Re-imagining Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids cut its teeth during the early 1900s in the furniture manufacturing industry. As time moved forward, that shifted to West Michigan becoming a major office furniture hub, as well as a strong automotive parts supply base. But times have changed, and manufacturing has dramatically changed, shifted and grown in some areas, while downsizing in others. 

Since 2001, West Michigan (Grand Rapids and Holland) has lost one third of its manufacturing employment base, numbering in the tens of thousands.* Much of those losses however, have been offset with growth in other sectors. What are these sectors and clusters that are growing? And how does the face of manufacturing look different today from 10 years ago? How will it look 10 years from now?

If that discussion sounds interesting to you, check out our event at Wealthy Theatre on Wednesday, Aug. 17. 

The August Not Your Average Speaker Series, in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Public Library's Summer Reading Program Good vs. Evil, is framed around the book Punching Out by Paul Clemens. The book takes a look at a multi-generational, family-owned factory in Detroit that closed due to the massively shifting auto economy. While it sets the stage for the discussion, we wanted to focus on what efforts are moving the West Michigan area forward, both in manufacturing and in other growth sectors like health sciences, design and IT.

Our panel of community leaders at this event will include Mayor George Hearwell, Local First Executive Director Elissa Hillary, Nevin Groce of family-owned distributor Lightweight Board and Birgit Klohs of The Right Place. 

The panel will be moderated by Bill Hill, 35-year veteran of Grand Rapids Public Library.

Come find out how the Grand Rapids region fits into the new global economy and what might be the hot jobs and growth sectors of the future. It will be a great discussion for business owners, those interested in economic development and/or just looking to make a start in Grand Rapids.

The Not Your Average Speaker Series is sponsored by MSHDA and produced by Rapid Growth Media.

Event is open to the public and admission is free. Concessions available for purchase at Wealthy Theatre (bar privileges for CMC members for only $12/year). Doors open at 5:30 p.m., event begins at 7:00 p.m., sharp.

Hope to see you there!

Please RSVP at our Facebook event page or using the form below:

*Source:, At a Glance Tables


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