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RapidChat: Casey DuBois

Ever since the launch of GR Makers in 2013, Casey DuBois has been carving a path for GR's innovation community. As a self-proclaimed "connector," he emphasizes to his peers that want to built upon their skill set, "you may not be able to develop the skills yourself, but you can connect with people who can help you with it."

UIX Lean

UIX: Local champions are leaning into city building

Led by skilled and informed "Champions," Lean initiatives in Grand Rapids promote designs that foster process improvement through feedback, and empowering those working on a project with its reformation.

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Defining South Division: Development without displacement

With a community-led project, residents, stakeholders, organizers and leaders of the South Division Corridor are initiating efforts to create an Area Specific Plan that prioritizes the longtime community members of the area. 

Angelica Velazquez

Definiendo South Division: Desarrollo sin desplazamiento

Con un proyecto dirigido por la comunidad: los residentes, los organizadores y los líderes del Corredor de South Division están iniciando esfuerzos para crear un Plan de Área Específico enfocado en las necesidades de los miembros de la comunidad. 

OTG Muskegon Culinary Institute students

What is behind the resurgence of Muskegon? Look to its growing support for entrepreneurs.

Whether you're talking about a more equitable and inclusive downtown or the city's ever-growing number of shops and restaurants, entrepreneurs are the major players inspiring change in an evolving Muskegon.

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Rethinking sustainability: A greener Grand Rapids starts from the ground up

As environmental calamity looms ever closer in the future, building green is one way the City, local businesses, and nonprofits can work to help turn the tide.

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Neighborhoods of GR: Heritage Hill houses the caretakers of history

While some of the homes might predate the Civil War, inside them exists a young, thriving community. Heritage Hill is more than a neighborhood. It’s a symbol of our hometown pride.

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Science education: It's not just for kids at the Michigan Science Center

STEM jobs are being touted as critically important in the U.S., which is one reason why the Michigan Science Center offers programs targeted at audiences of all ages.

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SPECIAL REPORT: Taking the 'high road' for green stormwater infrastructure

Green stormwater infrastructure is one of the most important tools we have for cleaning the Great Lakes. But paying for and managing it with public assets alone is daunting. Here's how leveraging private sector resources for green infrastructure can achieve multiple public goals.

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From lemonade stand to CEO: Six GR business leaders recount how they paid their dues

Few of us forget our first job—or, at least, the most unpleasant job we’ve had to perform. A few of Grand Rapids' successful business leaders recall their first jobs and the dues they paid to get where they are today.

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Tell us your story: WKTV seeks local oral histories

VOICES: WKTV’s community history project records hardships and successes, joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, all of which reveal what has shaped locals and their families into the kind of people they are today.

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Rapid Blog: The Answer to #MeToo is Education

Registered nurse, published author, and educator Wendy L. Sellers addresses healthy relationships, consent, and communication in her perspective on #Metoo in this week's Rapid Blog.

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Fyah! Fyah! Fyah! How Tacitus Bailey-Yabani is bridging worlds and bringing Ghana to Muskegon

After going from living on the streets to becoming a famous photographer in his home country of Ghana, Tacitus Bailey-Yabani moved to Muskegon in 2014. Now, the owner of the Abeshi shop in the downtown Western Market has set his sights on changing the world by connecting people, breaking down barriers, and building communities through his art, his food, and his uplifting energy.

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Grandville Avenue: A neighborhood confronted with a history of redlining and segregation

Neighborhoods in the city of Grand Rapids are reflective of the way income inequity and housing segregation exist in the city. Ezequiel Ramirez, a 37 year-old resident of Grandville avenue, shares the ways folks in the community are challenging these barriers. 

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RapidChat: Nanette Nunu

Nanette Nunu is not only a young African American professional, but a natural hair enthusiast. When she's not working her nine-to-five job, you will find her in front of her video camera providing beauty tips and tricks for her "Curlfriends" and subtly providing insight to her life in a city where she admits "I find myself counting, on one hand usually, the number of people of color in any environment I find myself in."

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Neighborhoods of GR: East Hills celebrates activism while tackling gentrification

In the charming, walkable, tree-lined streets of East Hills, one might think the hip restaurants or chic boutiques are the neighborhood's draw—but there is much more humming beneath the surface.

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Speak to the head and the heart: Creating connections through your pitch

Small business owners may feel like pitches and pitch competitions are high-pressure, fast-paced events, only focused on new business ideas. Local entrepreneurs prove that pitch competitions actually provide individuals with funding, networking opportunities, and free exposure.

Pigeon Hill Brewing Company owner Michael Brower and his wife, Alana, the taproom manager.

Where everybody knows your name: How Muskegon's downtown bars and breweries are building the city

In just a couple years, downtown Muskegon has done a complete 180. Where once there were empty streets and abandoned buildings, there's now a thriving commercial landscape. The local brewery and bar scene has played a major role in this transformation, and the city's watering holes are continuing to reshape the city and its economy.

Tommy Allen

G-Sync: Diversify your dollar

For those folks seeking to create year-round impact in our neighborhoods, there is a new path emerging that is easier than one might think. Publisher Tommy Allen looks at the future of our economy and believes neighborhood businesses contribute to an  increasing value for our citizens. 

Pie at Sparrows

Happy Thanksgiving from Rapid Growth

Rapid Growth will be taking the week off this Thanksgiving to celebrate with friends, family, and loved ones. We hope you all have a restful and reflective holiday.

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RapidChat: Jamie Kosmicki

Before the craft beer industry rose to its current popularity, Jamie Kosmicki was slinging beers at Founders Brewing Company alongside her now husband, Jeremy Kosmicki. As a long-time artist, Jamie further demonstrates how beer and arts go hand-in-hand - both personally and professionally.

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How Grand Rapids is building the future of healthcare

Across the country, advancing technologies, the Affordable Care Act, and a consumer-driven healthcare market have motivated those delivering medical services to take a new look at how they design their facilities—everything from primary care practices to high-tech radiology services.

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The keepers of history: Muskegon Heritage Museum brings city's vibrant past to life

Did you know many of the nation's bowling pins were once made in Muskegon? As were the first Raggedy Ann dolls? From boats and beer to engines, pianos, and paper, the vast array of products made right here in this city have made their way across the globe for more than a century. Now, the Muskegon Heritage Museum is telling the stories behind these goods, weaving a powerful narrative about the people and places who created the city's rich history.

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Community matters: Grand Rapidians age without fear

If we’re being honest with ourselves, most of us view aging through the lens of fear. But while most standardized systems of care have made minimal progress towards improving the quality of life for older Americans, some individuals and organizations here in Grand Rapids are finding ways to hack their way to a higher standard of aged living.

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To love Grand Rapids into greatness means authentic community engagement

Residents, community organizers and leaders on Grandville Avenue are experiencing their neighborhood change as development comes in. Here we discuss how interdependent relationships are most effective when power is shared. 

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Amar a la grandeza de Grand Rapids requiere un autentico compromiso con la comunidad

Residente y lideres de la avenida Grandville estan viendo el cambio occurir en sus comunidades. Aqui discutimos compo compartiendo el poder y desarollando relaciones interdependientes es la manera de crear un cambio positivo. 

Blanca Santizo

Women of the avenue: The strength of Grandville Ave.

This photo series is a glimpse at the everyday life of women residing on Grandville Avenue through the lens of a visual narrative.

Students in the Youth Empowerment Project are changing Muskegon for the better.

Speaking up: The voices and actions of Muskegon's youth are changing our city

Volunteering. Tackling race relations. Mentoring. Urban farming. Rehabilitating homes. The students in Community enCompass' Youth Empowerment Project are doing all of this and more. Pay attention to these Muskegon teenagers: they're creating a better present, and future, for all of us.

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Mujeres de la avenida: La fuerza de la avenida Grandville

Esta serie de fotos es un vistazo a la vida cotidiana de las mujeres que residen en la avenida Grandville a través de la lente de una narración y un collage.

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UIX: Local creative professionals can build a business at Little Space Studio

Alysha Lach White is boosting local creativity and creatives by expanding the Little Space Studio into a place where freelancers and others can get work done.

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The future of The Rapid and the road to yes: Transit millage passes despite rocky journey

The Rapid celebrates the passing of their transit millage for another 12 years. And Though the issue of funding public transportation might seem straightforward, here in Grand Rapids, the millage question was a complex one, and now that the votes have been cast, Rapid Growth sought to clear the dust with a recap of the journey, and a hopeful—albeit murky—look into the future.

Samariz Hernández Cruz

We remember Samariz Hernandez Cruz: a legacy of advocacy, strength, and leadership

We mourn the loss of Samariz Hernandez Cruz, mother, daughter, and friend to many on Grandville Avenue. 

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Choosing to stay close to home: Five families commit to an underutilized neighborhood school

In 2016, MLive reported that 26 percent of Michigan students are enrolled outside of their home school district. Instead of opting for school of choice, this fall, five families in the Alger Heights/Garfield Park neighborhoods took a bold step: they organized and committed to sending their kindergarteners to their under-performing neighborhood school, Brookside Elementary.

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Hip Hop Academy students advocate, articulate, and find creative expression through music

Hip Hop Academy, a group of talented and passionate individuals, not only work to advance their own craft and skills, but look for ways to empower the community with their art and by mentoring youth.

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A shared meal on Grandville Avenue

We had the privilege to be invited to share a meal among residents of Grandville Avenue hosted at the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association.

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Una comida compartida en la avenida Grandville

Tuvimos el privilegio de ser invitados a compartir una comida entre los residentes de la avenida Grandville en la Asociación de Vecindarios de Roosevelt Park. Estas son sus historias.

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Muskegon's phoenix: The life and flight of Midtown's Third Street

In Midtown Muskegon, life is good. Where once there were abandoned buildings, shops and restaurants are opening. People who left the city are coming back to start businesses. Third Street is rising.

TommyBW

G-Sync: Growing pains are natural (and so is healing them)

The act of listening in a city still has incredible power. Publisher Tommy Allen looks around and finds plenty of opportunities  for us to engage more fully with each other in our neighborhoods. 

Jeanane Charara, Michigan Science Center distance learning coordinator

This new program allows Michigan students to learn from science professionals—anywhere

ECHO, a new distance learning program created by the Michigan Science Center, uses video conferencing to connect classrooms with a museum educator who conducts interactive lessons in real time.

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Social Justice Choir puts GR's culture of giving to work

Yearning to put Grand Rapids’ “culture of giving” to work advancing social justice, Claire Minnis established Social Justice Choir, a community group focused on social justice issues.

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Rapid Blog: Do You Know Where Your Clothes Come From?

When you’re out shopping for that little black dress or the perfect Fall handbag, are you thinking about where those items came from, who made them, the materials used? Probably not. The ethical fashion industry is trying to change that.

RapidChat

RapidChat: Kati Palmurkar

It's been over a year since we last chatted with aspiring cat cafe owner, Kati Palmukar. After struggling to obtain sufficient funds from her Kickstarter campaign, she managed to press on with help from her family and friends. As of August 17, 2017, Happy Cat Cafe became the first and only cat cafe within West Michigan.

Chef Char Morse

A changing downtown: How Kitchen 242 is transforming Muskegon's culinary landscape

Drawing chefs and business owners from throughout the region, Kitchen 242 in downtown Muskegon is quickly becoming an innovative cornerstone of the city’s growing food scene.

Sue Garza, directora de la Biblioteca Cook y Erica Tomas Juarez

Eliminating zero tolerance: advocacy, changing law and efforts towards restorative practices

For 25 years, Michigan has had one of the harshest school disciplines in the country. For students like Erica Tomas Juarez who were expelled under this "zero tolerance" policy, navigating next steps were often a difficult path. In the summer of 2017, the law was changed, allowing for open dialogue and restorative practices to be implemented statewide, aiming to prevent stories like Juarez', and keep more kids in school.

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Eliminando la política de cero tolerancia: cambios de ley y esfuerzos hacia prácticas restauradoras

Durante 25 años, Michigan ha tenido una de las disciplinas escolares más duras del país. Para estudiantes como Erica Tomas Juarez, quien fue expulsado bajo la política de cero tolerancia. En el verano del 2017, la ley fue modificada permitiendo que las practicas restauradores puedan ser libremente implementadas en todo el estado, con el objetivo de evitar que historias como la de Juarez se vuelvan a repetir, y pueda mantener a más niños en la escuela. 

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Problem solving with real-time data: The projects behind GR's Smart City status

Last month, we discussed GRand Rapids' progress toward becoming a Smart City. This month, we take a look at the projects powering that progress as the city looks to data to solve real world problems.

Angie Wasserman-Nelund and Troy Wasserman.

Living history: Wasserman's Flowers & Gifts is a story about Muskegon's past—and future

The Wasserman family and their flower shop have been an integral part of Muskegon for 137 years, and the city's oldest family-owned business weaves a narrative about the history, present and future of Muskegon—about the determination, joy, hardships, and perseverance of its people.

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Museum School fulfills purpose of original Grand Rapids Public Museum building

Dear to the hearts of area residents old enough to have spent time there, the former Grand Rapids Public Museum building at 54 Jefferson Ave. SE is awakening from a long sleep. Next fall, ninth-grade students from the Grand Rapids Public Museum School will claim it as their high school.

The Trust Building offers mixed use retail and executive suites

A combination of things: Mixed-use buildings grow Grand Rapids

Will mixed-use buildings create economic success in Grand Rapids? The answer is complicated, and requires sound public policy, mindful of economic impact.

1349 Lake Drive SE, Sondag's Pastries in 1944

Neighborhoods of GR: Eastown a hip, connected community

Diverse. Hipster haven. Former streetcar through fair. Eastown, as one of the oldest established neighborhoods in GR, is an ever-evolving, tight knit community with a rich history explored in this edition of Neighborhoods of GR.

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Rumsey Street: Leaving behind a history of sacred space

Veronica Quintino-Aranda grew up on Grandville Avenue and has attended St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church her entire life. As the building is demolished to make room for new development--Quintino-Aranda wants future generations to remember the space with reverence and respect.

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Facing a changing future, Midland reimagines its identity

In the wake of an historic merger between Dow and DuPont, Midland’s civic leaders are finding new ways to strengthen the city’s image for young talent.

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Calle Rumsey: Dejando atrás una historia sagrada

Veronica Quintino-Aranda creció en Grandville Avenue y ha asistido a St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church toda su vida. A medida que el edificio es demolidapara dar cabida a un nuevo desarrollo, Quintino-Aranda quiere que las futuras generaciones recuerden el espacio con reverencia y respeto.

James Hughes, owner and at teacher at Triumph Music Academy

RapidChat: James Hughes on Triumph Music Academy and nurturing the musical talent in young and old

"There was always this innate need inside of me to play music, even before I ever held an instrument in my hands." Professes James Hughes, owner and at teacher at Triumph Music Academy. Classed as Grand Rapid's Highest Rated Music School, Triumph welcomes students of all ages. "Music is inside all of us—we just have to let it out and share it."

Kids in awe at a display in "1001 Inventions"

Michigan Science Center exhibition to highlight Golden Age of Innovation

"1001 Inventions: Untold Stories From A Golden Age Of Innovation," which opened Oct. 7 in Detroit, highlights an era of Muslim Civilization that coincided with the European Dark Ages—a period of almost 1,000 years.

Tameka Smith at McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm.

Seeds of justice: How Muskegon is banding together to fight food insecurity

After facing some hard truths about health in Muskegon, residents are turning the city around. From an urban farm teaming up with doctors to provide patients with fresh produce to the downtown farmers market expanding access to fruits and vegetables for low-income families, the city's quest for better health is breaking down barriers and building community.

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UIX: Costume couture takes on different roles in West Michigan

Skill is important in costume design, as is the need to master a variety of techniques. Drafting patterns, draping, cutting, dying, fibre knowledge, embroidery, weaving, felting, embellishment, millinery shills, leather work, cobbler, jewelry, and couture sewing are just a few of the essentials. It takes a lot of work to craft a quality costume, and West Michigan is home to a handful of creative makers who define that standard in different corners of the field. 


Christopher Smit and Jill Vyn, Co-Founders and Directors of DisArt

Rapid Blog: A DisArt Response to the “Second-best city for people with disabilities”

Grand Rapids was recently named the "second-best city for people with disabilities" by Wallet Hub. While a positive designation, what does it mean? And what can we, as a city, do to better address accessibility and inclusivity for people with disabilities, ie., The Participation Gap?

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Synia Jordan: A legacy of refusal and advocacy on Grandville Avenue

“My grandmother understood how important it was for her, as a black woman, to own property. It gave her access to mobility and most importantly,” Jordan explains, “the ability to help others who are struggling.”

Synia Jordan, resident of Grandville Avenue

Synia Jordan: Un legado de resistencia a favor de la Avenida Grandville

“Mi abuela tenia claridad de la importancia, como mujer afroamericana, de poseer una propiedad. Esto le dio la oportunidad de desarrollo y lo más importante” Jordan cuenta, “la capacidad de ayudar a los que están en necesidad."


The Pearl Mist cruise ship on its way to Muskegon this past summer.

With embrace of the waterfront, a new era comes to Muskegon

Muskegon is undergoing massive change. Major waterfront development is on the horizon, there's increased investment in the city, recreational opportunities abound, businesses are opening, companies are moving there. Why is this all happening? Look to its water.

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Creating experiences and meeting clients where they are: A.K. Rikk’s celebrates 30 years

Opened 30 years ago to meet a personal need, A.K. Rikk's is now a premier men’s and women’s boutique. Working as a family, the team prides itself on providing personalized, welcoming experiences to their clients. Serving individuals well beyond the Grand Rapids City limits, they are looking to even greater heights as they plan for the future.

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Below the waterline, above the crowd: Peopledesign helps companies change for 20 years

For 20 years, the husband-wife team behind the Grand Rapids strategic design consultancy Peopledesign has not only navigated immense change within their own industry; they’ve made it their mission to help other businesses do the same.

