunity to get our existing business community and those living here in West Michigan to own this message and reach out to people who may have left for the East or West coasts or another city to say, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity to come back home.’”

While the housing market here is still “incredibly hot” and Grand Rapids has many problems just like any other city, Johnston said the region is collaboratively working to address those issues.

He said the Grand Rapids X GRAM video series will provide compelling visual content that people can share with nonresident friends and family to convince them to come to Michigan and be part of the vibrancy and economic growth here.

“No matter what industries they may work in, we think there’s a place for them in West Michigan,” Johnston said. “We want to share those stories of others that have made the move.”

He pointed to examples like the city’s new director of communications, David Green, an Austin, Texas, resident who chose West Michigan not just for his new job, but because he and his wife were eager to live here. Additionally, Katie Doyen is the chamber’s new government affairs coordinator who moved home to Michigan after living in Denver for two years. Originally from the east side of the state, she had vacationed in Grand Rapids before, but then her career took her to Colorado. While she loved the Rocky Mountains, ultimately the community, culture, “fantastic Midwest vibes” and beauty of the lakeshore pulled her to West Michigan, as she said in an Opportunity Awaits blog post.

Johnston said stories like these are popping up all the time.

“I think we found out if you’re going to ride out the apocalypse, this isn’t the worst place to do it,” he said. “The pandemic has caused folks to reevaluate what’s important, what they’re grateful for, what assets we have or maybe that we need, and I think this campaign really was born out of that and the opportunity we see to leverage how we’re going to be positioned really well for success.”

More about the Opportunity Awaits initiative is at opportunityawaitswm.com, and the Grand Rapids X GRAM video series will be available to view at grandriverasepticmfg.com/grandrapidsxgram.

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