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Kalamazoo's Own Dynamic Duo Works to Better the Community

Ryan Simpson

Dynamic Duos come in many forms; Batman and Robin, Sherlock and Watson, Michael and Dwight. The list goes on. Here in Kalamazoo another dynamic duo is emerging; Ryan Simpson (pictured) and Dwayne Powell, Jr.

Simpson and Powell work for the City of Kalamazoo's Economic Development department. Donning the title of Economic Development Coordinator, Simpson works to help Kalamazoo's second stage businesses grow to the next level by providing business intelligence and trend information to owners as well as supporting new business recruitment efforts.

Powell is the Robin to Simpson's Batman as the city's Neighborhood Business and Special Projects Coordinator. His focus is recreating small and family business opportunities in neighborhoods around Kalamazoo through support, facilitation, and access to business development resources in addition to workforce development efforts.

Both Simpson and Powell are Western Michigan University (WMU) graduates who enjoy giving back to their community.

Powell grew up in Kalamazoo, attended Kalamazoo Central High School, and graduated from WMU in 2006. He cited former WMU president the late Elson Floyd as his mentor.

Hailing from Galesburg, Simpson also considers himself a Kalamazoo native. He graduated from WMU in 2010.

So what makes these two men such a great team for the betterment of Kalamazoo? Their shared desire to create a better and stronger community, of course!

"I have a passion and a purpose now," Powell said. "I took a 25-percent cut in pay to do this job, but I believe if you follow your heart, the money will follow."

Simpson echoed Powell's sentiments.

"My job almost feels self-serving," Simpson said. "I love our community and I get to help make it better."

In addition to connecting with the community through their positions with the City of Kalamazoo these young professionals also engage with their community on a personal level. Powell said he enjoys finding problems and helping to create solutions. Simpson said he feels a deeper connection to the community through volunteer work on boards and committees in addition to "working and playing."

When asked what they enjoyed the most about Kalamazoo, Simpson said, "The people are authentic, community-minded, and always come together."

"The people here are genuine, they have big hearts, and we have The Kalamazoo Promise - even though I did not get that benefit," Powell said.

"As good as Kalamazoo is right now, I know it is going to get better," Powell said. "I think we are reinventing ourselves and I’m excited about being part of the transformation."

Watch for our "Dynamic Duo: Part 2" post to learn more about how Simpson and Powell landed their positions with the City of Kalamazoo, what suggestions they offer to job seekers in the area, and for a photo of Powell.

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