We Grand Rapidians have many things to be thankful for in regards to our hometown. Here are a few that come to mind:
Unlike so many Midwest cities, Grand Rapids is not dying, but blooming. The downtown looks better than it ever has and there are so many more things to see and do in Kent County.
A lower unemployment rate than the rest of Michigan , and, at 6.4%, lower than last year. Full-time, well paid positions with benefits are still pretty scarce, but jobs are out there, at least.
Many of those jobs come from our agricultural sector, which has grown 8% since the start of the Great Recession. Michigan is second only to California in the diversity of crops grown here. We owe much of that to our location and the abundance of water in the state. The Great Lakes also provide a buffer from the harsher weather other northern states experience. Michigan's more temperate climate allows for cultivation of many fruit trees and bushes that produce an abundance of table wealth for us to enjoy and profit from. Good, rich soil also helps.
All of that abundance is made available in the state's 200 or so farmers markets. Pure Michigan brings up 41 farmers markets just within 20 miles of Grand Rapids. That's a lot of fresh, often organically grown or sustainably raised food to sample. And our growing food scene reflects it! Cooking a diverse range of great, healthy food made with healthy ingredients has never been easier. No food deserts here.
We are sheltered from much of Nature's fury by our location as well. Last week, the Midwest and particularly Illinois experienced devastating tornadoes which resulted in 8 deaths, huge amounts of property and environmental damage. People in Peoria will be clearing rubble and trimming damaged trees for a long time to come. While we occasionally see tornadoes in West Michigan, we are spared most of them and the most ferocious of them. We also don't have earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, tsunamis, long term drought, or out of control wildfires. We don't even have to deal with poisonous snakes or insects. If you can handle a long, gray winter, that's about the extent of our weather horrors. We can be grateful for that.
Finally, Grand Rapids has a history of philanthropy and volunteerism. Grand Rapids residents volunteer at a rate of 37.6%, significantly over the national average, and the city is Michigan's most generous. We all benefit from the giving nature of Grand Rapids's citizens, in large and small ways.
Not everyone loves Grand Rapids, but many of us are thankful to live here. Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers!