Welcome to GR and Rapid Growth, Anna Gustafson

Rapid Growth welcomes our bold, new managing editor Anna Gustafson to the publication but also to her new home city in Grand Rapids. Publisher Tommy Allen sat down with Gustafson to listen and learn as the two dined on another bold import to Grand Rapids - Slows BBQ.
I have found in my life that transition can be scary but also thrilling as well.  The excitement of change is that often what stops us from being in the moment is the fear of the unknown.

Over the last nine years, Rapid Growth has been there to watch the Greater Grand Rapids area make so many changes it is hard to imagine how far we have come.

We have watched numerous editors come and go as well. Again, all part of change.

Last week was the final issue helmed by our managing editor Stephanie Doublestein, who is taking a huge leap as she launches her new company, Stephanie Doublestein Creative - a hands-on writing service focusing on the same level of attention to detail she brought to Rapid Growth over the last two years. We are excited for her strong entrepreneurial spirit that we would like to think you, our readers and subjects, over the years helped inspire such boldness. We will miss her in this role, but she has avowed that she will continue to be one of our contributors in the years ahead. 

Another bold move on Rapid Growth’s part is the selection of our next managing editor.

Having been with Rapid Growth for nearly 10 years and a part of numerous transitions where boldness in our selection of our team members has placed us in the uncomfortable position of having plenty of qualified candidates from which to select comes one of our biggest leaps to date. If you applied for the open position, I want to personally thank you for your interest in Rapid Growth enough to want to apply to  join our team. 

Today is a new day and the start of a new era at Rapid Growth with the introduction of Anna Gustafson - an award­-winning journalist who, while a recent transplant to Grand Rapids from Brooklyn (New York, not Brooklyn, Michigan), brings an incredible depth of experience to our publication. 

Last week, Anna and I sat down at another import to our city, Slows GR - which is posting record numbers of sales that exceeds all expectations - to talk about her new role as our managing editor.

"I'm beyond thrilled to join the incredibly talented and inspiring team at Rapid Growth. Having spent the majority of my career in community journalism in New York and across the country, I was immediately drawn to the transformative work being done by the writers and photographers here who are so clearly dedicated to a strong, civically engaged Grand Rapids where an amazingly diverse collective of people who call this city home can not only thrive but also be celebrated and supported by their peers,” says Gustafson, who lives by the Heritage Hill-South Hill border with her husband, Emile.

Anna's career path has taken her on a journey that includes news editing, community reporting, and even photo-illustrating stories. (No, worries, Adam Bird - you are still our managing photographer.) 

She is well-versed in the many forms of modern reporting associated with electronic-based media at Rapid Growth, from the handling of  breaking news to the creation long form feature articles. 

It is her history of coverage on topics ranging from the political arena to the hyper-local that caught the attention and heart of our hiring team. But she has quickly adopted our city as her own with a sense of adventure that is rather infectious. 

"I feel unbelievably fortunate to be able to live in Grand Rapids at a time when it's imperative that journalists dedicate their time and resources to covering the myriad issues that stem from an era in which there's unprecedented urban growth across the globe,” says Gustafson, “I have long covered the good,the bad and the ugly - and everything in between - that comes from this growth, ranging from gentrification and the need for affordable housing to a more unified population taking a stance for everything from racial and gender equality to a world in which the equitable and the just overpower the power-hungry and the small-minded."

Anna's attention to detail married to her ability to see the big picture means Rapid Growth is able to bring, as we have sought to do over the years, more of our fresh perspective on the changes happening in our urban centers.

In addition, her scope of knowledge includes human trafficking, urban infrastructure, business development, public and higher education, and the arts (she did a story on Diana Ross returning to perform in a revitalized Brooklyn theatre that won my heart over.) 

Stories that connect a community to the heart of the city resident is what we do best and will continue to bring - as well as a renewed commitment to sharing our story with the world, which is paying more attention to what we are creating here.  Our city has been through a lot but to many we are still a mystery.  We know that is about to change and with Gustafson at the helm; we know we will have someone who understands how we fit in this larger eco-system we hope to dive.

And yet while we may be known as the “rah-rah” folks with teeth, Gustafson understands that within each city falls tragedy.  Her community-focused coverage includes topics like the natural disaster of Hurricane Sandy and followed the journey of a candidate who wanted to work outside the system to get on the ballet in a local election. These stories were filled with struggles, but also infused with hope. The balance of capturing these delicate topics is why we are excited to have her at Rapid Growth. 

"During my career in journalism, I have grown increasingly optimistic that while we face a problem-riddled world, we can truly change the structural inequality that plagues our society,” says Gustafson, “This, of course, begins right here at home in Grand Rapids, through progressive policy focused on bettering public education, public transportation, affordable housing, the environment, and more; a willingness to have honest debate with those we disagree with the most; and an ability to recognize just how limited our own world view is - and to be able to change and grow ourselves.”

Our time (which was booked for an hour)  flew by very quickly as our Slow’s waiter, Logan, refilled our beverages before asking a few questions of his own about her time prior her that included graduating from Beloit College in Wisconsin, running a newsroom, managing a publication’s mission, engaging diverse audiences across various social media platforms, and moderating community panels on complex topics. 

“I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to this - to the difficult, messy and crucial conversations; to fighting for that which makes us all better; and to celebrating a city filled with so much heart and energy,” says Gustafson.

Goethe wrote, "Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." And so we begin again a new era of publishing. Please join us in welcoming Anna to Grand Rapids, but also to Rapid Growth. 


Tommy Allen 
Publisher and Lifestyle Editor 
Rapid Growth Media
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