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40 years of the new and now: UICA was contemporary art before contemporary art was cool

"We're not putting any of our resources into preserving the past," says Urban Institute of Contemporary Art Executive Director Miranda Krajniak. Celebrate 40 years with the UICA, the cornerstone of artistic experimentation in Grand Rapids.

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Como los negocios en la avenida Grandville ofrecen la sostenibilidad y la comunidad

Vicente Velazquez Ramirez, propietario del almacén Xela, un negocio ubicado en la Avenida Grandville, realiza su jornada diaria con emprendimiento superando la discriminación racial, para establecer su negocio.

Tommy Allen

G-Sync: Listening and the city

"As I look on to the time ahead with Rapid Growth but also as a citizen of this city, I pledge to be a better listener, since it is clear that now is the time to engage in dialogue, not retreat in silence." - Publisher Tommy Allen.

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Grand Rapids is connecting to the environment, one sensor at a time

If you've ever wondered what's in the air you're breathing, you'll soon have an answer. An open data air quality monitoring project is in the works thanks to partners like OST, the Seamless Consortium, and the City of Grand Rapids.

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One potato, two potato: Grocery retail loan projects aim for food access for underserved areas

Two Grand Rapids projects just received funding from the Michigan Good Food Fund, a $30 million public-private loan fund that finances good food businesses that increase access to affordable, healthy food in Michigan’s underserved communities.

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Problem solving with real-time data: GR on the road to become a Smart City

When cities launch initiatives to take advantage of that data and that technology, they are considered Smart Cities and Smart Cities are poised to solve big problems. Find out why Grand Rapids is primed to become a Smart City and what that can mean for the city and its residents in the first a two-part feature about Smart Cities.

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Dominga Lucas-Pérez: Raising up indigenous voices of persistence on Grandville Avenue

Dominga Lucas-Pérez is a member of the community on Grandville Avenue. Here we highlight the voices of indigenous members of the community who face greater barriers at accessing basic needs due to a lack of resources in their primary language.

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Dominga Lucas-Pérez: Elevando el clamor de las voces indigenas de la Av. Grandville.

Dominga Lucas, es un miembro de nuestra comunidad en la Avenida de Grandville. Aqui, para todos nosotros es muy importante el atender el clamor de los indigenas que viven en nuestra vencidad, quienes estan confrontando graves limitantes en cubrir las necesidades basicas, ya que no existen los recursos en su idioma de origen.

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West Michigan’s new education buildings: student-inspired technology, aesthetic, and sustainability

Architects, educators, and building contractors are collaborating to create learning spaces that incorporate all the benefits new technologies have to offer while addressing children’s holistic needs: physical, emotional, and intellectual.

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Rapid Blog: Monroe Community Church builds community through ArtPrize

This week's Rapid Blog comes to us from Steve Fridsma, curator at Monroe Community Church, which has served as an ArtPrize venue since its inception. Fridsma explore's the church's evolution as a public art space, and how the congregation uses art to connect to its community.

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Dismantling racism: the fight for immigration reform

Here we explore the story of Juan Fernando Delgado, a young resident of Grandville Avenue and DACA recipient, and what it means to navigate access to education, resources, and basic needs as an undocumented immigrant. 

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Combatiendo el racismo: la pelea a favor de una reforma migratoria

Aqui relatamos la historia de Juan Fernando Delgado, un joven viviendo en la avenida Grandville con permiso DACA, y lo que significa aceder una educacion, recursos y necesidades basicas como inmigrante sin estatus inmigatorio. 

Lewis Williams, left, and  Darel Ross II in front of the future site of Forty Acres.

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen: Celebrating community and culture with unapologetically good food

Forty Acres Soul Kitchen seeks to launch in late fall 2017/early winter 2018. With great food, quality service and an up-scale dining experience, this soul-food venture seeks to create a community gathering place and impact wealth creation and minority-owned entrepreneurial endeavors.

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UIX: Reduce, recycle, re-stitch; creative programs divert landfill waste to improve and educate

Compost and recyclable materials are being diverted from local landfills by individuals both looking for a chance to win free concert merch, and those who have a true understanding of environmental responsibility. Either way it’s inspiring.

Christina Lynn Perez

RapidChat: Christina Lynn Perez on being a confident business owner & the inner fox and hare

"Be confident enough to accept your faults. No one is good at everything," reflects co-owner of the popular lash lounge and brow bar, Siren & Proper, Christina Lynn Perez. As someone who fears failure, but also finds joy in doing things that aren't expected of her, Christina made the bold choice of going into business for herself in 2015. She knew she would be letting the grass grow under her feet, otherwise.

Samariz Hernández Cruz at Cesar Chavez Elementary School

On the Ground: The Heart of Grandville Avenue

Welcome to the On the Ground GR. For 12 weeks, this series will highlight and celebrate the communities found touching Grandville Avenue of Grand Rapids.

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Rapid Blog: I’m white, I’m racist, and so is our immigration system

This op-ed is part of Rapid Growth's Rapid Blog series, which highlights the voices of leaders making positive change in Grand Rapids. This week's post from Attorney Liz Balck Monsma is a response to President Trump's removal of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

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Neighborhoods of GR: Southside, my side

Some people call it Southtown, but to longtime residents, it has always been and will always be the Southside. The 49507 zip code is expansive and for the most part is bordered by Franklin Street on the north, 28th Street on the south, U.S. 131 on the west and Kalamazoo Avenue on the east. The Southside is home to Burton Heights, Madison Square, Alger Heights, Boston Square, Oakdale and Ottawa Hills Neighborhoods.

Samariz Hernández Cruz

On The Ground: El pulso de la avenida Grandville

La serie de On The Ground es una serie de Rapid Growth Media. Estas series resaltarán y celebrarán a las comunidades ubicadas entre la avenida Grandville.

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Civic engagement in our own backyards: Why getting involved at the local level actually matters

Despite changes on a national scale, advocates at a state and local level continue to stress the importance of civic engagement both nationally and locally. Here in Grand Rapids and across the state, government entities, schools and private companies are throwing their proverbial hats in the ring, educating everyday people on the roles, systems and actions needed to make positive and measurable change in their communities.

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Baby-friendly Grand Rapids: A designation, a lifestyle, and a goal for the future with VIDEO

According to US News and World Report, young families are choosing Grand Rapids as the place to live: “Families make up a big chunk of the region's population. Nearly a third of Grand Rapids' households have children under the age of 18.” With organizations like the Grand Rapids Children's Museum and the John Ball Zoo geared toward little ones, and Spectrum Butterworth Hospital's baby-friendly designation, GR is increasingly becoming a great place to raise a family.

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The beautiful game that's bringing Grand Rapids neighborhoods together

Every Monday night throughout the summer, at parks and schools across Grand Rapids, local residents gather to battle for neighborhood pride as part of the Grand Rapids Champs League, a neighborhood-focused soccer league. The league’s mission is to bring neighbors together from across Grand Rapids for friendly games of soccer, while having the opportunity to visit parks and neighborhoods they might not normally frequent, and donate money to local nonprofits.

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Making it in GR: A look back at the article that urged Grand Rapids to move forward

The 2015 Forbes article listing Grand Rapids as the second worst city in the nation where African-Americans were struggling sparked many conversations. Looking beyond the African-American community and observing the minority-owned business climate as a whole, one can find both challenges and opportunities. Organizations such as Local First, One World Diversity, and Start Garden are rising to the challenge and providing resources and programming to help promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the small business community.

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A diverse labor force: The challenges facing minority contractors, and the tools needed to succeed

With some industries that are built on word-of-mouth recommendations and connections in the field, like construction, how can minority workers and business owners get ahead? Here in Grand Rapids, contractors and their affiliates are beginning to see the light, working to diversify the voices and faces in the industry, and equipping them with the tools (pun intended) needed to succeed in construction.

A field trip to a farm in Lake Ann

Big and small: sharing early education wisdom from rural to urban communities

In the absence of universal policy for early childhood education, some of Michigan's smallest communities are taking it upon themselves to foster kindergarten-ready children.

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Michigan farmers markets: Come for the farm-fresh produce, leave with a stronger community

All across Michigan farmers markets are open throughout the year and many have that special something that brings people together for more than the fruit and vegetables. They build community. 

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UIX: Breastfeeding mothers share experiences and insight to help others succeed

Breastfeeding support groups can be found all over West Michigan, but new mothers are using a number of other tools to help them nourish their young babies.

Tommy Allen

A tale of two weekends and my personal journey to undo my bias

Rapid Growth's Publisher Tommy Allen releases a personal perspective of our last two weekend's in America and discovers a path that leads him to his hometown of Flint and the seeds of bias.

Mat Churchill

RapidChat: Mat Churchill

While his last solo album came out in September 2014, Mat Churchill has still managed to stay at the forefront of the Grand Rapids music scene. While musical talent is key to success, Mat emphasizes that plugging yourself into the community is crucial.

Michael Lunn

The Road to 100: Grand Rapids' journey to be Michigan’s first all-renewable-powered city

When Mayor George Heartwell established the city’s first renewable energy goal in 2005, the City was getting none of its power from renewable sources. After Grand Rapids achieved its initial goal of 20 percent in 2007 (a year ahead of schedule), Heartwell upped the goal to 100 percent by 2020. How is the city doing on its goal now? 

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Neighborhoods of GR: Welcome to Creston—Be an active citizen

Creston is a vibrant corridor filled with engaged residents, parks, bustling businesses, and ongoing growth. Celebrate your Creston pride in this month's Neighborhoods of GR article.

SiTE:LAB prepares to move the house for Julie Schenkelberg’s project.

Encounters at Rumsey Street: An excerpt from SiTE:LAB's Catalog

In this essay excerpted from SiTE:LAB Rumsey Street Project 2015 + 2016, New York-based art writer and freelance curator Gregory Volk details the visceral experience of encountering SiTE:LAB for the first time during ArtPrize Eight at their "Rumsey Street Project" installation. 

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August 21 solar eclipse: Nature’s greatest spectacle is coming to a sky near you

The August 21 solar eclipse is a big astronomical deal. Grand Rapids residents deciding to stay in town will see about 85% of the sun eclipsed by the moon. Whether you're attending the Grand Rapids Public Museum's special Eclipse Party or crafting your own pinhole camera, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you don't want to miss.

Jamaal Cannon

Drawing inspiration: West Michigan artists find their own ways to integrate technology

Whether you find them doodling on a tablet in your nearest coffee shop, or laying out a project in a fully equipped studio, modern illustrators are able to leverage the same tools to broadcast their message and expose new people to their art. 

Michael Nÿkamp (Steve and Yangs Fellow award ceremony portraits)

A mentor's role in design: Sitting down with Yang Kim and Steve Frykholm

As part of our design issue, Rapid Growth Managing Editor Lauren Carlson sat down with long-time collaborators and friends Yang Kim and Steve Frykholm. Kim and Frykholm discuss what they've learned from each other, how design has changed, tech's role in the industry, and working within the West Michigan design community.
Design 

Damian Goidich

8 amazing West Michigan illustrators that you've probably never heard of

Their work ranging from children’s books to corporate ad campaigns, West Michigan is home to a diverse community of professional illustrators. Drawing upon the region’s rich cultural history and natural landscape, as well as artifacts and memories of their travels beyond, each of these area illustrators is making a distinctive contribution to West Michigan’s colorful legacy of design.

TIL logo enveloped by “Owl Skulls” illustration by: Christina Mrozik and Zoe Keller.

Rapid Blog: Building an illustration community

Your surroundings are filled with illustrations; children's books, logos, advertisements, magazines, and banners on Google. These images are produced by illustrators. So, what is an illustrator? The newly formed Illustration League defines the title, and fills us in on the challenges facing those in the industry.

RC Lance Hohaia

RapidChat: Lance Hohaia

Back in 2002, New Zealand native, Lance Hohaia, catapulted into his professional rugby career at the early age of 19. Since his retirement (nearly three years ago), his transition back into the "real world" has come with its own unique set of ups and downs. Thankfully for him, his journey back to Grand Rapids with his family is proving to be a positive one.

MDARD

Farmers find out more about what's happening in their fields with drones

Today's tech-savvy farmers find out more about their fields and crops from high-flying drones.

Children and providers at Grand Rapids's newest learning laboratory

These 3 new Michigan childcare centers offer the most advanced facilities for children — and adults

Childcare centers are becoming much more than just a place to drop off kids. We look at three Michigan facilities that widen their reach to provide quality experiences for families, caregivers, and entire communities.

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What's next for pot? State laws, local scale, and who's saying what in the marijuana industry

Recent statewide initiatives continue to further support for the issue, even while local law enforcement cracks down on purveyors. With such a muddled playing field, what's next for pot in Grand Rapids? Who are the experts and what do they have to say about the future of marijuana in Michigan?

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Making it in GR: More diversity in tech means starting with education

As the tech industry grows in Grand Rapids, the tech talent pool needs to grow too. Adding more talent to the pool means getting educational opportunities to new communities and creating more diverse tech culture.

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Turning the tide: Red Project fights HIV, overdose, and stigma amid national health crisis

Today, the Red Project offers direct service in six western Michigan counties (Kent, Ottawa, Allegan, Muskegon, Lake, Mason and Oceana) as well as technical assistance statewide. The organization employs 18 full-time staff and is supported by a growing network of volunteers. Many are former clients themselves.

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UIX: The oldest native plants in West Michigan still play an important role

Nearly the entirety of the Grand Rapids area is either developed with housing, commercial, industrial, infrastructure, or was cleared in the early-mid 1800s for crops and pasture, but the plants that remain and surround our city tell a different story.

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Red Project Ride Along VIDEO

Ride along with the Grand Rapids Red Project to learn more about the staff and volunteers working to provide aid for drug users and work toward overdose prevention in our community.

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Not your average student: Colleges and nonprofits prep workers for construction trades

Despite shifting with technology and the economy, construction is a sector that remains constant in one vital area: the need for professional, skilled workers. Here in West Michigan, various programs offer training, either traditional or extraordinary, that equips those interested in construction with the skills necessary to enter the industry.

MDARD

Incubator kitchens help launch new Michigan food businesses

A small commercial kitchen equipped with the basics could cost $50,000, beyond the reach of most beginning food business owners. Luckily, food incubators across the state give them a place for their businesses to grow.

Natalie Topalian

RapidChat: Natalie Topalian

"How do I distinguish myself in a saturated market?" Unfortunately, there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to this ever- evolving writing dilemma. Of course, there are ways you can set yourself up for success none the less. Junior Copywriter at The Image Shoppe, Natalie Topalian speaks to some of ways she has been able to cut through the clutter and assert herself as a cheeky young writer.

FTart

Growing Young Artists: Outreach program facilitates art, self-expression for migrant students

Although they are an integral part of Michigan’s agricultural industry, migrant farm families often go unseen, moving from state to state, laboring for long hours in the fields, and living in rural communities. Through a unique partnership between Saugatuck Center for the Arts, Fennville Public Schools and South Haven Public Schools, students in summer migrant programs receive exposure to the arts, hands-on instruction and encouragement to express themselves in creative ways.

GS editorial

G-Sync: A-list with Bliss

Recently we learned of another list that includes Grand Rapids’ Mayor Bliss as the only one from Michigan and just one of the 40 mayors from around the U.S. to be invited to be a part of an ambitious new program called the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative.

Athetic shoes are loaded with bleeding edge technology.

The future is now...and you're wearing it

Fashion, for the most part, follows function, as it follows us from infancy to old age. And technology, while it's taken longer than other industries to weave its way into the field, has been permanently embroidered into the process of designing, manufacturing, and marketing the latest looks.

culture

Quality, not quantity: How focusing on craft culture is changing the way we drink

Pairing carefully crafted beverages with the perfect ambience and ethnically-inspired, gourmet cuisine, establishment owners are creating unique, unmissable moments. This approach to craft, well, everything, is changing GR's approach to drinking, inviting us all out for a better, well-rounded night on the town.

Beans, flour, fruit, and more: Michigan businesses export food with help from state

Growing everything from pickled beets to flour, Michigan food and agriculture businesses are making the most of opportunities through exports.

The Croswell swinging bridge

Explore some hidden gems along Michigan's Thumb coast

Ready to hit the road this summer? Take advantage of a trip a little farther from home and check out some of the hidden gems the Thumb has to offer.

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Neighborhoods of GR: A West Side Q&A

The simple fact is, the growth and development of GR’s West Side shows no signs of stopping. Likewise, it’s no secret that this has caused a stir with the long-time residents of the community. Executive Director of the West Grand Neighborhood Organization, Annette Vandenberg is a champion for her neighborhood and she shines light on the hopeful synergy she sees between both new and old.

Benjamin Heyn

RapidChat: Benjamin Heyn

As we round out Pride Month, LGBTQ+ activist, Benjamin Heyn, reflects on the opportunities he's been given over the years and how he is using those as a force for good. Within in part-two of our Q&A conversation, we celebrate #PRIDE and the organizations within our community whose noble purpose revolve around that notion.

kris ridings

Financing your dream: Entrepreneurs tap local and diverse resources

Securing financing for a small businesses can be a huge challenge, especially for new entrepreneurs. There are several opportunities available to assist entrepreneurs in the area including: microloans, SBA lending and pitch competitions. Additionally, here are some recommendations for staying motivated and being prepared to request funds.

Analog

G-Sync: Analog in the city

When that giant summer sun is high in the air, if you are like me, then you’re seeking less time under the glow of your handheld screen as you seek those more analog moments in the city. This is Tommy Allen's suggested list of activities to consider.

RGconstruction

Way past Rosie the Riveter: Women make strides in the construction industry

In the not-too-distant past, women in hard hats were scarce as construction trades were generally considered a man's domain. There was a time when women were lumped only into receptionist-type work and not allowed on worksites. But as women continue to gain employment in the construction sector, this stereotype is steadily changing.

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Alternative birthing methods and why Michigan moms are choosing them

In the U.S., women learn about birth from television dramas and celebrity magazines and the medical system steps in to manage pregnancy and birth on computer screens, like any other disease. But, pregnancy is not a disease. Babies are not tumors to be removed. And, birth alternatives do exist for those persistent enough to find them.

