This guest post was authored by David Green, Communications Director for the City of Grand Rapids.
There are a couple of obvious reasons people move. School, work, family, and quality of life generally top most people’s list for relocating and my wife and I could generally be described as “most people” – even if our background is a bit unique.
As a couple of kids from Illinois who both joined the military straight out of high school, we’ve lived all over the globe and in a half-dozen cities right here in the United States. We’ve spent considerable time in places like Washington D.C., Baltimore, Seoul, South Korea and Naples, Italy. We’re no strangers to all the world has to offer and when I retired from the Army after a 20-year career, I was lucky enough to land a stable and good paying job as the Media Relations Manager with one of the hottest brands in the country – centered in the City of Austin, Texas.
Now, everything you’ve heard about Austin is true. They have great BBQ, a youthful and creative spirit, a booming economy, a vibrant social scene, and more live music each year than you could hope to consume in a lifetime. Over the last 20 years, Austin has become synonymous with the word “boomtown” and it’s easy to get lost in the hype.
So, I got lots of quizzical looks when I told people I was leaving Austin for Grand Rapids, Mich. As it turns out the two cities aren’t all that different except for all the ways that mattered most to me and my wife. For us, it boiled down to three big factors – opportunity, quality of life, and family.
Grand Rapids was already on my radar thanks to a couple of colleagues from Austin that made their way here over the course of the last three years. After working in the same position for about five years, I felt I was ready to move up in my career and had already started looking for “the next big thing.” I was in the process of interviewing in two other cities elsewhere in the country when I got a call telling me an opportunity had opened up here and encouraging me to apply. When the dust settled, I was named the new Communications Director for the City of Grand Rapids.
Over the course of the interview process, I learned that much of what I enjoyed about Austin was available in Grand Rapids. I like being outdoors and being active, but also winding down with an adult beverage after a day on my bicycle or hiking. Obviously, I was immediately attracted to a place nicknamed “Beer City” and whose Latin motto translates to “strength in activity.” Meanwhile, my wife – who has worked as a chef for the last few years – loves food and trying creative restaurants. Grand Rapids covers all those bases nicely, with one significant difference…it’s all accessible here in a way that simply wasn’t the case in a metro area of 2.5 million people. Now, we can not only afford a night out but can actually manage to get a table and don’t spend half the evening in a car trying to get there in the first place.
In fact, between the demands of our jobs and the crazy traffic, we didn’t always have time to enjoy the fruits of our labor. We barely had time to spend with each other and our two dogs – a rescued Cockapoo named Buddy and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi we call Chief – let alone pop out for a quick bite to eat. We also wanted to be closer to my wife’s family who all live about an hour outside of Chicago. We’ve reached that point in our lives where money and success aren’t nearly as important as family and free time.
Luckily for me, that’s not a tradeoff I had to make. In Grand Rapids, I’ve found a place where I have a satisfying career and quality of life that affords me the time to enjoy the things that are truly important. I’ve been all around the world. I’ve lived in incredible places and seen amazing things. But, as the old saying goes, not all that glitters is gold, and while I’ve never lived in Michigan before, it sure feels like I’m home.
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