Clean freshwater essential to retain, attract talent, mayor says

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

As West Michigan diversifies its manufacturing base and expands knowledge-based industries such as life science, design, and finance, the ability to attract and retain skilled talent—many of whom can choose to work anywhere in the world—hinges more and more on the region’s quality of life. The Great Lakes, then, are high on the list of attractions.

“More than ever we realize our fresh water is a tremendous asset, and we can, and we should, use it to promote living and working in West Michigan,” says Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.

Mayor Heartwell serves on the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative, a coalition of mayors and local officials from cities around the Great Lakes Basin dedicated to restoring, revitalizing and conserving the Great Lakes.

“For me, the importance of the Great Lakes rests on a number of factors,” Mayor Heartwell says. “It’s an important economic resource for us, so many manufacturing processes use fresh water, tourism depends on it, and we use it for drinking.

A comprehensive study of how proximity to freshwater resources influences the attraction and, therefore, the economic impact, of talent doesn’t yet exist. But a consensus is emerging among local officials and business leaders across the midwest that a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem is essential to position the region to compete for top flight talent.

“The aesthetics of our lakes and beaches are so gorgeous and an important source of spiritual renewal for people," Heartwell says. "Who can’t walk the beach or see a storm roll in over the sunset and not be renewed? With the incredible gas prices restricting people’s vacations, having a recreational resource like Lake Michigan close to home is very attractive.”

Source: Mayor George Heartwell, City of Grand Rapids

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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