MDARD

From grains to glass: Michigan craft distillers produce fine spirits from local crops

Michigan distillers are building their businesses with locally grown grains and fruits. They say there's room to grow.

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UIX: Empathy is essential to good design and modern technology

It was once rare that the fields of architecture, and more-so, digital architecture, and human emotion overlapped. But the intersection is crucial not only to the basis of good software, however, it's the foundation of good software companies. 

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Instagram roundup: The most interesting people in GR

Who's capturing the best images of our fair river city? From @grandrapidspubliclibrary and @lovecharlesvintage to @carbonstories and @uicagr, check out this profile of the best Instagram'ers in GR.

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Neighborhoods of GR: The history of Midtown

Modern-day Midtown, with a population of just over 4,000, according to 2013 Community Research Institute figures, is bordered to the north by I-196, to the east by Fuller Street, to the south by Fulton, and to the west by Union. It's one of the oldest and most venerated neighborhoods in Grand Rapids and is just as tethered to historical events as its neighboring communities.

FTpedestrian

Is Grand Rapids walkable?: Safety, data, and the physical space of pedestrians

With rating systems like walkscore.com and articles about the city's walkability factor popping up every few months, it can be difficult to determine what factors actually make a city safe, and enjoyable, to be a pedestrian. Whatever the approach, Grand Rapids is catching on the the trend of celebrating the pedestrian, making the river city a safer place to traverse on foot.

FTgleaning

Better food for Heartside: Gleaning produce, growing access, and improving health

Heartside Gleaning Initiative provides hundreds of pounds of fresh produce each week to Heartside residents, food pantries and missions thanks to generous farmers and volunteers.

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The brightest lights in West Michigan's entertainment scene are at a national level

Whether it's an acoustic street side gig at Rosa Parks Circle, a sold-out club show at 20 Monroe Live, a DeVos Performance Hall production, or even a movie in the park, the artists provide the music and emotion but technology amplifies the experience.

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Lady Ace Boogie - Don't Box Me In

Coming off an electrifying show this past Sunday at the Pyramid Scheme and set to launch her new EP “Don’t Box Me In” this fall, Linda Tellis a.k.a Lady Ace Boogie showed us that this summer is not done heating up.

MDARD

Michigan's newest winemakers are following their passion—and doing well

Michigan has 127 wineries and produces 2.5 million gallons of wine annually. May is when the state celebrates its wine makers and encourages tourists to visit as the wineries show their springtime colors.

Benjamin Heyn

RapidChat: Benjamin Heyn

As we enter the month of June, we also enter a month dedicated to celebrating Pride. "What does Pride Month mean to you?" we asked Benjamin Heyn, a resident and LGBQT+ activist within the Grand Rapids Community. We've learned that it goes farther beyond what many of our eyes have been trained to see.

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Rapid Blog: The power of collective voice: Speaking up, speaking out, and making real change

"Empathy and the commitment of not violating one’s dignity is where I believe we can find real, tangible solutions." In this week's Rapid Blog, Grand Rapids Second Ward Commissioner Joe Jones discusses empathy, community engagement, and the power of speaking up.

Summer

13 events for your perfect Grand Rapids summer

With just three short months to enjoy the sunshine and somewhat predictable weather of a Grand Rapids summer, you'll want to pack your schedule full of fun, relaxation, and tasty treats. This list of the top summer events will kickstart your calendar and get you moving on your best Michigan summer.

Buckthorn is an invasive plant that began as a popular hedge.Photo by Imad Hassan.

DNR’s volunteer stewards safeguard Michigan’s natural areas

At 20 state parks and recreation areas across southern Michigan, groups of volunteer stewards regularly roll up their sleeves to help protect and restore natural areas. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Volunteer Steward Program puts volunteers to work, typically removing invasive species, planting native species, and collecting native seed. The program holds about 200 workdays per year.

From left, Wendy Ogilvie, Ron Yob, Jay Steffen and Matt Chapman.

Listen to the Grand: River revitalization much more than a kayaker’s dream

What started as a group of kayakers seeking to create a great spot for their sport has evolved into project can restore priceless habitat, respect local indigenous people, and make spaces where all residents can partake and enjoy. As Grand Rapids Whitewater cofounder Chip Richards remarked during the River Rally presentation, “The more we listened to the river, the more we realized this project is something good for everyone and everything.”

Milton Moore

Accepting the culture of failure as life, not a trend

Many may see the culture of failure as a passing fad, but those who experience it everyday are trying to change the conversation and keep it in style.

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Drones, 3D printers, and hard hats: The role of technology in construction

From drones to 3D printers, construction is just as enthralled with cutting edge tech as the next industry. It has been said that 'time is money," and technology is helping construction companies conserve time by increasing accuracy and adding to bottom line profit margins through the implementation of cost and quality controls.

Angela Fox

RapidChat: Angela Fox

"Is this recyclable?" is a question we ask ourselves more often than we'd like to admit. Regardless of whether or not the answer is 'yes,' you're already down a path to a more sustainable lifestyle. This week's Rapid Chat interviews Angela Fox who leads sustainability workshops with Green Michigan.

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Grand Rapids Asian Festival: A joyous new event debuts in downtown Grand Rapids

In anticipation of the debut of the Grand Rapids Asian Festival, Rapid Growth wants to shine a warm spotlight on a series of images created earlier this year by photographer Two Eagles Marcus.

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Area Preschoolers get a leg up on STEM learning at the Grand Rapids Public Museum

This spring, more than 1,500 area preschoolers from Head Start for Kent County and other early education programs visited the Grand Rapids Public Museum thanks to PNC Foundation grant-funded field trips.

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VIDEO: On The Ground highlights the Southeast Community of Grand Rapids

Learn about the people who are mobilizing, living and working on the southeast community of Grand Rapids in our On The Ground Video celebrating the threads connecting these communities to each other. 

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UIX: BL²END offers diversity, inclusion and community for entrepreneurs

At BL²END (Business Leaders Linked to Encourage New Directions), young professionals of color connect with others, develop their professional skills, and add value to the community.

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Transforming a Celiac diagnosis into a top-selling snack: The Gluten Free Bar Story

Developing a snack bar designed to serve those who have Celiac's Disease or those who are simply gluten-intolerant, Elliott and his brother, Marshall, developed their tasty snack almost a decade ago. Now selling the Gluten Free Bar and other associated products in over 9,000 stores across the country, in Canada, and in Europe, the Rader brothers have transformed a simple idea into a successful B-corp, one bar at a time.

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"Food, farms, and community": The Fulton Street Farmers Market in its 95th year

This year, the farmers market is celebrating its 95th year in operation with a new logo that reads “95 years of food, farming and community.” Markets like Fulton Street often help incubate local trade, commerce, and businesses, provide healthy alternatives to most modern food, and in many cases just provide the daily warmth of a smile and a handshake with each purchase.

Kate Kooyman

Rapid Blog: Fighting for Immigrant Rights...When You’re Not an Immigrant

In this edition of Rapid Blog, local pastor Kate Kooyman explores the issue of solidarity in light of the three U.S. citizens arrested in Grand Rapids who were protesting recent deportation policies. Kooyman writes "there is an important place for non-immigrants in the struggle to ensure that Grand Rapids a place where immigrants can survive, thrive, and belong." 

RG Salmon

Out of balance: The story of salmon in Lake Michigan

Michigan's multi-billion dollar salmon sports fishery is in peril. Check out our interactive to learn the story of how this happened and what officials are doing about it.

Curtis

'Still here, still resilient': How Muskegon Museum of Art's new exhibit amplifies Native voices

At a time in our history when there was state-sanctioned genocide against Native Americans, when thousands of Native Americans had died on the Trail of Tears, when Native communities had been decimated by disease brought by settlers, when white Americans were forcing Native American children into military-style boarding schools, the photographer Edward S. Curtis began a 30-year effort to document Native American cultures. Beginning May 11, the public can get an extensive look at Curtis’ work at the Muskegon Museum of Art’s biggest exhibition ever.

Marty Blackwell

Battle Creek is ahead of the curve in addressing childhood trauma

Battle Creek is building community, resolving conflict, and creating resiliency in its students who may have experienced repeated trauma.

Hospitality

Technology transforms the hospitality industry in Grand Rapids

It takes more than just a celebrity chef and a few honeymoon suites to make truly memorable hotel. Behind the scenes, there's a world of integrated data, targeted messaging, and technologies that allow guests to customize their experience and actually make it more like home.

GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal speaks at the state of the schools address.

GRPS Superintendent celebrates success in annual State of the Schools address

GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal delivered the fifth annual State of the Schools Address on Thursday, May 4. Weatherall Neal spelled out the myriad of successes—both big and small—that the school district has experienced since she took the helm in 2012. Most of all, she encouraged community support. "Stay with me. Stay with the district. Stay with these children," she said.

FTtami

Rapid Blog: On policing, policy and metrics–and a safer city for all of us

"The officers pointed guns at the kids while one cried hysterically and another begged, “Don’t shoot me.” After five unarmed African American boys were stopped at gunpoint by police, Well House Executive Director and community leader Tami VandenBerg takes a look at what the community can do, and what other cities have done, to address police procedure and community engagement with the local police force.

Peter Varga

RapidChat: Peter Varga

Earlier this year, long-time Rapid CEO, Peter Varga, announced his plans for retirement in 2018. But before he says his final goodbyes, Varga reflects on his past years being at the forefront of Grand Rapids' dynamic public transportation systems.

Adam Schuitema

Making sense of our stories: In Michigan's literary landscape, Adam Schuitema shines

Adam Schuitema's newest book, The Things We Do That Make No Sense, delves into familiar territory: many of its stories are set in Michigan, including in Grand Rapids. Opening with a tale set in Creston and ending with another that partially takes place in Heritage Hill, this book by the Alger Heights author draws inspiration from our city to create unforgettable characters who remind us of the power of the written word.

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Canoemobile guides GRPS students along the Grand River

More than 1,000 eighth graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools will get a chance to see their city from a new perspective next week: from a canoe. A program called Canoemobile, which brings canoes to urban areas across the country for hands-on learning experiences, is setting up at Riverside Park May 8 to 12. The experience aims to foster an appreciation of nature, boost performance and engagement in school, and build participants’ confidence, teamwork, and relationships with others.

Lauren Carlson

A fond farewell and the changing of the guard

Rapid Growth's Publisher Tommy Allen pays tribute to our former Editor Anna Gustafson as he introduces our new Editor Lauren Carlson. Please join us in celebrating these two innovative women of Rapid Growth. 

FaizShakir

ACLU West Michigan hosts National Political Director Faiz Shakir

Faiz Shakir, the new national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is the special guest speaker at the ACLU of Michigan Standing Together for Justice Annual Luncheon on Thursday, May 11 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Starting his new position in January of this year, Shakir has already made great strides as one the youngest senior staff members of the 97-year old organization. With the goal of implementing grass-roots organizing on a national scale, Shakir aims to reimagine the mission of the ACLU to empower everyone to be an agent for change. 

Diane Devereaux

UIX: Canning Diva Diane Devereaux brings can-do attitude to changing how we eat

When it comes to food, perhaps no innovation has transformed what, how, when, and even where we eat more than preservation. And in West Michigan, the "Canning Diva" is helping others understand that innovation in new ways.

A meeting at Left Right Boom.

How coworking spaces are growing an entrepreneurial community in Grand Rapids

Coworking spaces in Grand Rapids are creating a place for entrepreneurs, creatives and the community to connect and collaborate. Venues like The Factory, The Space at Start Garden, Left Right Boom Collaborative, and Urban LINC offer more than just a spot to work. They are providing members with the support and educational opportunities needed in a city that aims to be synonymous with entrepreneurship.

jarradgrandy

As construction industry faces shortage of workers, West Michigan groups innovate to fill gap

In what has become a national trend, West Michigan's construction industry is facing a serious shortage of workers — and even more talent will be needed in the near future. To address this, local trade alliances and educational leaders are rising to the challenge and are helping to provide local training programs and shape the future of construction in the region.

Tendai Masiriri

RapidChat: Heartside Ministry's new director Tendai Masiriri on his journey from Zimbabwe to GR

Growing up in Zimbabwe, Tendai Masiriri was inspired at an early age to want to make a difference in other people's lives. He started down a career path of social work, and now, about a quarter century later, he is the executive director of Heartside Ministry.

LOK

Intersections of race and class: The food divide in Grand Rapids' southeast community

What is your income? Where do you live? What color is your skin? These questions shouldn't matter when it comes to getting food. But they do, and residents and organizers in southeast Grand Rapids are working to change this by providing equitable access to affordable and healthy food for everyone.

Tommie Johnson

The people changing our city: A day in the life of SE community leader Tommie Johnson

This past week, we had the great privilege to spend a day with Tommie Johnson: a teacher, advocate and resident of the southeast community of Grand Rapids.

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Las personas transformando nuestra ciudad: un día en la vida de un líder del SE de GR Tommie Johnson

La semana pasada tuvimos el gran privilegio y oportunidad de pasar un día en la vida de Tommie Johnson: maestro, defensor de la comunidad y residente del sureste de Grand Rapids.

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From organic farming to affording groceries: How the Farm Bill shapes GR's food landscape

Why should you care about the Farm Bill if you're not a farmer? Well, for starters, the legislation that's expected to be renewed next year could seriously harm farmers' markets and smaller farms. Leaders in Grand Rapids' food and agriculture scene explain what this massive bill could mean for our city, and why residents need to be paying attention.

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A brutal (and joyful) honesty: GR Poet Laureate Marcel Price shines light on mental health, race

Marcel "Fable" Price is breaking all kinds of barriers with his poetry, and now he's doing the same by being appointed the Grand Rapids poet laureate. A writer who uses his words to tackle mental illness and racial identity, Price is the first person of color, as well as the youngest individual, to be named the city's poet laureate. 

Chief Rahinsky and Mari Beth Jelks speak about the traffic stop study during a public meeting.

Racial profiling in Grand Rapids: How the city is tackling major changes in law enforcement

A new study confirms what many people of color have known for years: black drivers are far more likely to be stopped by police in Grand Rapids than white motorists. Now, city officials and community leaders are planning for widespread systemic change to address racism and racial bias in law enforcement.

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G-Sync: Words, like “I’m sorry,” still matter in this modern world

In Grand Rapids, a group of mothers whose unarmed sons were stopped at gunpoint by police are seeking an apology, and it is Rapid Growth Publisher Tommy Allen's hope that they get it. Here, Allen explains why he believes an "I'm sorry" is not only possible, but necessary.

Shukri Bana

RapidChat: Shukri Bana on growing up Muslim in post-9/11 America, feminism, empowering youth & more

Post-9/11, growing up Muslim in the United States has posed some unique challenges for Shukri Bana. From a young age, there was an intense pressure to not be seen or read as a threat. Voicelessness was one of her biggest fears, but she has since gone on to learn that there is no such thing—and she's working to make sure others understand the same.

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Together in faith on Burton Street

How do we begin to change the cultural narrative of hate, anxiety and fear towards people of different faiths? For these three congregations in Grand Rapids, the answer starts with sharing food and creating new friendships together on Burton Street.

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Unidos en la fe en la Calle Burton

¿Como cambiamos la conversación de odio, ansiedad y temor hacia a individuos perteneciendo a otras tradiciones de fe? Para estas tres congregaciones de Grand Rapids el cambio inicia cuando se comparte más que una comida, buscando el desarrollar amistades en la calle Burton.

MDARD

Military veterans find good fit in Michigan’s agricultural jobs

Military veterans' leadership training, skills, and perspective give them a grounding they need to help meet the challenges of producing food and rebuilding rural and urban communities. In Michigan, these protectors are turning into agricultural producers. 

Technology changes have transformed dashboards of today's cars, with more features and more manufacturing sophistication.

Tomorrow's automobile: Grand Rapids is shaping the future of transportation in the United States

While Grand Rapids may be known for its furniture or beer, there's another major part of this city's economy that's growing: the automotive industry. The region boasts companies and leaders in the field who are forever changing the way we drive cars in the United States.

Chip LaFleur

Rapid Blog: Your privacy and our elections, now for sale

As the president and founder of LaFleur Marketing, a Grand Rapids-based digital marketing company, Chip LaFleur understands how data is gathered and used to influence individuals' behavior in advertising. Now, he is witnessing the same tools being used to manipulate voter behavior and other aspects of the United States' democratic processes. Here, he explains what that means for our country.

Kasandra Lott, gerente de Linc Up Soul Food Cafe

'It shows anyone can do anything': How Linc Up Soul Food Café is driving change

As southeast Grand Rapids faces gentrification, Linc Up Soul Food Café Manager Kassandra Lott hopes her restaurant will inspire support for businesses owned by people of color and will serve as a beacon of hope for the community.

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'Esto demuestra que todo es posible': Como Linc Up Soul Food Café esta desarrollando un cambio

Así como la comunidad sureste de Grand Rapids se enfrenta a los cambios ocurriendo en el vecindario, la gerente de Linc Up Soul Food Café, Kasandra Lott espera que su restaurante inspire apoyo hacia negocios perteneciendo a personas de grupos minoritarios raciales y de esta manera sirva como una luz de esperanza para la comunidad.

Rebeca Velazquez-Publes resident of the SE neighborhood of GR

'How do we rally for one another?' For Rebeca Velazquez-Publes, a life of fighting oppression

Rebeca Velazques-Publes, a resident of the southeast neighborhood, shares how making Grand Rapids a welcoming city has, for her, involved building an intentional community and raising awareness of the ways people of color are excluded in the area.

Rebeca Velazquez-Publes, resident of the southeast neighborhood

¿Como nos fortalecemos? Para Rebeca Velazquez-Publes, una vida luchando contra la opresión

Rebeca Velazquez-Publes, residente del vecindario del sureste,  nos comparte aqui, como hacer de Grand Rapids una ciudad acogedora y para ella esto involucra desarrollar una comunidad con proposito y elevar la consciencia en los lugares dende las personas afro americanas de la ciudad estan siendo excluidas.

