Lifestyle Editor and (now) Publisher Tommy Allen reflects on his time at Rapid Growth, finding -- and building -- a city he wants to live in. As he steps into his new role, he reminds us we've come a long way as a city and as a publication, though we've miles to go before we sleep.
What is the earliest memory you have of the city? (I'll wait.)
Mine was the moment I watched Jerry and Betty Ford step out of a car and wave to the crowds who had gathered to dedicate the new Ford Presidential Library. It was thrilling, as the day ended with fireworks for a Celebration on the Grand. I was in awe right from the start. I found myself a city to live in. It was, in many ways, love at first sight.
These days, I see that same excitement in the eyes of so many who come here. And being here at Rapid Growth has given me so many opportunities to share that excitement with you and celebrate each week. (I still like the cheerleading outfit but on the days it feels inappropriate it is best to join the bleachers and listen to the game in play.)
My love for the city is why, on a cold wintry night in a pretty empty downtown, I ventured out to meet a guy who was here to start a new kind of publication. It was an exciting time to be in startup mode as we worked and reworked how we would launch here. It was September of 2008.
What should have been a frivolous and fun launch period suddenly turned serious as October 2008 delivered hit after hit to the economy – and to the arts beat that I was charged to cover, long before the terms "creative class" and "place-making" were part of the conversation. Luckily, the city came together in times of need to build up our community and stabilize voices via visionary philanthropy, and Rapid Growth spotlighted many of these efforts just when we needed to be reminded why West Michigan is special.
Throughout the years, Grand Rapids grew and grew; during the last few years, it seemed the skyline could not hold any more, as cranes dotted the landscape. As I've watched our city recover through the lens of its arts and culture, it's become clear that art and the future of the city are tied together in very unique ways.
And right along with each change, G-Sync's weekly editorial in Rapid Growth has been there to help document the changes, process the micro-movements, and share a bit of frivolity with all of our readers -- now totaling more than 424,000 visitors in 2014 alone. (We even witnessed our biggest year yet, with a 20 percent growth rate in 2014.)
We've come a long way since the fall of 2008, both as a city and as a publication. We've told stories of incredible people and innovative companies, talented artists and smart leaders – and, sometimes, talented artists who are smart leaders, too. We've shone a spotlight on growing neighborhoods and diverse organizations, urban trends and local solutions. That's thanks to you, our readers, and to our generous sponsors, who have seen value in supporting this work in West Michigan since day one. I cannot say thank you enough for your recognition.
In the weeks ahead, your weekly G-Sync editorial will look a little different; it will become a monthly letter from me as I assume the title of publisher at Rapid Growth. You can expect the same voice from me in the times ahead; in fact, I invite you to make this leap with me and hope we can all join together as our city grows into a bright future. There is still work to do. So if you see me about, feel free to share a story or two about the city you have found to live in. I never tire of hearing from our readers.
In the meantime, if you will indulge a fan of good music, ponder these words from that old Talking Heads song, "Cities," that still ring true decades after they were written:
I'm checking them out
I'm checking them out
I got it figured out
I got it figured out
There are good points and bad points
Find a city
Find myself a city to live in.
As long as our city continues to live up to our shared and hopeful vision, you can bet that Rapid Growth will continue to honor your role in the legacy we create together.
And now I sign off just as I have done for many years. I leave you with what I think is still the best motto for any of us who truly want to see our city rise: The Future Needs All of Us. And with mad respect to the Talking Heads, this is the city I want to find myself to live in.
Publisher / Lifestyle Editor
Visit these great events that remind us of our history and ever-evolving grandness. G-Sync Events: Let's Do This!