National group: Equity key in attracting millennials to GR

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Grand Rapids skyline continues to change as the city goes through a sort of rebirth.

From new buildings to restoring the rapids to improving mobility, the city is on a path leaders believe will take Grand Rapids into the future.

But the big question now is will everyone benefit from it.

“(I) wanted to give you a quick framing about how we think about equity,” said Calvin Gladney, a member of the Rose Center for Public Leadership during a session with city leaders Thursday at city hall.

Grand Rapids city hall gathering
Grand Rapids community leaders gather at city hall to hear an outsider’s perspective on the city’s “rebirth.”

The group, which includes experts from government, nonprofits and the private sector, shares ideas and best practices for communities dealing with complex issues.

Grand Rapids if one of four cities across the country chosen as one of the group’s fellows this year, joining Washington, D.C., Anchorage, Alaska and San Jose, California on the list. All of those cities are competing to attract one particular group: millennials.

“Millennials are the most diverse generation,” Gladney told city leaders. “And not only are they diverse, they want diversity.”

But it takes equity to foster a healthy, diverse community. Much of the leadership group’s discussions centered on equity in terms of fairness and beyond.

“Equity is really very important in terms of economic competitiveness… in terms of how people perceive a city from the outside,” said Rose Center member Antonio Fiol-Silva.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss addressed the inequity issues during her recent state of the city address. Thursday, she said the idea wouldn’t just be filed away.

The mayor says her proposed Equity Initiative, aimed at bringing together key stakeholders from all over the community, is a start.

“What are our metrics? What’s our scorecard? Where are we today? Where do we want to be in three years and how are we going to get there,” explained Bliss.

The Rose Center for Public Leadership plans to return to Grand Rapids this summer to check on the city’s progress.