Tony Baker

Trump budget would be disastrous for GRPS after-school programs: Board of Education's Tony Baker

If Congress approves President Donald Trump’s budget as proposed, Grand Rapids Public Schools would lose $4 million to support its after-school work. GRPS Board of Education Treasurer Tony Baker explains what that would mean for the district.

Skilled Trades

Agricultural skilled trades offer job opportunities for Michiganders

What does not require a four-year college education, is in demand, and pays well? Skilled-trade food and ag jobs. And the opportunities are out there across Michigan.

MNLmuseum

How the Grand Rapids Children's Museum became one of Michigan's best spaces for kids with autism

The Grand Rapids Children's Museum has, for years, made sure that the space is a safe and friendly place for all children, including those who are on the autism spectrum. Thanks to its autism-friendly programming, the museum has now been named one of the best places in all of Michigan for children on the spectrum.

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Voices of the people: New book to showcase Grand Rapids' activist community

When Ashley Nickels and Dani Vilella think of Grand Rapids, they think of the hundreds, and even thousands, of grassroots activists who are shaping the city, who are fighting for affordable housing, living wages, racial and economic justice, and a whole lot more. Now, Nickels and Vilella want to hear from these individuals for the book they're editing, "Grand Rapids Grassroots: An Anthology."

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss gives the opening remarks at the Women + City Building event.

'How are you going to be uncomfortable today?' Female leaders on building a more inclusive GR

How do we build a more inclusive Grand Rapids? How do we create a city where anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, or ability can thrive? A group of female leaders who are shaping the city tackle this, and more, at the recent Women + City Building event.

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UIX: Treetops Collective celebrates newcomers, helps refugees thrive after resettlement

How can West Michigan do a better job of welcoming refugees? The Treetops Collective and other organizations in the area are answering this question by working to create an inclusive community where new residents are supported.

Traci Whiting, Coordinadora del Grupo Minoritario de Gilda's Club

Leaders of color are empowering southeast community to take charge of breast health

In Grand Rapids, black women are being diagnosed with breast cancer at higher rates than white women. Their diagnoses are coming at later stages of the cancer due to a lack of access to preventative screenings and ability to afford treatment. Educators, residents and advocates in the southeast neighborhood of Grand Rapids are taking charge to address these disparities and bring about systemic change in healthcare for black residents.

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From successful entrepreneurs, words of wisdom on networking: ‘Just do it’

When starting your own business, going to events and meeting people might be low on the list of things to do. It shouldn't be. Networking is a key part to building a successful business, and entrepreneurs who don't do it are missing out.

From left, Thomas Hopper, Kevin Ricco and Valerie Byrnes.

How the Muskegon Innovation Hub is driving entrepreneurship & transforming the business landscape

As entrepreneurs increasingly turn to Muskegon, the business community is transforming and growing. Behind this change is a major player that's working to ensure residents with a dream of starting their own company are encouraged and supported: the Muskegon Innovation Hub.

Walther Farms

Potatoes, pop and Jiffy corn muffins: Michigan's agri-businesses thrive and reinvest

Agriculture, food processors, and related businesses employ 923,000 Michiganders — 22 percent of the state’s workforce. March is the month the state sets aside to thanks its farmers and recognize the industry’s many career opportunities.

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A more welcoming city: DisArt symposium is changing the way GR approaches disability

Is it possible to create a more inclusive, welcoming city? DisArt Symposium: Disability Arts Now looks to be a part of that answer. 

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Space for everyone: Friends of Grand Rapids Parks' new director sets sights on equity & access

Stephanie Adams, the new executive director at Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, is laying the groundwork for an ambitious tenure that includes strengthening neighborhoods’ access to nature and exercise, improving green space in areas that have historically been marginalized and disenfranchised, unifying communities through parks, and more.

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Constructing the future: How construction is paving the way for a growing Grand Rapids

As the Grand Rapids area's population continues to grow faster than anywhere else in the state, construction companies and workers are some of the biggest players helping to mold the city's quickly changing landscape. In this new series from Rapid Growth, we take a closer look at the region's construction industry and the numerous organizations, trends and innovations seeking to create positive advances in our community.

Beth George

RapidChat: Beth George on how to fight sex trafficking in our own community

Whether you have no idea that it exists, or merely have heard that it is happening, the sex trafficking industry is a serious global issue that is happening before our very own eyes. You can help take a stand against this modern day slavery by supporting a business that's right here in our community. Director of Field Development at Better Way Imports, Beth George, explains.

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In a world of uncertainty & struggle, advocates give voice to parents and students

As families in the southeast side of Grand Rapids face difficulty accessing housing, meeting basic needs, and even fears of potential deportation, community leaders in the schools are working hard to provide them with resources and support. 

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En medio de la incertidumbre y dificultad, defensores le dan voz a estudiantes y padres

Mientras tanto las familias del sureste de Grand Rapids enfrentan dificultades para acceder a vivienda, obtener las necesidades basicas y aun mas, el temor a ser deportados, los lideres de las comunidades en las escuelas trabajan muy duramente para proveerles y apoyarles. 

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Sí, se puede! Grand Rapidians march to support immigrants, farm workers in West Michigan

Grand Rapidians took to the streets for the annual César E. Chávez Social Justice March, calling for the respect, dignity and protection of all immigrants and emphasizing the driving force that migrant and seasonal farm workers play in the economy of West Michigan and the country.

Wende Randall

UIX: Essential Needs Task Force is rethinking the way Kent County addresses poverty

When families have to choose between paying utility bills and affording food, it's hard to find hope. For the many faced with that decision in Kent County, the Essential Needs Task Force is a crucially supportive resource.

Patty Eilers, resident of the Southeast community of Grand Rapids

Rising rents & displacement: The need for affordable housing in Grand Rapids

Residents in the city's' southeast neighborhood are facing displacement from communities they have long been a part of due to the increasing costs of housing. Here, residents, grassroots organizers, and city leaders are working together to find solutions to the housing crisis happening in Grand Rapids.

Pop Pop's Gourmet Pop Corn

Kernel of an idea grows into family popcorn business under Michigan Cottage Food Law

Gene and Patricia McFarland have built their gourmet popcorn business from a home kitchen operation to a successful storefront where they sell their handcrafted flavored popcorn.

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How one environmentalist is leading the charge to clean up the polluted Muskegon Lake

Growing up, Dennis Kirksey never wondered why Muskegon Lake was polluted. Now he chairs the organization that's working to clean it up. Here's how he got involved.

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Aumento en la renta y desalojos: Una necesidad de viviendas accesibles en Grand Rapids

Los residentes del vecindario del sureste tienen que confrontar amenazas graves de desalojo de la comunidad que han sido parte por largo tiempo, como consecuencia a los costos altos en arriendos. Aqui, residentes, organizaciones de apoyo de la comunidad y lideres  estan trabajando en conjunto para encontrar soluciones a la crisis de vivienda en Grand Rapids.

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From virtual reality to online libraries, how technology is revolutionizing education in GR

As classrooms throughout West Michigan are teaching us, technology isn't just preparing our children for tomorrow. It's inspiring them to look at the world differently today, and Grand Rapids Public Schools and Grand Valley State University are connecting students with the technology that's reshaping our education field—and our whole world.

Herman Lee

'This city needs to wake up': The fight for affordable housing in Grand Rapids

Herman Lee moved to Grand Rapids in search of new opportunities and a chance to start again. After being faced with challenging barriers to affordable and stable housing, Lee shares his journey of finding a place to belong in the southeast community.

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'Esta ciudad necesita despertar': La lucha a favor de vivienda accesible en Grand Rapids

Herman Lee se traslado a Grand Rapids, en búsqueda de nuevas oportunidades y una posibilidad de volver a empezar. Confrontado por barreras desafiantes para obtener vivienda estable Lee cuenta su historia de como encontró un lugar de aceptación en la comunidad sureste de la ciudad.

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Eating around the world: A guide to Grand Rapids' global cuisine scene

From Ethiopian and Korean to Turkish and Vietnamese restaurants, there are an almost endless number of culinary havens in and around Grand Rapids where you can explore the world, right in your own backyard.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss at the State of the City

Racial equity here: Mayor Rosalynn Bliss calls for systemic change in Grand Rapids

Racial equity. Support for immigrants. A stronger local economy. Mayor Rosalynn Bliss addresses all of this, and more, during her second annual State of the City speech.

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From hip-hop to Islam to oils: How a Madison Square entrepreneur launched his one-of-a-kind business

After a conversion to Islam, Faheem Nichols began selling oils and scents from his minivan parked on the corner of Eastern and Sherman. Now, 20 years later, what began as Nichols' side business has become West Michigan's first oils and fragrance café. 

Faheem Nichols

Del hip-hop al Islam a la venta de esencias: Como un emprendedor de Madison Square inicio su negocio

Después de haberse convertido al Islam, Faheem Nichols inició vendiendo aceites y fragancias desde una mini-van estacionada en la esquina de la Eastern y Sherman. Ahora, 20 años después, el negocio de Nichols se ha transformado en la venta número uno de aceites y esencias de West Michigan.  

James Meena

RapidChat: James Meena, Opera Grand Rapids' new artistic director

Forget about Netflix. Opera Grand Rapids' new artistic director, James Meena, is determined to make people of all ages fall in love with a different form of entertainment: the opera.

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Here's what success in building local food systems looks like

From education to certification, programs in the Upper Peninsula are helping farmers and buyers connect. Some of their work will soon be helping farmers in the Lower Peninsula, too.

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Down with food deserts: Incoming stores, co-op & others are changing how we buy groceries in GR

For Grand Rapidians dreaming of being able to go grocery shopping near their home, the landscape is shifting. Incoming grocery stores will soon bring big changes to the city, and existing shops are expanding their options to meet the needs of a growing population. Plus, a co-op is in the works and aims to bring affordable and healthy goods to a food desert.

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Falling behind: How a Muskegon psychologist is fighting for reading reform in school

Children in West Michigan, and throughout the country, are being left behind when it comes to reading — and a school psychologist in Muskegon is sounding a rallying cry for change. 

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UIX: Homeless youth call 3:11 for the keys to true independence

More than 2,000 young people are homeless in Kent County every night. Of those who can find a bed for the night, the following day may not be as dim. And for those who find 3:11 Youth Housing, there's a path toward opportunity, growth and change.

Sharae Anderson

Fighting for life behind bars: West Michigan advocates work to reform prison system

In Michigan, close to 41,000 people are in prison. Sharae Anderson, a resident of the Madison Square neighborhood, shares how her experience of inhumane treatment at a correctional facility has inspired her to advocate for others.

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How does Grand Rapids become stronger? By ensuring other cities do too

When growing a strong entrepreneurial community, it's often in our nature to compete for the resources we need to succeed. But, vibrant communities get even stronger when they turn to their neighbors to collaborate rather than compete — and Grand Rapids is doing just that.

Shannon Cohen

No more 'West Michigan nice': It's time to talk about race, gender & leadership in the workplace

A new research project tells the stories of female leaders of color in West Michigan, and the women's words make it clear: we must be better when it comes to fighting, and acknowledging, racism and sexism in the workplace.

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Peleando por una vida después de la cárcel: defensores exigen reformas penitenciarias

En el estado de Michigan 41,000 personas están en la cárcel. Sharae Anderson, residente del vecindario de Madison Square, comparte como su historia del abuso que sufrió mientras estaba en la cárcel la ha inspirado a ayudar a los demás. 

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A day without immigrants: Marching for justice in Grand Rapids

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Grand Rapids and Wyoming for the "Day Without Immigrants" march, joining individuals across the country who protested President Donald Trump's immigration policies. In our city, the peaceful procession emphasized the crucial role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy and called for the Trump administration to respect and protect our country's immigrants.

Lisa Matthews with grandson

Racism in Grand Rapids: The cyclical fight against systemic oppression

Racist policies and biases continue to impede neighbors in the Madison Square community who are trying to gain equitable access to economic opportunities and health care. In spite of this, residents are empowering one another to fight the systemic oppression they are faced with every day.

Taffy Dickerson

El racismo en Grand Rapids: Una pugna constante en contra de la opresión sistemática

Políticas de racismo y prejuicio, continúan siendo el impedimento de acceso económico y de salud para la comunidad de Madison Square. A pesar de esto, los mismos se estan fortaleciendo unos a otros para vencer el racismo.  

Ted Velie

RapidChat: Ted Velie on Michigan House at SXSW, supporting our state's growing art scene & more

As Grand Rapids continues to grow and mature, conversations surrounding the arts community within our city are becoming increasingly relevant -- most notably when it comes to talent retention. Creator of Middle West Creative Ted Velie and a handful of his partners around town saw an opportunity to take Michigan and its culture on the road.  From that, Michigan House emerged.

MDARD Summit

How Michigan is meeting the increasing demand for locally grown food

Demand for food grown locally continues to rise. At the upcoming Pure Michigan Agribusiness Summit, buyers and sellers come together to meet that demand.

Tetusa Ndalamba works on reading with his daycare kids.

A place to call home: How refugees are rebuilding lives in West Michigan

As the Trump administration fights to keep refugees from entering the United States, a different story is playing out in West Michigan: one of love and inclusion. In our community, residents are banding together to support refugees who are doing everything from starting their own businesses to working with children from countries torn apart by war.

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UIX: What's the future of education? In Grand Rapids, it's all about being unconventional

Whether you're looking to learn coding or would like to explore a career in art or design, there's a host of creative ways you can do that in Grand Rapids. From boot camps to building confidence, organizations like Grand Circus, The Factory and UICA are thinking outside the box when it comes to education.

Paula Collier

Dreams of equity: Southtown Sustainable Women’s Group lifts up community

Paula Collier, a resident of the Madison Square neighborhood and host of the Southtown Sustainable Women's Group at Seeds of Promise, is addressing racism by empowering women in her community.

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Sueños de igualdad: El Grupo de Mujeres del Southtown es una ganancia para la comunidad

Paula Collier, residente del vecindario de Madison Square y anfitriona del Grupo de Mujeres del Southtown en Seeds of Promise, está empoderando a las mujeres de su comunidad a terminar con el racismo. 

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Boys can dance, too: Grand Rapids ballet companies encourage all children to take to the stage

Ballet companies throughout Grand Rapids are breaking down negative stereotypes of boys in ballet and are making sure all children have the chance to explore a passion for dance.

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Saving the lives of the future: Grand Rapids plays starring role in national health care

To say the healthcare industry is in flux is an understatement. As the field evolves, however, one thing is certain: by continuing to implement new and improve existing technologies, Grand Rapids is at the forefront of innovation in health care.

Alice Johnson

Facing racism: The lasting effects of discrimination in GR's southeast community

Marked by a history of racism and segregation, members of Grand Rapids' southeast communities share the ways this has blocked access to fostering sustainable neighborhoods -- and how they are working to overcome these barriers.

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Como el racismo y la segregación deja su huella marcada en la comunidad de sureste de GR

Estigmatizados por una historia de racismo y exclusión, las comunidades del sureste debieron compartir la inaccesibilidad a programas de apoyo como comunidades con recursos propios -- y como ellos están trabajando para conquistar estos limitantes.

Graci Harkema

RapidChat: Graci Harkema

Days after being born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Graci Harkema was placed for adoption at a local orphanage. After being given only 12 to 24 hours to live, she was adopted by her (now) parents. Following her move to Grand Rapids as a child, Harkema has gone on to become one of the city's most passionate leaders, fighting for everything from LGBTQ rights to racial equality and more.

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Heading home: For many who grew up on the farm, roots run deep

Paul Pridgeon remembers graduating from Central Michigan University and asking himself the question that swirls in the minds of so many recent graduates: now what?

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Hidden gems: The coolest trails you've never heard of in West Michigan

From a historic rail line transformed into recreational space to breathtaking views of the Grand River, these are trails you don't want to miss.

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Profit and heart: Etsy co-founder to talk business with a conscience in Grand Rapids

Etsy, like most startups, struggled to balance the company's values and outlook with that of venture capital investors’ desire for rapid growth. Co-founder Mathew Stinchcomb stops by Grand Rapids to talk about how the power of B Corps can transform our businesses -- and communities. 

Talent

Recruiting, retaining & fostering talent: West Michigan's changing workforce and a desire for place

The culture of work has changed. Rarely do individuals begin and end their careers in the same position, at the same desk or with the same few titles. What does that mean for West Michigan companies looking to recruit and retain talent? Well, for starters, it's a lot about a sense of place.

WellHouse

A place to call home: Well House opens permanent housing for homeless youth

For young adults who are living on city streets, they will soon be able to access permanent housing that is poised to empower the individuals and significantly tackle homelessness in our community. Well House, a Grand Rapids nonprofit, is opening a youth house for individuals ages 18 to 24, and the new space will give young adults the chance to build their lives.

Edye Evans Hyde

Power of truth: Ebony Road Players provides safe space to explore race, identity & ignored histories

The Ebony Road Players and its executive director, Edye Evans Hyde, are pushing the community forward with theater, prompting people to listen, really listen, to stories of racism and injustice that they may not have otherwise known. Or wanted to hear.

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Greenhouse to grocery: Stocking stores with year-round Michigan produce

Yes, it's frosty outside. But winter doesn't mean you can't enjoy homegrown Michigan produce this time of year. In fact, it could be as close as your neighborhood grocery aisle.

Melissa Tungl

RapidChat: Melissa Tungl on making yoga all about community, getting rid of the yogi stigma & more

Over the years, we have seen an increasing number of boutique fitness studios pop up in and around Grand Rapids – particularly those which revolve around the ancient practice of yoga. Likewise,it can be somewhat of a status symbol to even be called a ‘yogi.' Trends aside, owner of Seva Yoga, Melissa Tungl, is on a mission to root her studio in the community and make yoga a practice accessible to everyone while removing that aloof yogi stigma. 

