Everybody loves a list.
Over the past several days, grbj.com has reported on West Michigan cities appearing on several complimentary lists for business and lifestyle.
There was the list of the top cities to start a small business (Holland); the happiest cities in the state (East Grand Rapids); the best small airports in the country (Gerald R. Ford International); and the most charming small cities in America (Grand Rapids).
And that was all in the last two weeks.
West Michigan also has found itself on lists ranging from best beaches to best housing markets to best places to visit this year. For the most part, however, these lists are geared toward people who don’t live here. They are useful marketing tools for the real estate industry, travel and tourism officials, and various local municipalities.
In his Guest Column in today’s paper, Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future Inc., rallies support for attraction and retention of young college graduates and their importance to strengthening and sustaining the local economy. These lists will surely help in that endeavor.
West Michigan towns, attractions and industries have a right to be proud when appearing on these lists. But for those of us who live and work here, the lists don’t carry too much weight. We already know the region is a great place to run a business, raise a family and buy a home that will maintain its value without costing an arm and a leg on the front end.
Here’s a more pertinent question: Why does West Michigan make so many favorable lists?
The short answer is the people who make up West Michigan.
To become a great place to work, live and play, there needs to be an inner drive among the people of the region.
People like Ben Price, who took a chance and started an in-home cooking business, OGO Initiative, to teach clients about nutrition while having fun.
People like Bruce Thompson, president of Urbaneer, who saw a need for smaller, more affordable homes in the city and is making that concept a reality in Heritage Hill.
People like Danielle Montag, a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, who pushed for better care — and aftercare — for veterans with health problems coming to Spectrum Health.
People like Theresa Weatherall Neal, superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools, whose vision for the once-downtrodden district makes it one of the best turnaround stories in the state.
These are people — all featured in today’s edition — who are making a difference in their hometowns. These people are why West Michigan shows up on these lists.
What’s on your personal list?