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Why Invest in Grand Rapids: Lifestyle, Job Market and Affordability

Time Equities Inc. owns 601 Bond, an apartment property located at 601 Bond Ave. NW in Grand Rapids.

While most national investors and developers focus on larger Sun Belt and coastal markets such as Austin, Atlanta, Nashville and Phoenix, Time Equities has had great success investing in Grand Rapids and continues to believe strongly in the future potential of the area. As an opportunistic company, we often go where others do not, looking for markets and assets with strong risk-adjusted returns. Grand Rapids provides such an opportunity.

The small city has been ascendant for the past decade and has a bright outlook. Its population and job growth equal many of the fastest-growing markets in the Sun Belt. Its economy is bolstered by large medical and education employers supported by impressive charitable contributions from the region’s wealthy families. In addition, the city also boasts a diversified economy with manufacturing, breweries and white-collar employment. And most importantly, it’s home to a burgeoning young and educated workforce.

Ethan Coleman, Time Equities Inc.

Grand Rapids’ combination of lifestyle, job market and affordability make it a regional draw. Grand Rapids experienced population growth of 41 percent from 2010 to 2017, compared with 22 percent for the Nashville metro area and 19 percent for the Dallas metro area. This growth was aided by a net migration of 31,285 people. Over the same period, employment has grown by 24 percent, with year-over-year job growth of 3.2 percent from 2016 to 2017. Again, Grand Rapids job growth compares favorably to many of the most sought-after Sun Belt locations. The Miami metro area grew by 16 percent and the Columbia, South Carolina metro area grew by only 10 percent.

The city is also home to Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, six hospitals and 15 colleges. The Van Andels and DeVos families have contributed millions to these institutions, with many area buildings named after the families. These institutions, along with their local wealthy supporters, provide strong education, cultural and employment drivers to the community. This provides a higher floor for economic activity and success, as these institutions are best prepared to weather economic downturns.

More than ‘meds and eds’

But the Grand Rapids economy is more than just “meds and eds.” The region has a diverse economy with well-established companies such as Steelcase, GM, Ford, Stryker, Amway and Meijer all located in the area, providing both white-collar and manufacturing employment. Amazon is set to open an area distribution facility, which will further drive job growth.

Additionally, Grand Rapids is home to a thriving cultural scene that now includes Grand Rapids Ballet, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Public Museum, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Due to the presence of these arts centers, Grand Rapids is quickly becoming a world-class cultural hub. The city is also home to 17 breweries, including Founders, and ArtPrize, an international art competition. Grand Rapids’ city limits are just a 30 minute-drive from the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan and the lake’s vibrant boating scene.

Due to its strong economy, relative affordability and area amenities, Grand Rapids has attracted well-educated millennials from throughout the Midwest. The share of the population aged 25 to 34 with a Bachelor’s degree increased from 29 percent in 2010 to 41 percent in 2017, ranking Grand Rapids ninth in the country for share of educated young professionals. This share is significantly higher than in San Antonio, Atlanta and all cities in Arizona and Florida.

This young, educated workforce is attracted to the Grand Rapids community by the educational institutions and employers, affordable housing and increasingly lifestyle amenities.

Grand Rapids is quickly becoming a regional powerhouse and is increasingly recognized as a booming secondary market nationally. With its employment opportunities and cultural offerings, we at Time Equities find Grand Rapids to be an area that appeals to all who want to work top-tier jobs and relax with upscale breweries, restaurants and entertainment.

With compelling growth metrics, plenty of investment from wealthy locals, a diverse economy and a combination of affordability and comfort, Grand Rapids is set to continue on its impressive path well into the future. We want to be a part of that path and contribute to it.

— By Ethan Cole, Asset Manager, Time Equities Inc. This article originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Heartland Real Estate Business magazine. 

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