RG OST Construction

Augmented reality: How technology is revolutionizing the world of construction

As Grand Rapids' skyline is forged higher and wider, construction firms, developers and designers are improving how they work with each new building. 

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A city for everyone: Changing what development means for Grand Rapids in 2017

From a dramatically different riverfront that’s meant to transform the city into an “urban playground for all ages” to a massive downtown theater complex and city-led talks centering around affordable housing and displacement, 2017 is shaping up to be a pretty monumental year for development in Grand Rapids.

TommyEditorial

From coffee and cosplay to food trucks and film: Reasons to love Grand Rapids in 2017

Internationally acclaimed filmmakers. Embracing our immigrant communities. An ever-growing music scene. Happiness in a cup (seriously). There are more reasons than ever to love, and explore, Grand Rapids in 2017.

Coleen Davis

UIX: With donated wheelchairs, Alternatives in Motion brings mobility to Grand Rapids

For those fortunate enough to live in West Michigan, Alternatives in Motion can restore freedom where it's been restricted. Led by Executive Director Coleen Davis, AIM provides wheelchairs, mobility equipment and repair services to those in the community who couldn't otherwise afford it. 

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A center for culture, a home for history: New museum lifts voices of GR's African American community

The Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives is making an indelible mark on the city by showcasing and honoring the rich history and incredible contributions of the African American community in West Michigan.

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Parks, peas and potential: The best of Michigan Nightlight 2016

Before we launch into another year of stories about the issues, people and programs that impact Grand Rapids' children, we wanted to revisit the best-read 2016 Michigan Nightlight stories from Rapid Growth.

Illustration of a mastodon in Michigan.

Why does Michigan have a thumb?

It wouldn't be much of a mitten without a thumb. But exactly how did our fair state's opposable digit come to fruition? Take a dive into our state's geological history.

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Happy holidays and see you in 2017!

To mark the end of 2016, Rapid Growth takes a look back at our most-read stories of the year.

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With eyes on reform & empathy, GR educators call for change to standardized tests for ELL students

Grand Rapids educators and researchers are calling on the state to rethink their approach to the way standardized testing is conducted for English language learners.

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Say what? Talking to kids about race doesn't have to be daunting

Parents, caregivers and early childhood educators play an important role in helping young children form healthy racial identities and attitudes toward others. But for many adults, talking to kids about race can be uncomfortable. The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance's 'Talking to Kids About Race' workshops empower adults to address the topic that helps children learn to respect and value themselves and others for their own unique racial and ethnic backgrounds while celebrating diversity and encouraging inclusion.

Bailey Farm

Technology turns farming into a high precision business that protects environment, controls costs

Technology adds a level of precision to farming that has not been seen before. 

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RapidChat: Jeffrey Songco on making the leap from San Fran to GR, pushing boundaries with art & more

Five years after his very first ArtPrize competition, artist Jeffrey Songco took the leap and moved to Grand Rapids this past fall. An artist who was raised in New Jersey by immigrant Filipino parents, his artwork explores, as he describes, "a narrative of an anxious American guy celebrating a contemporary world of multiple identities." His work has taken him all over, but after being inspired by the people he met while participating in ArtPrize, he knew this city is where he wanted to start putting down some roots.

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Gateway to creation: GR's Maker Movement gives space & tools to bring inventors' ideas to life

For independent inventors, it can be difficult accessing the necessary space and tools to make their ideas become a reality. Here in Grand Rapids, however, older and newer groups alike are providing 'makerspaces' for these individuals throughout the city, and GR is increasingly proving to be fertile ground for our city's inventors, designers and tinkerers.

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G-Sync: Hungry for change in the New Year

In his last editorial of 2016, Rapid Growth's Publisher Tommy Allen ponders what is happening at the city level as national headlines shock and awe readers. 

Anissa and Jermale Eddie

Shop for Good: How you can support businesses owned by people of color, women and veterans

Do you shop at places that align with your values? One Grand Rapids woman is trying to make it easier for you to do so with an electronic directory of businesses that are owned by women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, veterans, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Native Americans.

Volunteers help individuals with disabilities create art during Artists Creating Together’s Adult Art Class.

UIX: With an eye on changing the world by acting locally, ServeGR makes volunteering easy

ServeGR, a new hub for volunteer efforts in the region, helps centralize opportunities for those looking to give. Where nonprofits may have previously been hampered by a lack of volunteers with the right schedule or skill set, the ease of ServeGR's use makes screening for essential talent much simpler. 

South Division

City sets sights on equitable development for S. Division, Burton Heights & Grandville Ave

The city of Grand Rapids is aiming to develop South Division, Burton Heights, and Grandville Avenue into a Corridor Improvement District. To address gentrification and displacement, city officials are in the process of creating a plan with the community through the lens of equity. 

Ann Conklin, Chief Operating Officer of mParks

Grand Rapids, meet mParks: Major Michigan conference set in home sweet home

Grand Rapids' dedication to green space has not gone unnoticed. The Michigan Recreation and Parks Association is holding its major annual trade show in GR, bringing close to 1,000 parks aficionados to Grand Rapids in an effort that showcases our city as a hub for parks and recreation.

Old World Style Almonds

There are 195 countries in the world. Michigan food and agriculture products went to 114 last year.

Michigan businesses--from fruit growers to brewers--are learning how to best market their products to a global market.

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VIDEO: On The Ground celebrates Burton Heights, South Division & Garfield Park

Meet the people who are living, working and organizing along the South Division corridor and in the Burton Heights and Garfield Park neighborhoods in our On The Ground video that celebrates the incredible work being done in this community.

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No chardonnay or romance novels here: Fair housing book club tackles life-changing topics

Can a book club effect change in the community? Are words on the page really enough to change minds? After eight years of a book club designed to do just that, the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan's Liz Keegan, and others, have witnessed the power of intriguing stories, open minds and honest discussions to increase awareness of social justice issues in our community.

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RapidChat: Raul Alvarez on advocating for an equitable GR, 'coffee just because' & more

For Raul Alvarez, life and work are all about taking the time to form relationships. His "coffee, just because" groups in Grand Rapids have gathered people together under the umbrella of individuals actually getting to spend time with one another, resulting in not only strong friendships but also many community projects. With years of PR and marketing experience under his belt, this chief communicator, storyteller and synergist is changing the way our city interacts with his own GTSD Group.

Peacock Farms

Inside the Michigan farms that will harvest 3 million Christmas trees this year

As Michiganders flock to the hundreds of Christmas tree farms across the state, Michigan's agritourism economy sees healthy growth.

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The data driving Grand Rapids: How the city's 311 program is reshaping where we live

As the leaders behind Grand Rapids' 311 system change and adapt the way we report everything from potholes to questions about voter registration, the data coming from the nationally recognized program is vastly improving the way residents interact with their government.

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Rising from the ashes: Nonprofit café sets sights on rebuilding after devastating fire

Following a November fire that completely destroyed the future site of Rising Grinds Café, the Madison Square community is rallying behind the coffee shop that was set to open in May. The leaders backing the café are vowing to rebuild the space that aims to empower community youth, and others from the area, with jobs and training.

Mindy Ysasi

'How much more can this person take?' Residents & community groups fight for access to everyday life

Many residents in the city of Grand Rapids are not afforded the opportunity to meet basic needs, such as housing and employment, without first diving deep into bureaucratic roadblocks created to benefit only those in power and with privilege. In the community of Burton Heights, citizens are having to go above and beyond to meet these needs, only to find themselves requiring further advocacy from local organizations and leaders. 

Lindsay Mikita, Christy Ennis-Kloote and Karen VanHouten.

UIX: Ladies That UX rallies women at the forefront of design and technology in West Michigan

Women are overwhelmingly outnumbered by men in the computing workforce. To foster support in a world that can often feel isolating, local female design leaders from companies like Visualhero, Atomic Object, Amway, and Infor are banding together as part of a group called Ladies That UX. 

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What a rock star & epidemiologist have in common: How Michigan is supporting access to healthy food

An  epidemiologist and a rock star walk into a summit about good food throughout Michigan. It's no joke. People from across Michigan are coming together to make sure people in the state have access to food that’s affordable, healthy, green, and fair.

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A taste of home: Martha PeeWee connects GR's immigrant community to much-missed motherlands

For many immigrants in Grand Rapids, coming to the United States is a chance at a better life and opportunities. Martha PeeWee and her family, who moved to West Michigan from Liberia, have been able to successfully achieve their dreams of entrepreneurship by opening up Martha's International Market. This endeavor was made possible thanks to the willingness of her community to share a breadth of knowledge, experience and connections.   

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Tackling racism in business: How Grand Rapids can make the economy work for everyone

Grand Rapids has been ranked as one of the worst cities in the country for African Americans when it comes to economic opportunity. To combat this, community leaders recently gathered at a Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses summit to tackle what must be done to make GR, and West Michigan, a more equitable place.

Urban Roots

Showing up: Join us to discover what we can learn from leaders in Burton Heights & Garfield Park

On The Ground Grand Rapids invites you to help us celebrate the incredible work being done by the residents, advocates and other leaders in the Burton Heights and Garfield Park neighborhoods during a community conversation this Tuesday, Dec. 6.

GrandRapidsTopography

Happy Thanksgiving from Rapid Growth

From all of us at Rapid Growth, we wish you a very happy and healthy holiday filled with family, friends and food.

Juan Carlos Angulo

RapidChat: Juan Carlos Angulo on starting over in the U.S., uncertainty after the election & more

Following the U.S. presidential election, many people who are immigrants are asking, "What's in store for my future?" For Juan Carlos Angulo, a Grand Rapidian who moved here from Mexico for work several years ago, the reality of that is uncertain. 

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Speaking the language of community: Burton Heights & Garfield Park faith leaders focus on organizing

In Burton Heights and Garfield Park, church leaders are helping to craft evolutionary spaces to educate, empower and advocate for immigration and police reform and safe and affordable housing.

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'Before the time of us': How trips to Lake Michigan are changing students' worldviews

While many of us may take for granted how easy it can be to make the 35-mile trip to Lake Michigan, the overwhelming majority of Grand Rapids Public Schools' fifth grade students have never seen this body of water. Financial hardship, lack of transportation and other barriers prevent many of the children from seeing this Great Lake, but GRPS and Open Systems Technologies are quickly changing that.

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Breaking news: Grand Rapids still makes things!

By all accounts, Grand Rapids and Buffalo, New York seem almost like twins: our populations, geographies, industrial histories, and even current major employers are almost identical. So why is Grand Rapids doing so much better economically?

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Making it in GR: Pitch competitions put entrepreneurs in the spotlight

Taking your business idea out into the world can be scary, but it's necessary for entrepreneurs who need funding. Pitch competitions have emerged as a fun, laid-back way for individuals to seek financial backing and get the community involved in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. 

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Six reasons to brave West Michigan's trails this winter

You've all seen the billboards, and the mantra is true: "We choose this." Since we voluntarily live in West Michigan during cold and snowy winters, we might as well enjoy ourselves. So don't be afraid of the cold; embrace it this season on West Michigan's vast trail network with these six wintery activities.

Adnoris 'Bo' Torres, fatherhood coordinator.

Strong fathers, strong families: New program aims to support Latinx community

Two Grand Rapids groups, Family Futures and Strong Beginnings, have partnered to better serve an often marginalized community: Latinx fathers. Tackling issues such as language and cultural barriers, immigration fears, transportation needs, and education, the two organizations developed the research that led to the newly-launched Padres Fuertes program.

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UIX: Laura Ward and Affinity Mentoring advocate more than just memorization for students

From academic assistance to emotional support, a ride to school, or even just a friend to laugh with, Laura Ward and her volunteers at Affinity Mentoring are helping young children achieve success during their crucial years of development.

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The future of GR's southside: What will a land sale mean for Urban Roots and affordable housing?

The sale of the land where Urban Roots has been making its home on the city's southside is prompting concerns about the future of the farm that has been welcomed with open arms by neighbors, as well as fears of future development and displacement. For others, however, including the landowner, Linc Up, the sale is about ensuring there is affordable housing in the Madison Square area.

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Bye-bye boys' club: Tackling inclusive growth in Grand Rapids' improv comedy scene is no joke

Grand Rapids' comedy scene is quickly growing. As it does, comedians are taking on equity issues that have long plagued comedy, both here and nationally, in a move they're hoping will make the city's laugh landscape a whole lot stronger and more inclusive.

Sam Tsemberis

How to end homelessness: Housing First founder Dr. Sam Tsemberis to speak in Grand Rapids

What does it take to ensure everyone in Grand Rapids has a place to call home? Dr. Sam Tsemberis, a clinical psychologist who founded the Housing First model that has significantly reduced homelessness in cities across the country, will tackle that question and more when he speaks in our city on Nov. 16.

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Getting back to the business of living: Amway's Sara Gonzalez shows us the humanity of technology

Even within one of the world's largest and most prolific corporations, the stars of innovation can still shine brightly. Here in West Michigan, Sara Gonzalez is illuminating new systems within the interconnected galaxies of design and technology at Amway.

GSeditorial

G-Sync: Standing Rock and why Michigan matters

Only a fraction of the stories coming out of Standing Rock are making it to mainstream media sources, so local businessman Mark Sellers and Rapid Growth Publisher Tommy Allen hit the road to see for themselves what is happening with the Dakota Access Pipeline and at Oceti Sakowin Camp. Allen explains why what they discover there indeed matters to Michigan.

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Pushing us past the ordinary: Five chefs who are changing the way we eat in Grand Rapids

From serving dishes in top-secret dining spots to carefully crafting globally-inspired meals with local ingredients, these Grand Rapids chefs are changing what we eat and how we eat it. They are redefining the traditional dining space and pushing us to think past the ordinary.

David Myers of Michigan Virtual University.

Five facts parents should know about online learning

Many misconceptions surround online and blended learning for high school students, leading to confusion and misinformation. Michigan Virtual University shares five facts for a better understanding of what to expect with online courses.

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An apple a day is the new Burton way: How students of color are gaining access to the tech sector

Jobs in the tech industry have been growing exponentially over the past two decades. Despite the availability of jobs in this sector, it continues to fail at employing people of color. Teachers and creatives in Grand Rapids are making efforts to ensure the younger generation gains access to these spaces and are dramatically transforming what the industry will look like.

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RapidChat: Sara Visser on blogging in Beer City, what it takes to be a successful writer & more

Inspired by the colorful fashion and delectable food that surrounded her, Sara Visser first got her start blogging while living in the windy city of Chicago. After realizing the influence her personal brand had on her community, and the networking opportunities that came along with so-called "hobby," she carried this passion of hers back to her home state of Michigan with The GR Guide.

Bushlist

The evolution of online learning in policy and the classroom

The online learning landscape has changed substantially over the past decade, when Michigan became the first state in the nation to require students to have an online learning experience before graduating from high school. Here, we explore how online learning has evolved over the last 10 years, from the way classrooms work to what it means to 'go' to school.

UIX

UIX: To Birgit Klohs and team, West Michigan is The Right Place for manufacturing

West Michigan may be the right place for manufacturing, but it's The Right Place, and the economic development organization's CEO, Birgit Klohs, that are helping the industry grow.

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Changing the Michigan food world one potato at a time

How food reaches your table has become a growing concern for many, and for many reasons. While the corner grocery store or supermarkets have been the most popular choices for consumers in past decades, food hubs are becoming a fast-growing alternative. 

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Michigan Dune Alliance helps protect state's iconic sand dunes from invasive species

Michigan's iconic sand dunes are being threatened by invasive species. Journalist Mark Wedel finds out how a group of conservation organizations are joining forces to weed out the invaders.

TheOddest

Lazy is the new smart: How millennial entrepreneurs are shaping a generation

Millennials are the nation's largest living generation, and despite their bad rap, the 'millipreneurs' of Grand Rapids are shattering the ever-popular stereotype of the lazy and entitled millennial.

Geeking out: Thousands of fans proudly prove Grand Rapids Comic Con's star power

The Grand Rapids Comic Con is growing by leaps and bounds, this year drawing close to 30,000 visitors to the convention that is wonderfully proving 'geek' culture is for everyone.

Samantha Orozco

In underserved communities, providers tackle barriers to health care through empowerment & advocacy

Faced by systems of oppression, many residents of Burton Heights are denied access to affordable health care resources due to lack of documentation, employment and availability of services. To address this, health care workers are giving their all to providing options for residents in marginalized areas.

RapidChat: John Helmholdt of Grand Rapids Public Schools

For much of recent history,  the public education system has gone relatively unchanged. John Helmholdt, Executive Director of Communications and External Affairs at Grand Rapids Public Schools, explains why this is such a big deal for the city's education system, as well as why, nationwide, this has lead an increasing number of schools to take on much more innovative approaches.  

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Opening our arms: Embracing refugees makes Grand Rapids a stronger city

West Michigan is home to some 25,000 refugees. Susan Kragt, the Executive Director of the West Michigan Refugee Education and Cultural Center, explains why we must do a better job about seeking these voices out as we discuss the development of our economy, our schools, and our neighborhoods. When we do, Grand Rapids will become an even better place to live.

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Building a future with two wheels: Nonprofit seeks to change children's lives with bikes

With an aim to better children's lives by teaching them useful skills—both mechanical and social—Open Roads provides a variety of after-school programs. Through simply building bikes, these students are taking steps towards a successful future.

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The Spoke Folks: Tackling racism, sexism and classism in Grand Rapids

For The Spoke Folks, the Grand Rapids nonprofit is about far more than bicycles. It's about treating all people with dignity and respect.

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The strength of South Division: Working class forms the avenue's backbone

Despite being responsible for the success of the businesses along South Division, the working class is faced with little room to advocate for financial freedom and equitable access to opportunities. 

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Wizards of the digital age: West Michigan tech leaders change the world with the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is pushing the boundaries of technology, and West Michigan leaders have keen insights on a frontier that is revolutionizing the way the world interacts.

