Honest talk about being new in West Michigan

Rapid Growth's New in Town panelists shared the good, the bad, and the funny about being newcomers or boomerangs to West Michigan last week Thursday at the UICA. We compiled some of the best lines of the night via Twitter, so read on for a glimpse into this important and honest conversation.
Last Thursday, Rapid Growth, in conjunction with The Right Place and Grand Rapids Young Professionals, hosted another speaker series installment, "New in Town Part II," at the UICA, where an honest and smart panel of West Michigan newcomers and boomerangs shared their experiences and insights with an engaged and curious audience. Panelists included Renata Horvath, Daniela Garcia, Felip Ballesteros, Stephanie Dallman, Brian Jbara, and Anne Jbara.

Moderator Paul Jendrasiak kicked the evening off by jokingly asking the panel, "So, where do you go to church?" -- setting the tone for a funny and informal dialogue between the audience and the panelists. The conversation that ensued covered a wide range of topics, from favorite restaurants to running groups, transit options to the dating scene, wished-for amenities to real estate, and school districts to philanthropy. Using the hashtag #newintowngr, Rapid Growth compiled some of the best lines of the night via Twitter. If you missed the conversation - or if you'd like a recap - read on for a glimpse into the evening:

@RapidGrowth Things that brought boomerangs back to West Michigan: ballet, symphony, museums, sense of opportunity #newintownGR

@JasonSchemmel  Grand Rapids, MI, the biggest little city. All the fun, not as much traffic #newintowngr

@616Lofts It's easy to get involved in the community in GR, even when you're young - board memberships, etc very accessible #newintownGR

@SmileRy discussion tonight @UICA was interesting. Always appreciate hearing others experiences. #grandrapids

@terawozqualls Sounds like I'm missing a great panel tonight. Great questions! #newintowngr

@PeoplePictureCompany favorited a Tweet you were mentioned in
Thanks for shout out @KCADofFSU. We at RapidGrowth are enjoying our time tonight at UICA.

@juliebuganne @chancemaster favorited your Tweet
Visitors say: beautiful skyline, bigger than they expect, impressive downtown, always something going on #newintowngr

@CaptainExpo retweeted you:
What's lacking in GR? Good public transit, pedestrian avenues, green spaces, trash bins, high-end retail #newintowngr

@twdrenth Easy. Too few downtown residents. @rapidgrowth: Audience question: why not more retail downtown? #newintowngr


We're grateful to our panelists for sharing their experiences, and we're pleased that our robust audience jumped into the conversation too. So what's next? Well, panelists largely agreed that, while West Michigan is quite a friendly place to live and work, it's often difficult for newbies to get beyond the "Hi! How are you?" stage of relationships with people they meet. If you're an established resident, consider asking that new neighbor to join your book club, euchre night, cooking class, or yoga class. Make it a point to ask your new co-worker to grab a cup of coffee, join the group at happy hour, or tag along to a networking event. And if you're new-ish in town, we'd love to hear from you in the comments below: What has moving to West Michigan been like for you? What would you like to see happen next?

Photography by Adam Bird
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