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Dear Newsweek, We’re Not Dying

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Grand Rapids Skyline. [Photo by Gene Parker Photography
Last week, Newsweek published an article listing three Michigan cities (Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids) as three of America’s “dying cities”. Many people who live in the city were outraged, posting their opinions on Facebook, Twitter and the Newsweek article online. These comments from Newsweek’s site itself show how much love the residents of this city have for it.

They used the most recent data from the Census Bureau on every metropolitan area with a population exceeding 100,000 to find the 30 cities that suffered the steepest population decline between 2000 and 2009. Not taking into account the outlying areas, or the amount of building and business that has been brought into the area.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Hartwell, didn’t take too kindly to it, either. In a letter he wrote to Tina Brower, the editor of  Newsweek, he listed the many accomplishments and steps forward Grand Rapids has made in the past few years.

Here’s the letter, in its entirety, taken from the City of Grand Rapids website:

Dear Ms. Brown:

The citizens of Grand Rapids were astounded when you declared our city, Grand Rapids, to be a “dying city” in the January 21, 2011 issue of Newsweek.

Dying city? Surely Newsweek must be joking! Would a major medical school (Michigan State University School of Human Medicine) move its campus to a dying city? Would a dying city have seen $1.4 Billion in downtown construction in the last seven years? Would the first J.W. Marriot in the Midwest have opened (2007) in a dying city? Would the US Chamber of Commerce have awarded its Siemens’ Award for America’s most sustainable mid-sized city (2010) to a dying city? Would a dying city have attracted 250,000 visitors last year to the world’s richest art competition, ArtPrize… which, incidentally, attracted 1,713 artists from around the world and was prominently featured in the nation’s leading newspapers? Would the United Nations University have made a dying city its first US “Center for Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development” (2004)? Or would 22 universities, colleges and theological seminaries maintain campuses in the dying city? Would a dying city have more LEED certified buildings per capita (2009) than any other American city? Or would citizens of a dying city rank second highest in the nation for per capita philanthropic giving? Would a dying city be listed among the top ten urban fisheries (2009) after investing $240 million in water quality improvements in the Grand River? Would a dying city be listed among the top 50 “bicycle friendly” cities (2010) by the American Bicycle Association? Why would “Good Morning America” have featured a dying city just last week?

Ms. Brown, surely you have never been to Grand Rapids! If you had been you would list our amazing city as “dying”.

I invite you to come and see one of the most vibrant cities in America. Spend a few days in Grand Rapids. Be my guest. Eat, drink and be merry in as many of our 92 downtown restaurants, bars, clubs and coffee shops as you can. Visit our new LEED gold Grand Rapids Art Museum, or our terrific local public museum, or just stand quietly by President Gerald Ford’s burial site outside the Ford Museum. I’m afraid our timing is off to get you to the Kid Rock concert… that happens tonight. But if you want to see Lady Gaga at our Van Andel Arena there’s still time; she comes this spring.

Call me. The mayor of this so-called dying city is available 24/7 to show you just how wrong Newsweek is about our astonishing city.

Sincerely,

George K. Hartwell

You tell ‘em, Mayor Hartwell!

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