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Making herstory: The women who are changing the dynamics of West Michigan politics

The women leading West Michigan's cities are making history — or, rather, herstory — by breaking down barriers and charting new courses for politics in our area. As Americans face an increasingly polarized nation, these leaders are unifying residents and building strong communities.

Waldron

UIX: Brave Grand Rapids is building foundations for mental health

Allison Waldron and Brave Grand Rapids are working to bring mental health out of the darkness of stigma and promote a foundation of wellness in area youth.

Raul Alvarez

With innovation and creativity, South Division food entrepreneurs carve out space for dreams

As entrepreneurs of color are faced with barriers to opportunities, they are finding non-traditional ways of building their businesses and the local economy.

Dégagé Ministries Executive Director Marge Palmerlee

Dégagé Ministries' Marge Palmerlee on homelessness in GR, the greatness of Heartside & more

Dégagé Ministries Executive Director talks to Rapid Growth about supporting homeless individuals in Grand Rapids, why Heartside is already great, how to bridge the divide that can exist between businesses and social service agencies on South Division, and more.

Hippie Modernism

G-Sync: The counterculture effect and embracing hippie ideals in Grand Rapids

A recent visit to the "Hippie Modernism" exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum has Rapid Growth's Tommy Allen considering the role of the counterculture on the future of Grand Rapids — and all of society.

The 1310 Bandits Film Group

Immersive 'idea lab' celebrates artists as community leaders

Artspace's annual Breaking Ground event evolves this year from one dynamic evening of speakers and performances to an immersive, two-day "idea lab" on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15.

Latesha Lipscomb

RapidChat: Latesha Lipscomb

As someone who has always been about both beauty and brains,  I GOT FACE Cosmetic Concierge business owner Latesha Lipscomb spends her days doing everything from talking conflict resolution and restorative justice to picking out the perfect peonies for an event — and everything in between.

Kidsinpark

A breath of fresh air: City of Grand Rapids aims to reconnect children with nature

Grand Rapids has a message for its children: Time to turn the television off. These days, the city is set on giving its younger residents plenty of reasons to abandon the TV. With a renewed focus on parks, outdoor learning labs and playgrounds, the city and its leaders aim to be at the cutting edge of reuniting children with the great outdoors.

Sustainable Business

Civic-minded companies: Grand Rapids businesses focus on hiring veterans, restoring history & more

While mistrust of business seems to be growing at a national level, there's a different story playing out in West Michigan. Building on a long tradition of public-private partnerships, companies here are increasingly involved in the community, doing everything from providing training and employment to individuals recently released from prison to quietly leading the restoration and celebration of  Frank Lloyd Wright's Meyer May House — and a whole lot more.

Saúl Ulloa

We are not a failing school: Understanding standardized testing & the language divide at Burton

Burton Elementary has a long history of success and is further banding together with the community to support students and their families. These efforts, however, are being jeopardized by the state's emphasis on standardized testing practices that unfairly penalize schools serving primarily English language learner communities, writes Saúl Ulloa, an alumnus of Burton and a longtime resident of the Burton Heights and Garfield Park area.

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UIX: Local industries grow together in Brewer's Grove

The Brewer's Grove, a group effort between local brewers and the Friends of GR Parks, celebrates two of Grand Rapids' most unique titles, Tree City and Beer City USA.

Becky Vandenbout

Don't let them call you sweetheart: Women entrepreneurs break the glass ceiling in West Michigan

These West Michigan  women are kicking butt and taking names. As business owners and entrepreneurs in male-dominated fields, they're proving there's no glass ceiling that can't be shattered.

Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities Teen Leaders in the Arts participants

Leading through the arts: Teens in GR and across the state transform Michigan's creative landscape

When it comes to incorporating the voices of youth in arts programming, Michigan is leading the way. Teens in Grand Rapids, Detroit and Ann Arbor are bringing a fresh perspective to cultural realms across the state, from addressing racism and police brutality through the arts to running an indie record label and a whole lot more.

Beau VanSolkema

Speaking out: GRCC's policy supporting transgender students creates safe learning environment

Grand Rapids Community College should be praised, not criticized, for working hard to protect the civil rights of all its students, including its transgender population, writes Beau VanSolkema, the president of GRCC's  LGBTQQA+ organization.

Fran Dalton

Placemaking & The Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association

The Garfield Park Neighborhoods Association functions as the second largest neighborhood association in the city of Grand Rapids. As the organization makes the effort to build community, including searching for a new executive director, it becomes increasingly challenging, and important, to engage the residents of the area while addressing issues of job availability and displacement.

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Photo essay: DisArt fashion show 'Elevate' breaks boundaries & barriers

DisArt’s spectacular 'Elevate' fashion show at Site:Lab's Rumsey Street Project showcased models with disabilities, pushed the expectations of design and redefined sentiments of style, access and bodies.

WMTkelly

Let's get down to the river: GR Forward's trail initiative plans promising pathways

The Grand River is certainly a fixture in our community. Yet, we don't drink its water. We don't dip our feet in it. And many of us have never even stood close enough to its banks to even get wet. Now, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the city of Grand Rapids aim to change our access to the river with ambitious plans for an extensive network of trails near the water.

MVU innoacademy

Mentors make the difference in online learning

For students to fully personalize their online learning experience, it’s important they not only focus on technology but connect in a meaningful way with other students and, more importantly, their teachers.
 

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With Madison Avenue farm, Urban Roots plants the seeds for change & justice in Grand Rapids

For Urban Roots, farming in Grand Rapids is not just about growing vegetables. It's about breaking down barriers and building community.

Jordy VandeBunte

RapidChat: Jordy VandeBunte, an aspiring chef with top security clearance

Jordy VandeBunte is a self-proclaimed "culinary student with a top secret security clearance." It's not every day you meet an aspiring chef like VandeBunte: a current student at the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at GRCC who used to work for the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Miguel family

On Burton Street: The great divide

Growing up on Burton Street in Grand Rapids' south side, Ken Miguel-Cipriano thought all neighborhoods looked like his. It was not until high school that he saw other communities in depth and began to understand the stark difference Burton Street makes.

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UIX: Young tech engineers program the future in 2016 Atomic Games

Atomic Object is helping young minds experiment with new ideas and methods in the annual Atomic Games, where college students build artificially intelligent systems that can learn and master board games.

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On The Ground: With entrepreneurship, diversity & family, South Division sets sights on the future

Rapid Growth's new On The Ground series focuses on the community found along South Division Avenue, touching on the Garfield Park and Burton Heights neighborhoods. This series will highlight the stories of the neighbors and community members who make this area what it is today. The project begins with a celebration of the strong spirit of entrepreneurship and hospitality in the area.

Mural

The permanent lives of creativity: Past ArtPrize winners become Grand Rapids fixtures

While many ArtPrize pieces are here for just a matter of weeks, others become permanent pieces of Grand Rapids. Where are these works now, and how have they influenced the artistic conversation in the city?

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Meet Michelle Jokisch Polo, Rapid Growth's On The Ground editor

Michelle Jokisch Polo, a journalist and Grand Rapidian who originally hails from El Salvador and Ecuador, is bringing her expertise in advocating against systemic oppression, offering critical analysis and listening to the community through her research to Rapid Growth's newest series, On The Ground.

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At GVSU, an emphasis on design thinking is leading to big changes in education

A recent design thinking conference at Grand Valley State University tackled big questions, including: what makes the world run better, especially when it comes to our schools?

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With an eye on honoring 'La Grande Vitesse,' GR focuses on bringing life back to Calder Plaza

Nearly 50 years after the dedication of Alexander Calder's "La Grande Vitesse," a sculpture that led to a revival of the arts in Grand Rapids, community leaders are hoping a redesign of Calder Plaza will make the expansive space a livelier, greener and more attractive area that will draw everyone from tourists to nearby workers.

HopCat founder Mark Sellers

Founder Mark Sellers: HopCat is the 'anti-chain chain'

HopCat's success stems from defying many traditional restaurant norms, says its founder.

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Michigan's pig problem: What to do if you see a smart, tusky animal in Michigan's outdoors

Cast not your pearls before (feral) swine. Especially if those swine are invasive wild boars intent on devouring Michigan's natural landscapes and farmland. Learn why these tusky invaders are a growing threat in Michigan, and what's being done to control them.

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Reclaiming our name: Mayors' Grand River Cleanup's history of environmentalism & uniting community

In two weeks, more than 1,000 volunteers will congregate at the Sixth Street Bridge Park to clean up the riverbank, gathering with a community that, for years, has worked to improve the Grand River. Before the Mayors' Grand River Cleanup, Rapid Growth explores the increasingly popular event's history, and what it means for the future of the body of water that gave our city its name.

Breannah Alexander

The nation we've made: On mobility for young people

Young people do not have a feasible pathway to economic mobility that is accessible or equitable. Breannah Alexander, of Partners for a Racism-Free Community and Opportunity Nation, explains why this matters, and what can be done to bring about the change that is needed.

Christina Arnold

G-Sync: Diversity's ambassador is a family affair

Christina Arnold of the Grand Rapids Community College's Woodrick Diversity Learning Center recently retired as its director. Publisher Tommy Allen sat down with Arnold during the last week of her employment at the college to reflect on the many years she has invested in our community to make it a better place, not just for the students of GRCC but for our entire region. 

Latesha Lipscomb

UIX: With passion and perseverance, Latesha Lipscomb makes Grand Rapids a better home for many

Latesha Lipscomb isn't just making Grand Rapids a happier home for many in the city, she's showing the world how things get done. Along with working as a housing advocate for the Inner City Christian Federation, Lipscomb empowers women through her work at POSH Innovative Event Management, runs a successful makeup business, and leads others on the Seeds of Promise Entrepreneurial Impact Team.

GR

Loving, living & leaving: Why we call Grand Rapids home, why we don't & what that means for our city

What makes a city a home? And, specifically, what makes Grand Rapids a place where people want to lay down roots? Or, on the other hand, want to leave? Current and former Grand Rapidians, from CEOs and entrepreneurs to musicians and retirees, weigh in on what our city does well to make people stay — and what it could do better.

Shannon Cohen

Championing women's voices & inclusion: Survey aims to empower leaders of color in West Michigan

How do we open the professional doors that are rarely, or never, open to women of color who aspire to be leaders in West Michigan? Two fellows from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Shannon Cohen and Pat Sosa VerDuin, aim to break down these barriers and dismantle racism with data from a new survey of women of color in Kent and Ottawa Counties.

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Making it in Grand Rapids: Social enterprise fights for a place in the entrepreneurial ecosystem

How do you succeed as an entrepreneur if your number one focus isn't your bottom line? Where do you find help to start a business that wants to use its profits to decrease homelessness or keep kids in school?  While the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Grand Rapids continues to thrive, social entrepreneurs are still struggling to find their place, and the resources that will help them thrive, within that same ecosystem. 

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What it takes to succeed as an online teacher

With new technology changing the way teachers reach their students, how can schools continue to ensure a high quality of instructors? In this ever-changing world, students are learning differently and schools are adapting best practices to keep up. Michigan Virtual University shares how it identifies instructors ready to take on the challenge of teaching online courses.

Erica Curry Van Ee

RapidChat: Erica Curry VanEe on meeting her biological family, a push for adoption reform & more

While Urban Curry Consulting will always be her lifeblood, Erica Curry VanEe is currently embarking on a newfound adventure. Due to her circumstances of being relinquished for adoption at birth, she has recently been re-inspired to impact the lives of other adopted children through The Legitimacy Movement, an organization that is looking to bring awareness to the need for action on adoption policy reform.   

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UIX Blog: At WMCAT, using social design to tackle global problems

A recent workshop at WMCAT highlights the tremendous good that social design can do, from Grand Rapids to around the world.

Grand Opening of El Barrio

How affordable artist housing can help cultural communities 'celebrate themselves'

Artspace enjoys a long history of working with culturally distinct groups in the development of affordable artist live/work housing and community spaces. From El Barrio in New York to Honolulu, Hawaii, these projects allow artists to celebrate themselves.

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Bike on, Holland: Lakeshore trail network provides a safe & scenic haven for cyclists

Tulips, you may soon be sharing the limelight with bicycles. With almost 200 miles of trails in the greater Holland area, and plans for even more, city officials, volunteers and dedicated citizens are working together to continue making the area a major destination for cyclists.

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Rethinking Grand Rapids' cemeteries: How the historic spaces can shape the city's future

Grand Rapids is beginning to look at ways the city can transform its historic cemeteries into cultural assets, while at the same time respecting their primary function as places of rest.

Jarrad Grady

UIX: Sights set on empowering students, Kent ISD focuses on youth-business connection

How do you make sure students are ready to take on the world? Jarrad Grandy and his team of STEM and career readiness consultants are answering that by connecting youth at Kent ISD with local businesses.

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Leather and wood live: Grand Rapids embraces craftsmanship done the old-fashioned way

You see it happening throughout our city, country and world: consumers trading in mass-produced goods in favor of hand-crafted, local items. From handbags to tables, silverware to sunglasses, products made by one person from design to completion are catching on proverbial fire and providing local artists with a platform for their creativity.  Here in Grand Rapids, wood and leather goods are experiencing a resurgence as residents dedicate themselves to craftsmanship and the local economy.

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Art for the people: Students debut Grandville mural celebrating Latino community, diversity & unity

To create a stunning new mural on Grandville Avenue, high school students spent months exploring race, identity and heritage. After nearly a year of doing everything from holding public forums to putting on skits about racism in Grand Rapids, the teenagers are celebrating their newly-finished piece of public art that is all about uplifting and empowering the area's Latino community.

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Good wood: How you can enjoy your campfire this summer while protecting Michigan's forests

Without campfires, there's no s'mores. But without restrictions on moving firewood around the state, there might not be healthy forests.

Adam Brent

UIX: Adam Brent and Cocoa tackle hunger, redefine waste by strengthening local roots

Adam Brent has a rich history. Rich in experience, and rich in nutrients. His work with Cocoa has been strengthening local root systems through an innovative and ancient approach: make the best compost you can.

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Rapid Blog: The solution to homelessness is housing, and we can solve this crisis

What is needed to help those who are homeless in Grand Rapids? Safe, affordable housing, writes Tami VandenBerg, the Director of Well House.

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Life on two wheels: How Grand Rapids is transforming itself into a bicycle-friendly city

For the past six years, Grand Rapids has set its sights on becoming a bicycle-friendly city. After nearly 80 miles of bike lanes have been implemented, with more in the works, a dramatic change in the transportation landscape has led to growing pains. City officials and grassroots leaders are now attempting to navigate these challenges in order to become one of the country's best metropolises for those on two wheels.

Tommy

G-Sync: The rent is too damn high - for now?

When Publisher Tommy Allen tackles the topic of rental rates, he discovers that while construction for new units are justifiably higher due to building costs, some landlords are unreasonably raising their rates, contributing to the housing stress in Grand Rapids. 

Jason Ley

RapidChat: Jason Ley brings the hunt for elusive beer to the big screen

As a modern-day "Ahab," the conquest for "whalez" (translation: brews that are hard to find) is a boundless expedition. Searching high and low for rare beer selections can exhaust much of anyone's time, especially in our great beer state. With the debut of a new reality TV show, titled "Modern Ahabs," Jason Ley hopes to turn this beer enthusiast lifestyle into a full-blown career.

Kyama Kitavi

Making it in Grand Rapids: How the startup community is preparing entrepreneurs for the 'real world'

Can you teach entrepreneurship? This question may not have a straight answer, but is it even the right question? There are those in the Grand Rapids startup community who are not only working to educate entrepreneurs as much as possible but are also changing the question by asking not if it can be taught, but how it can be taught.  

Safety and traffic are big questions when cycling in Michigan.

Biking Lake Michigan: Politics and safety

In part two of Biking Lake Michigan, writer Mark Wedel tackles some of the political realities surrounding bicycling in our state.

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Growing roots: How Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is making the city's green spaces more inclusive

When the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks was struggling to connect with residents in underserved areas, they decided to change the way they were doing things. Part of that meant hiring a neighborhood liaison, Yiovanny Cornejo, who led the charge to make the city's green spaces more welcoming and active gathering places.

UIX blog Facebook

UIX blog: Social media maps used as a public service

Social media has pervaded nearly every aspect of life. And whether or not you agree with its reach, there's no doubting its efficacy in spreading important news in real time.

Emily Hammes

RapidChat: Emily Hammes of Grand Raggidy Roller Derby

Emily Hammes, otherwise known as "Bidi Bidi Bang Bang," is a lighthearted, charismatic woman who is no stranger to putting herself out on a limb. As a staple team member of the Grand Raggidy Roller Derby, it's clear that she is composed of equal parts strength and confidence.

Trails

Why I run: Renewal, recovery & redemption

From recovering after cancer to coping with divorce, these three women from the West Michigan Trails and Greenways Coalition have discovered running is about far more than just physical exercise. On West Michigan's trails, they've found camaraderie, confidence and a whole lot more.

Existing bike trails are part of the U.S. Bike Route.

Biking Lake Michigan: A long-distance adventure

Writer and cyclist Mark Wedel offers up a personal account of lessons learned along the U.S. Bike Route 35 through northern and western Michigan. This is the first installment of a two-part series on long-distance bike routes in Michigan.

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Safe space: Grand Rapids Police Department, community work to reform law enforcement

What is needed to make residents of color feel safe in Grand Rapids? The answer is complicated, but the conversation surrounding it is one that community leaders and residents across the city agree must persist until, finally, every single person can say they feel secure in our community.

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Invasive species and the Great Lakes: What's happening to our beloved blue waters?

What impact are invasive species like the zebra mussel and the round goby having on the Great Lakes? And why does it matter? Author William Rapai speaks to us about his new book on invasive species in our beloved blue waters.

Shandra Steininger, Samuel Jones, Amy Hinman

UIX: HQ lights a path for homeless youth

Invisible to many in West Michigan, an average of 200 youth go without a place to sleep each night in our community. They've escaped violence, rejection and neglect. They've been through a lot, and a life on the street can be even worse. For all those who have no place to call home, HQ Runaway & Homeless Youth Drop-In Center offers a safe and caring destination. 

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Beyond the Mitten: West Michigan companies making waves around the globe

When it comes to products changing the state, country and world, West Michigan should not be overlooked. This area is a hub for an incredibly diverse group of companies that have their sights set on success, and their efforts are making the globe more environmentally friendly, a better place for those battling mental health issues, increasingly delicious, and an all-around more interesting place to be.

Illustration by Deborah Rockman

G-Sync: How Grand becomes great

Rapid Growth's Publisher Tommy Allen on how we, as a community, can, through local art and honest dialogue, provide the necessary space to process the violence that has happened in our country. Here, "thing global, act local" gets a much-needed new spin.

Glenn and Juanita Ellis

Making it in GR: Despite gains for entrepreneurs of color, inclusiveness remains a work in progress

Even though minority-owned businesses in Grand Rapids have grown in number in recent years and organizations like Spring GR have arrived on the scene to support startups in underserved communities, entrepreneurs of color continue to face distinct challenges and longer odds, especially in the capital-intensive high-tech sector.

Haris Aibasic

UIX: Haris Alibašic keeps sustainable growth on GR's horizon

More than qualified to direct the city's Office of Energy and Sustainability, Haris Alibašic has his hands in many other projects as well. He manages the state and federal legislative affairs for the city, is actively involved with the  Bosnian American community, and as a member of the Grand Rapids 2030 District Leadership Council, is reducing greenhouse  gases in downtown Grand Rapids.

Mariza Gamez-Garcia

A seasonal life: West Michigan nonprofits work to support migrant workers and their families

The children of Michigan's migrant workers face wide-ranging and severe challenges: working alongside their parents in the hot summer sun, being exposed to dangerous chemicals, feeling isolated and vulnerable because of seasonal travel, and gaps in education. To support these children and their families, many West Michigan nonprofits are providing services geared toward youth education, medical and dental health, daycare, and more.

Wild Strawberry. Credit: Wikimedia commons.

Planting for tomorrow: Replacing aggressive species to promote diversity

Some advice on how to add a little diversity and eco-friendliness into your garden landscape this summer.

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Rapid Blog: Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses CEO Jamiel Robinson on the need for economic justice

Change must happen in the city to fix a broken economy that isn't working for the majority of African Americans, Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses founder and CEO Jamiel Robinson writes.

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Beer, art & nature: Must-see destinations along West Michigan's trails

With nature centers, restaurants and even art installations, West Michigan's trails are becoming diverse pathways with unique destinations around every corner.

 Megan Feenstra Wall

RapidChat: Megan Feenstra Wall, Michigan's Young Architect of the Year

Not only was she recently named the Michigan Young Architect of the Year by the American Institute for Architecture (AIA), Megan Feenstra Wall is also a very passionate community member. With her involvement in the Children’s Healing Center, Design Week West Michigan, and KCAD's Master of Architecture program, she advises novices to "keep taking risks, especially in this time of your life when failure is less likely to affect anyone but yourself."

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Photo essay: Harmony Brewing & Green Wagon Farm join forces to build strong community food landscape

For Harmony Brewing and Green Wagon Farm, a new partnership between the two groups is about building a stronger community food landscape in which farmers, restaurants and consumers are connected, both in person and with the food they cook and eat. To grow that relationship, Harmony is bringing employees to work on the farm every month. Local photographer Mike Rice recently got to document Harmony's first-ever staff work day, giving us a glimpse into a world of farming, food and community.

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UIX Blog: The world at your fingertips, with the right data

Of all the free mapping resources available online, ArcGIS is by far the most robust and functional. You could say it's like renting a satellite, but even that would still fall short in ability.

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Going beyond 'just surviving': How accessible is Grand Rapids for people with disabilities?

When it comes to being a haven for individuals with disabilities, Grand Rapids still has a long way to go. However, people throughout the community are working hard to make sure the area is becoming a place where everyone, no matter their disability, can lead the life they want.

Roberto Torres

UIX: Support for the community is strength for the community

The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan's 37 years of history are not only its biggest asset but something that Executive Director Roberto Torres has leveraged to push the center towards sustainability. 

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As arts writers disappear, Grand Rapids organizations band together to connect with audiences

The steady extinction of full-time arts reporters has left arts organizations in a quandary over how to make up for lost coverage. One local “supergroup” of marketing professionals is working to come up with solutions, but quick fixes don't come easy.

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Grand Rapids Trans Foundation launches, works to support low-income students

Just several months old, the Grand Rapids Trans Foundation already has big dreams: Provide scholarships for students and make the city a better, more inclusive place for the transgender community.

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From Grand Rapids to Orlando: LGBTQ community and allies stand in solidarity after mass shooting

After the mass shooting that killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, hundreds of people gathered outside the Apartment Lounge in Grand Rapids to tell the world: We will always unite against hate.

Tommy Allen joins the vigil.

My personal pain: Reflections on Orlando

The LGBTQ community across the country knows what it is to face constant violence. For those in power to try to silence them. To fight, entirely on their own, to fund research that would save  lives. Now, once again, community members are faced with heartbreak, devastation and anger, this time following the mass shooting of 49 LGBTQ individuals and their friends at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Publisher Tommy Allen reflects on this — and the change that must come.

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Fighting for the feast: Food truck owners & city leaders aim for culinary change in Grand Rapids

From Los Angeles to New York, food trucks have begun to play a starring role in our country's culinary scene. Now, local truck owners and political leaders are hoping these small, mobile businesses will have the chance to become an integral part of Grand Rapids' food fabric.

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Online alternatives expand options for home-based learners

Many families are turning to tuition-free, virtual courses to offer blended learning environments, allowing home-based students to learn at their own pace, and provide access to a wide range of subjects and experiences. Meanwhile, public schools are also figuring out how to welcome home school families into the school community and give them a choice in how to best meet their child’s unique needs.

Breannah Alexander

Beyond the rhetoric: Struggling to institutionalize equity

The reason we fail to see meaningful gains in equity efforts is undoubtedly tied to inequities still perpetuated within organizations that publicly champion the cause, writes Breannah Alexander, who works as an equity and inclusion consultant in Grand Rapids.

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RapidChat: Angela Steele

Regardless of your cultural background, financial status, or the language you speak, art is a universal mode of communication for all. This is something that Angela Steele, Executive Director of Artists Creating Together, knows very well. She knows that art sees no boundaries, no barriers, and it can bring self confidence and self worth to a person of any age, or any level of skill.

Playbook of Pee

G-Sync: The playbook of pee fears

Publisher and Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen tackles the real cost to Michigan if legislators enact bills that would prohibit residents who are transgender from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. If these bills get Lansing's stamp of approval, every business and citizen would be on the hook to pay for the misguided legislation.

RGasiangrandrapidian

Joining Pulaski Days: Why Asian Heritage Month needs to be celebrated in West Michigan

 West Michigan's Asian American community is a thriving and vibrant one with a history that spans nearly a century and a half. Despite the deeply rooted community, there is often a lack of awareness about Asian Heritage Month, or the area's Asian American culture in general — which is something area residents aspire to change.

Rudy Carrasco

UIX: Rudy Carrasco and Partners Worldwide are ending poverty

Partners Worldwide is taking down poverty. That being a tremendous project requiring vast resources, the non-profit must lean heavily on its strongest asset—its people.

Sean Ammirati

'The Science of Growth': Venture capitalist's new book studies why some startups change the world

Want to know why some companies fail and others flourish? A venture capitalist has a new book about his search for the practices that fueled some of the most successful startups in recent history, and he’s hoping it will give entrepreneurs in Grand Rapids and across the country a blueprint for capturing some of that startup magic themselves.

Start Garden

Making it in Grand Rapids: How the GR SmartZone is evolving to better support entrepreneurs

What do entrepreneurs from all walks of life need to make it in Grand Rapids? To answer this question, the city's SmartZone is evolving as part of a bigger conversation about how our organizations serve and support  a sustainable startup-friendly community.

SchoolGarden

Escaping a world of fast food: Grand Rapids schools tackle hunger, food security with gardens

From providing lessons about growing food in urban spaces to giving children fresh produce to take home, school gardens are playing an increasingly vital role in Grand Rapids' community health landscape.

Toresa M. Blakely

RapidChat: Toresa M. Blakely

From homelessness to entrepreneurial bliss, Toresa M. Blakely (A.K.A. "Coach TMB") is a truly inspirational community figure.  As the founder of the media and empowerment platform, In Life Now Enterprises, she proves that regardless of your circumstance, faith and a kind heart can get you far.

FTimmersion

¿Habla Español? Language immersion programs bring the world to West Michigan

An ever-increasing number of students are opting for language immersion programs in schools across West Michigan, and parents, educators and researchers are finding that the focus on another language is resulting in better grades, higher test scores and a deeper connection with their city -- and their world.

FTtrails

Bikes, brews & beaches: The Michigander's 25th ride to be hosted in West Michigan

Named one of the top rides in the country, The Michigander brings bicyclists of all ages on a tour of West Michigan's scenic trails, Great Lakes beaches, lighthouses, rivers, brewpubs, and more.

Devices on the internet.

UIX Blog: Finding us on the map(s)

We discuss maps and ways to categorize data so much on this blog, it's only reasonable that we ask ourselves where we fit on that map. But even before that question is answered, what map should we use?

Bryant Zimmerman

UIX: Bryant Zimmerman pairs global expertise with community education

For Bryant Zimmerman, part of running a global communications company means being passionate about local education.

RGoldbars

Al Capone, hauntings & drinks on the sly: Exploring metro Grand Rapids' oldest bars

With the cement still drying on so many fresh bars and breweries, we thought Grand Rapidians deserved a look back at a few of the oldest watering holes in metro Grand Rapids —some that have kept their doors open for more than 100 years—for a seasoned perspective on the ambitious business owners that laid the foundation for today's entrepreneurs.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

In Grand Rapids, ACLU of Michigan to honor doctor & journalist for uncovering Flint water crisis

The crucial work done by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician, and Curt Guyette, an investigative reporter, to prove the city of Flint was being poisoned by lead in the water will take center stage at the ACLU of Michigan's annual Standing Together for Justice luncheon at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids.

Neighborhood kids enjoy the library on their street.

More than a box of books: Little Free Libraries provide a big dose of literacy and community

They may be small, but the Little Free Libraries that are increasingly popping up throughout Grand Rapids are doing big things when it comes to building literacy and community.

Lady Ace Boogie

RapidChat: Lady Ace Boogie

With three WYCE Jammies under her belt, it's hard to believe that Lady Ace Boogie dropped her highly acclaimed debut album Feel Good Music merely a year ago. Inspired by her own self growth and experiences, her lyrics are relatable and infectious. It's safe to say... don't underestimate this Lady.

Hemlocks line the banks at Tahquamenon Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Aliens in the woods: Invasive species pose number one threat to Michigan forests

Despite what Smokey Bear may have told you, fires aren't the number one threat to forest ecosystems (at least not in Michigan). So what is? According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, invasive species are what we should be most worried about.

FTlittlelibrary

History, mystery and adventure: A guide to Grand Rapids' Little Free Libraries

Whether you’re eight years old or 80, into mysteries or historical tomes, you’ll find something to hold your interest in Grand Rapids' Little Free Libraries.

UIXllist

UIX Blog: Useful mapping technologies connect West Michigan

There are several examples of applied modern mapping technology in West Michigan alone, and one need look no further than the City of Grand Rapids' technology department for examples.

FTvault

G-Sync: Unleashing your inner superhero right where you are

Do new ideas of doing business really exist anymore? Publisher and Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen goes downtown to discover the inner superhero in all of us. (It is Free Comic Book Day 2016!)

Al fresco ballerinas in Trinidad, CO

Helping artists across the U.S. build capacity and community

Artspace started 30 years ago with a simple plan to develop more affordable housing for artists. Now they're taking a place-based consulting approach to help artists build capacity, raise funds, and learn from each other -- on a wider scale than ever before.

Drew Coppess

UIX: Now B Corp certified, 616 Lofts is poised as force for environmental good

Walk through any 616 Lofts building and you'll notice exposed brick and other architectural elements lend an identity to the space. It's the same way the company, now B Corp certified, does business, says Director of Environmental Sustainability Drew Coppess.

Azizi Jasper

The Michigan bibliophile: Authors from the Mitten State that every book lover needs to know

Grand Rapids' literary leaders discuss their favorite authors and books from the Mitten State, and the compilation is making us pretty darn proud of where we live.

IMGcybersecurity

Michigan small businesses get cyber security right

It's rare to find a business that doesn't have a digital presence these days, and that means there are just as many potential victims of cyber threat. Fortunately, Michigan is home to several businesses that lead the field in cyber security and digital awareness.

FTstateofschools

The comeback kids: How Grand Rapids Public Schools are making a dramatic turnaround

For years, Grand Rapids Public Schools seemed to be sinking. Now, that's all changing. GRPS Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal explains how, and why, the district is improving — and where it needs to go.

Ezekiel Moreno

Striving for more graduates in Michigan

Talent. It’s a big topic in Michigan. And while a key concern is talent fleeing after college, what happens to the kids who never have the access – or the grades – to go to college?

Elyse Welcher, owner of Parliament Boutique in downtown Grand Rapids.

Inside the mind of a hacker: An honest Q&A with a former cyber punk

Our series on cyber security for small businesses has explored credit card systems, industry trends and the problems inherent in small business networks. Now, editor Lauren Fay Carlson talks to a hacker for some insight on how and why small businesses might be attacked online.

Elliott Rader

RapidChat: Elliott Rader

When Elliott Rader was diagnosed with celiac disease at the age of 33, he suddenly came to realize the lack of nutritious (and delicious) gluten-free products that were readily available on grocery store shelves. Now, with his own business, he's making sure that changes.

FTopera

A changing love: Opera GR's 'Romeo and Juliet' proves opera can be both modern and traditional

Can an age-old art form still connect with people of all ages? Opera Grand Rapids, and its upcoming production of "Romeo and Juliet," is out to prove that, yes, it can.

FTbike

Doing good on the trails: How cyclists can raise money and awareness with a ride

From supporting women cyclists to raising money for Habitat for Humanity, West Michiganders can have fun on the trails this spring - and contribute to a good cause while they're at it.

FTstation

Falling back into favor: How Grand Rapids' abandoned gas stations got their groove back

Business owners throughout Grand Rapids are increasingly turning to old and abandoned gas stations to open restaurants, shops and firms in growing business districts. 

garlicmustard

Invasives, beware! Michigan gets organized about fighting exotic species

The collaborative approach to fighting invasive species is—pardon the pun—growing like a weed in Michigan. Find out how we stand a better chance of eradicating nature's monsters through collaboration.

FTfail

Class is in session: How one Grand Rapids group is redefining failure in the workplace

Welcome to Failure Laboratory, a place where professionals come together to challenge their perceptions of themselves and each other. Here, they begin to understand the science behind our innate fear of failing and work towards changing it. 

Kati Palmurkar

UIX: Kati Palmurkar's Happy Cat Cafe is a local fur-st

Kati Palmurkar is passionate about her feline friends, and she's dedicated to finding them stable homes through the innovative new Happy Cat Cafe on South Division.

Jen Schottke

New Grand Rapids School Board member Jen Schottke is committed to GRPS and its mission

Years ago, Jen Schottke fell in love with Grand Rapids Public Schools when her daughter began attending a Montessori academy. Now, the parent of two is about to bring that love to a different level as the newest member of the School Board.

FTraceworkforce

Facing race in the diversified workforce

Partners for a Racism-Free Community's upcoming conference, “Identity and Bias: Impact on Individuals and Institutions,” will help West Michigan dig deeper into issues impacting racial equity in various spaces, particularly the workplace.

FTfwellhouse

G-Sync: With housing and heart, Well House proves homelessness can become thing of the past

Since 2013, Well House, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit, has helped 103 homeless individuals find permanent, safe and low-cost housing in the city. Publisher Tommy Allen reflects on this milestone and where the organization, and the entire city, goes from here.

Zachary Collins

RapidChat: Zachary Collins

At the very young age of 14, Zachary Collins bought and sold his very first company, Twtbase. Now, at 21 years old, and with three successful businesses under his belt, it's clear to see that this young man — who's currently getting a degree in entrepreneurship — has always had a knack for it. 

RGfuturemedia

As diversity stagnates in mainstream press, ethnic news finds strong foothold in West Michigan

The growth of diversity in the mainstream media has stalled in recent years amid the chilly business climate for newspapers, but the editors at ethnic publications in West Michigan say there’s still reason to be optimistic about the future of media diversity and the range of viewpoints available.

FTschooltech

Chromebooks in the classroom: Toy or transforming how our students learn?

What happens when you make sure every child has a computer? In Allendale Public Schools, they discovered it led to educational transformation.

FTshrinkingschools

Michigan's shrinking schools: What's the impact?

As school districts struggle with the unavoidable future of declining enrollment, the impact goes far beyond empty classrooms, best friends transferring to a new school and dreaded pink slips. How are schools — and our communities — planning for a future with fewer children? And could this be the inspiration for innovation our schools need to transform how we educate Michigan's children?

RGspring

21 reasons why this just may be the best Grand Rapids spring ever

Drinking and dining in the sun, outdoor concerts, spring runs, so much art, and more. This is shaping up to be the best spring in Grand Rapids yet.

UIXmap

UIX Blog: Planning our future coverage using a heat map

There is a lot of information available in our archive of UIX articles, not the least important of which is geographical. Here we've mapped our coverage with the help of an online tool.

Diana Sieger, President of Grand Rapids Community Foundation

Lead & the work of inequality: Philanthropy and government must work together to achieve equity

Diana Sieger, the President of Grand Rapids Community Foundation and a board member of the Council on Foundations, and Kyle Caldwell, the Executive Director of the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University, discuss lead, poverty and the roles of philanthropy and government.

FTrapidblog

Happy spring break!

Rapid Growth is taking a week off for spring break. See you all on April 7!

whitelake

Cleaning up the past for a brighter, 'bluer' economic future in Michigan

Michigan's 'blue economy' presents plenty of opportunities for Michigan's economic future. But first, the state must clean up the sins of its economic past.

Ken Mahoney

From 'dead zone' to 'delisting': Ken Mahoney on cleaning up White Lake

Ken Mahoney has spent nearly a half-century working to clean up White Lake. Now that the lake is off the EPA's Great Lakes Area of Concern list, he's looking to the next generation to keep the lake clean for the future.

kathylist

A lifetime on the water: Kathy Evans on restoring Muskegon Lake

Kathy Evans has spent much of her adult life fighting to restore West Michigan's environment. Her greatest triumph: bringing people together to clean up Muskegon Lake.

Specials List

Cleaning up West Michigan's 'Areas of Concern'

Once West Michigan's most contaminated waterways, the White Lake and Muskegon Lake Areas of Concern are making their way toward recovery.

Nicole Rodammer

UIX: Children help each other heal, share and grow at Ele's Place

The children who come to Ele's Place are often grieving and emotionally blocked up. At a young age, they might not know how to process the death of a  loved  one or who to turn to for support. But through peer support group programs and new friendships with other children who can relate, Ele's Place becomes a stage for compassion and growth.

RGcybersecurity

The risks of free Wi-Fi: Connecting, sharing and stealing through small business' networks

What are West Michigan businesses and institutions doing to protect themselves from cyber crime?

WMSTunnel

West Michigan trails under construction: Two projects break ground, change communities

Trail enthusiasts look forward to two long-awaited projects on the Fred Meijer Standale Trail that are facilitating convenient pedestrian traffic and making connections between communities.


Tom Hagan

RapidChat: Tom Hagan

Whether you are located in New York or Grand Rapids, breaking into the world of journalism can prove to be a difficult feat - one which Tom Hagan, a local freelance writer, can affirm. We are living in a digital world, where our lives are being oversaturated with content on a daily basis. How do we make sure we are getting the most definitive information out there? With years of experience in the entertainment journalism, Tom explains his perspective.

Juanita Sanchez and her daughter Alianna

As more children are poisoned by lead in Grand Rapids, community advocates work for change

For the first time since the year 2000, the number of children poisoned by lead has increased in Grand Rapids. Now, nonprofits, elected officials and other community leaders are joining forces to put an end to a devastating health issue that disproportionately affects families of color.

FTguns

Making a difference: Efforts to end gun violence in Grand Rapids

For many activists in Grand Rapids, “thoughts and prayers” going out to gun violence victims and those close to them are not enough. These citizens have chosen to add protest, action, education, and organization to tackle the shootings that have devastated families across the city, state and country.

FTdiversity

Diversity in law: What can Grand Rapids do to keep its attorneys of color?

In a city where less than 3 percent of law partners are people of color, and as Cooley Law School graduates turn to other Michigan cities for work, what can Grand Rapids do to retain, and attract, minority attorneys?

UIX blog

UIX Blog: The color of our coverage

Diversity is important to our UIX coverage, and so is creating attractive story packages that engage readers. We look for color in many different ways and hope that our stories reflect that. 

radi8er

UIX: radi8er has a new way to listen to the sound of the city

Jim Czerew and Rob Anthony are going to change the way people discover new music and engage their community. Their digital music project radi8er is a platform for local artists to gain exposure, list shows, and define the sound of their own city. At the same time, listeners have access to all their local music scene has to offer, as well as the option to explore the sounds of other cities, all from one spot. 

Liz Hollings and Gregory Mason

Race & the LGBT community: Grand Rapids filmmaker advocates for equity & inclusion

Grand Rapids filmmaker Gregory Mason is set to debut his documentary that delves into the need for multiracial and multicultural inclusion in the country's LGBT community.

FTburtonmarketlist

With food, family & dreams, Burton Meat Farm brings Latin America to Grand Rapids

For the Madera family, owning Burton Meat Farm in Grand Rapids is a dream come true - and a whole lot of fun.

FTsupermarket

Tacos, tamales, tripe & more: A guide to Grand Rapids' Latino grocery stores

These notable Latino markets will help fill everyone's stomachs, whether you're a connoisseur of Central and South American food or know nothing about it.

FTBALLL

Embracing creativity: How one designer is changing Grand Rapids - and the world

David Kelley, routinely called one of the most innovative thinkers of our time, has done everything from build a school system in Peru to redesign the way we die. To celebrate his contributions to the world, including to Grand Rapids, the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology will honor him next week.

Erika VanDyke

Becoming a proud woman of color: Strengthening my identity through community

For a local racial equity leader, growing up brown in Grand Rapids, surrounded by white faces, was complicated - and being adopted made it even more so. Erika VanDyke pens a thought-provoking piece on identity and race and reflects on the influence of communities of color on her own life.

Shelly Irwin

RapidChat: Shelley Irwin

As the host of WGVU's The Morning Show, a world champion long distance triathlete, Ironman trainee, and a highly active community member,  it's easy to see why "just do it!" is one of Shelley Irwin's favorite phrases. As a master of all trades, Shelley gives us some advice on how to seamlessly accomplish it all. Spoiler alert: It's not by drinking six to eight cups of coffee a day.

FTdivision

Development and coexistence: Businesses and ministries on rapidly changing S. Division work it out

How can new businesses and longtime ministries working with low-income and homeless residents together promote a healthier Heartside?

FTjoejones

Affordable housing, development & more: Commissioner Joe Jones spells out his vision for 2nd Ward

From increasing affordable housing and addressing concerns about development to tackling racial disparities and strengthening LGBTQ protections, Grand Rapids’ newest city commissioner and the first black commissioner to represent the Second Ward, Joe Jones, has big plans to work for a more inclusive and equitable city that treats all of its residents with dignity.

FTvote

Opinion: Who Grand Rapidians are voting for in the Michigan presidential primary - and why

Before voters across Michigan head to the polls to cast their ballots in the state's presidential primary on March 8, Rapid Growth checks in with Grand Rapidians to find out what they're thinking about the candidates.

FTuix

UIX Blog: Shared ideas and new trends in reporting, illustrated

In every story we publish in UIX, we highlight the ways in which a company or individual best represents sustainable growth and innovative thinking. There are many in West Michigan who embody those aims in countless ways but a lot of the same ideas remain in each source we report on, easily illustrated by word clouds.

FTtommy

G-Sync: The people (still) are the city

A great city is always a work in progress. Rapid Growth's Publisher and Lifestyle Editor Tommy Allen was reminded of this fact on a recent trip to Grand Rapids’ City Hall.

Lisa Carter

UIX: Horse, human bond is foundation for hope at H.U.G.S. Ranch

It takes a special kind of touch to reach victims of abuse. At H.U.G.S. Ranch, it also takes hooves.

FTflintwater

A glimpse of Flint from on the ground: GRCC students bring water to poisoned city

Grand Rapids Community College students wanted to help the people of Flint firsthand - so they launched a drive at their school and recently delivered water to residents on the ground, where they got a glimpse of the astounding need for basic humanity in a city on which so many turned their backs.

FTrapidblog

Rapid Blog: As GR takes national spotlight at smart growth conference, a push for equity & inclusion

At a national conference for the country's best city planners and policy makers, Grand Rapids was cited as a place where "elite" leaders can see the connection between economic, environmental and social concerns - and create opportunities for the region. In addition to this, Montana Krukowski, who attended the conference, advocates for leveling the playing field and creating a city where all voices, not just those of the elite, are heard.

Barbara Ciaramitaro, lead professor of IT and cyber security at Walsh College in Troy

Michigan colleges lead the pack in cyber security education

Five Michigan colleges have received the National Security Agency's highest designation for their cyber security curricula.

Holly Bechiri, Rapidian Managing Editor

After mass layoffs, Grand Rapids navigates a new media landscape

After a recent round of MLive layoffs and a terrible 2015 for journalism job losses, news reporting as a profession remains in a state of flux — both in Grand Rapids and in the wider culture. Rapid Growth Media interviewed several local figures who work with and think about media to examine different ideas about how changes in the journalism landscape have impacted coverage, and how the community can create a healthier media environment going forward.

Mario Rodriguez-Garcia, Joseph Gregory, Tasha Kramarenko

UIX: When it comes to representing community, Gimmi delivers

The team at Gimmi started with delivering coffee, but the company hopes to expand its reach to local businesses of any type of product line.

Rachel Verdusco

RapidChat: Rachel Verdusco

As we move in on the month of March, many of us have already thrown the towel in on our New Year's resolutions. "Be healthier" is what many of us told ourselves in various ways, shapes and forms - but have given up somewhere along the line. A healthy body makes for a healthy mind, and Group Team Exercise Leader at MVP Metro Club Rachel Verdusco shares with Rapid Growth how to keep that momentum going.

FTrapidblog

Rapid Blog: Afendoulis bill should disappear, not Grand Rapids' historic districts

The historic preservation movement in Grand Rapids has a long and successful history, but two proposed bills put the future of saving our city's history in serious jeopardy, longtime historic preservationist Rebecca Smith-Hoffman writes.

FTinvasive

Fighting invasive species: West Michigan CISMA helps communities & landowners connect with resources

When there’s somethin’ strange, and it don’t look good, who ya gonna call? Drew Rayner of the West Michigan CISMA, if 'it' is an unusual plant you find on your property or spot on the side of the road.

Teacher list

Beyond evaluation: How Michigan supports its teachers

Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed new rules for evaluating teacher performance into Michigan law. The legislation calls for research-based evaluation for Michigan educators, requiring school districts to establish performance evaluation systems that focus more on student growth and less on student test scores. But evaluation is only one part of the story. What are districts and administrators currently doing to support teachers before the new evaluation even begins?

FTwmt

A passion for green spaces: Friends groups develop, preserve the trails

Behind the scenes and often unnoticed, volunteers with a love of the state's unique trails continue to make West Michigan's pathways possible. 

FTkfb

An end to hunger: How healthy food plays a significant role in school turnarounds

When one Grand Rapids principal saw a student taking scraps from a lunchroom dumpster, she knew the school needed to address the hunger that so many of their children faced. Working with Kids Food Basket, her school began providing sack suppers for its students - and the change that followed has been transformative.

FTjoelP

G-Sync: Potrykus and me

Filmmaker Joel Potrykus sits down with Rapid Growth's publisher and lifestyle editor Tommy Allen to talk about his new film world premier at the 2016 SXSW; on getting it done in Michigan; and the lines we all draw in our work.

FTcrownedfree

Grand Rapids entrepreneurs link arms with nonprofits to fight sex trafficking

When Heidi VanderWal and Danielle DeSmit learned that thousands of people — women, children and men — are victims of human trafficking in West Michigan every year, they knew they needed to do something to combat an epidemic that ensnares millions of individuals across the globe, including in Grand Rapids’ own neighborhoods.

FTsunda

Sunday Assembly: A church for the unchurched

In Grand Rapids, it’s not unusual to be asked, upon first meeting someone, “Where do you go to church?” For an increasing number of people throughout the United States, and even here in Grand Rapids, the answer to that question is, “I don’t.”

Carl Erickson

Rapid Blog: Atomic Object's CEO on discrimination & when being good isn't good enough

Taking a stand against discrimination in the workplace is the right thing to do — and it's good for business.

UIXbloglist

UIX Blog: Crowdfunding data shows patterns by industry

There are more ways than ever now for people to get help funding their projects. Legislation four years ago cleared the way for crowdfunding platforms to help connect those with a need to those who can chip in, and West Michigan is home to many of those connections.

FTtommy

G-Sync: The Perils of Tommy Allen (Adventures in Gigland)

As our gig economy expands throughout Grand Rapids, and the United States, who is profiting from it? And who isn't?

Jacqui Patterson

Civil rights and environment: GR conference to tackle what racism means for health

People of color are dying, or sickened, for reasons that are completely preventable by addressing racism and racial disparities. The West Michigan Environmental Action Council’s fifth annual Women and the Environment Symposium will tackle these issues in an attempt to create more environmentally just communities.

Anna Baeten

RapidChat: Anna Baeten

As Executive Director of The Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse, and full-time mother of two, Anna Baeten knows a great deal about the art of balance. While it is often difficult to obtain, she knows that the ability to "balance" work and children has less to do with herself, and more to do with the people she surrounds herself with. 

FTdevoslearning

From a jungle of metal beams, a sneak peek of the Gerald R. Ford Museum's $13 million renovation

When the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum reopens this June, following a nine-month renovation process that includes the addition of a learning center for students, it will seem like a whole new place.

FTblackhistory

11 ways to honor Black History Month in West Michigan

Learn about African American leaders who championed racial justice in Grand Rapids and partake in meaningful discussions regarding today's racism in West Michigan.

FT2ndward

Who will fill the 2nd Ward seat? Candidates tackle development, diversity & more at debate

Whoever takes the office, the community has made clear the importance of housing affordability, diversity, small businesses, and equality in Grand Rapids' 2nd Ward.

FTcitystate

The State of the City: Mayor Bliss focuses on racial disparities, affordable housing & more

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, the first woman to be elected to Grand Rapids' highest office, details plans to tackle racism, create more affordable housing and parks, increase support for neighborhoods and minority-owned businesses, and improve relations with police in her first State of the City address.

Refu Tea

UIX: From leaf to relief, RefuTea helps refugees and others at every level of its operation

Autumn Modena and Jenna Petersen founded RefuTea to help refugees, many from tea-producing countries. RefuTea is involved in ethical business partnerships at every step of the tea-making process, and donates a portion of profits to resettlement programs.

FTflint

Want to help Flint? Here's what you can do in Grand Rapids

Here's how Grand Rapids residents can help get clean, safe water to the people of Flint, Michigan.

FTmentor

Successful entrepreneurs help grow the next generation of startups with Emerge Mentor Connect

Emerge Mentor Connect is a new program from Emerge West Michigan that aims to connect local entrepreneurs with business leaders who’ve been through the startup process and know what it takes to succeed.

FTcoop

The search for affordable housing in Grand Rapids: How housing co-ops are making a difference

As Grand Rapids faces hefty rent increases, the lowest rental vacancy rate in the nation and the displacement of residents, what role can housing co-ops play in the search for affordable housing?

Alan Hartline

RapidChat: Alan Hartline

After being family-owned and -operated for 70-plus years, Kingma's Market took on new ownership back in early 2015. With a year now under his belt, new owner Alan Hartline has successfully maintained the market's esteem. While he knows the love for the Market runs deep within the Creston and Cheshire neighborhoods, Hartline is looking to expand that passion to downtown residents and beyond.  

CampusStarter

UIX: College entrepreneurs can find funding and more through CampusStarter

Finding the funds to start a business when you're an undergrad isn't always easy. CampusStarter, led by Thomas Coke and Matt Larson, hopes to help, connecting college entrepreneurs to the resources they need most.

FTwintertrail

Getting fit in 2016: Why a 200-mile relay isn't beyond your reach

Organizers are now on the lookout for participants for "The Fred,"  a 200-mile relay conducted on the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail State Park that takes you through the gorgeous West Michigan land between Comstock Park and Cadillac.

Alex Linebrink, founder of Passage

How small businesses can avoid the risks of mobile payment

Convenient and easy-to-use mobile payment technologies are increasing in popularity among small businesses, but they can pose security risks. Here are a few tips on how small businesses can ensure the security of their customers' and their own financial information.

New Holland

For better (or worse): 10 development projects that are changing the face of Grand Rapids

Whether you’re a west-sider or east-towner,  homeowner or lifelong renter, your neighborhood is probably changing. Here's what some of that change will look like in the days ahead.

Lisa Brush

Michigan's big wins and losses in the fight against invasive species

A Q&A with Lisa Brush of The Stewardship Network, a group that has revolutionized how Michigan's land managers strategize and collaborate to keep natural areas healthy, functional, and free from invasive species.

FTfood

Grand Rapids food scene in 2016: Where to eat, what to eat and how we should eat it

From new restaurants to many a craft cocktail and meals chock full of Michigan produce, 2016 is shaping up to be an incredible year for Grand Rapids food.

FTgrbar

Increasing diversity is a 'long game' for Grand Rapids Bar Association and GR law firms

The Grand Rapids Bar Association and area law firms are working to reshape West Michigan's legal world, which has long been lacking in diversity.

Artspace's Mount Baker Lofts

Is affordable artist live/work housing the new normal?

Since Artspace pioneered affordable artist live/work housing in the 1990s, disrupting the SoHo Effect in communities across the U.S., demand for such projects has grown. Which begs the question: Is affordable artist live/work housing becoming the new normal?

Mexican festiva

GRPL's History Detectives program digs into Grand Rapids' past, from beer to cars & more

Ever wonder what Grand Rapids was like decades and decades ago? What the streets were like when Herpolsheimer’s, Steketee’s and Wurzburg’s — iconic 20th century department stores — lined them? What about the history of our city’s Latino community? Or what the brewing scene was like long before we were deemed “Beer City?”

Greater Lakes

Video: Healing roadways in the Great Lakes with green infrastructure

See how green infrastructure can greatly reduce the negative effects of our roadways on the Great Lakes.

FTwinterLIST

13 reasons why you can have the best Grand Rapids winter ever

From beer to ice skating, comedy, drama and politics, you'll find something that suits your fancy this winter in Grand Rapids.

RCbecky

RapidChat: Jenn Gavin

City living is no 'walk in the park' - especially for Fido. With less room to share, and limited access to green space, it may be difficult to transition your pet into its new urban environment. But do not fret! With 'city dog and people training' as her tag line, Jenn Gavin at A Pleasant Dog will be able to set your four legged friend, and you, up for success.

REbbecky

Rapid Blog: In a changing Grand Rapids, a call for more women in our city's tech scene

Becky VandenBout, a BitCamp instructor and advisory board member and front end web developer at Appropos, tells Rapid Growth about her hopes for the new year, including the need for more women in Grand Rapids' tech scene.