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We Love Where We Live!

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we love where we live

We’re happy to share this blog by Gretchen Johnson, owner of WordPlay Marketing Communications and a contributor to W&A since 2007. Gretchen likes to say that a common thread among clients is their desire to reach higher - and connect with and engage their stakeholders - for the purpose of creating lasting and positive change. That’s exactly what we’re seeking with KzooConnect! We hope you enjoy our look back.

10 (More) Top Reasons why Kalamazoo is a Great Place to Live, Work and Play

Opportunity. Industry. Innovation. Ideas. An artisan culture that permeates the way we work, eat and live. This is the place we call home. The Kalamazoo region. Anchored by two sister cities, ours is also a community of growing neighborhoods. Each boasts its own personality. Before we charge ahead to 2016, we wanted to pause and reflect on the people and places that make our region special. Straight from our 2015 archives, here are ten reasons we at KzooConnect “love where we live!”

10. Running is a way of life

Running - in fact all forms of outdoor exercise - are part and parcel of life in southwest Michigan. Maybe it’s because the short commutes leave plenty of free time for enjoying life outside of work. Or maybe it’s because there’s so much natural beauty to enjoy during each of our four glorious seasons. We featured three running stories this year that show how much Kalamazooans love to run.

Read: We Run This Town, Honestly, It's An Incredible Running Town and From Escanaba to Kalamazoo Runner: Heather Wellman's Story

9. Eat, drink & celebrate the abundance of the region

Ours is a region you might call flush with natural resources. From the first native settlers to the pioneers who followed, the land’s natural bounty has been a source of food, medicine and shelter. It’s driven local commerce - from pharmaceuticals to celery to cereals to the garden bed industry and most recently beer and wine. In 2015, we celebrated this rich heritage with topical stories about how we’re enjoying our local foods and beverages today.

Read: Kalamazoo Brewed Up the Fifth Annual Beer Week, April is Michigan Wine Month - Get Out and Get Sipping! And, Home Grown at Every Turn-The Kalamazoo Farmers Market is More Than Healthy Food

8. Young professionals drive positive change through work

Several KzooConnect stories this year featured young professionals living and working in the region. Many epitomize what we hear about the Millennial generation ??" that they’re contributing to the greater good. By improving our parks and access to recreation, working to end heart disease, and serving those with disabilities, they’re creating a better community for us all.

Read: Parks & Rec Department Leader Making Kalamazoo A Special Place, From Housing to Hearts: How Kalamazoo Became Home and Love What You Do and Where You Live!

7. Young professionals drive positive change through volunteerism

A few of our stories focused on the philanthropic efforts of young professionals in their spare time. These folks are striving to end deadly disorders like heart disease and cancer. They are part of our region’s long tradition of giving back.

Read: Meet Carrie Mortlock and Learn Why She 'Goes' Red, YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo puts Cancer in its place!

6. We remain the education community

Philanthropy is one of the ways Kalamazoo leaves its imprint on the world. Education is another. Both came together in 2005 with The Kalamazoo Promise. During its 10th anniversary year, we celebrated this educational game-changer in ways big and small, public and private. Von Washington, Jr., the unofficial face of The Kalamazoo Promise, gave us the inside scoop. Officially Von is the Executive Director for Community Relations for the 10-year-old scholarship program available to all Kalamazoo Public Schools graduates.

Read: Promises Kept, Celebration Planned: Von Washington & The Kalamazoo Promise

5. A great place to grow up, a great place to come home to

Joanna Donnelly Dales, Vice President of Donor Relations at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, talked about sending her son off to college. She shared why he - and every young person - should make Kalamazoo the place they come home to. Joanna’s not alone in her opinion. Cody Overmyer, a “typical” Kzoo kid and recipient of The Kalamazoo Promise, is now a WMed student who agrees that this is a great place to raise a family. But you don’t have to grow up here to appreciate all that the region offers. Just ask Walker Modic, who moved from Boston to join Bell’s Brewery, Inc. as its sustainability specialist. Walker enjoys Kalamazoo’s live music scene, access to nearby woods for dog walking and the natural lakes and rivers close by.

Read: From Freshman Orientation to Adult Roots; A Mother Campaigns for Kalamazoo, Here Today, Here Tomorrow-the Life of a Kalamazoo Promise Recipient and, Career Paths aren't Always Direct

4. A creative spirit that won’t be quelled

The creative talent in southwest Michigan rivals anything you’ll find on the coasts. More impressive, we’re not limited to a single form. From traditional to commercial, folk to funky, music to manufacturing, artisan expressions permeate just about everything made here. If you’d like to discuss the point further, just drop in on the folks at the Proper Creative Movement, in downtown Kalamazoo. Proper represented us at Art Prize in Grand Rapids this year. You’ll find several other discussions of the art world in our 2015 archive, too. Like we said, it’s a creative community.

Read: Proper Represents Kalamazoo at ArtPrize, New KIA Director Makes an Artful Transition, Quintapata: Dominican Republic Artists Collective Richmond Center for Visual Arts, Dancer to Panama

3. Great places to meet in our hometown neighborhoods

To live in Kalamazoo is to know its neighborhoods and surrounding communities. Richland boasts a New England-style village square. Vicksburg is home to scenic Sunset Lake. Portage is an early example of planned green space and a leader in creating bikeways. Dig a bit deeper and you’ll find the places where neighbors gather to exchange ideas, share a meal or lift a glass. These places are the heart and soul of our region. Milwood’s One Well Brewing is just such a place.

Read: It’s Always ‘Game On’ at One Well Brewing

2. The long view - leveraging Gen Y, preparing Gen Z
If you have any doubt about our region’s long-term viability, just look at a few of our stories about developing young leaders. In a guest blog from May, Western Michigan University Event and Stewardship Coordinator Chris Praedel addressed this very topic. Chris talked about the perspective and energy gained from including today’s young professionals in leadership roles. Other stories featured programs working to prepare tomorrow’s leaders. The nonprofit Open Roads is a hub for youth development that offers a number of programs and projects. It teaches bike mechanic skills, social and leadership skills. Palanca Leadership is another nonprofit that teaches youngsters soft skills like communication and leadership. Soft skills, our region’s employers tell us, are essential to any career path. We’re excited to know that there are so many great organizations and individuals who are ready with a hand up to help local kids.

Read: Under 30 and Leading an Organization, Open Roads Unites Kids With Bikes and Leading the Way to College Readiness

1. Kalamazoo is Where Talent and Passion Thrive (and people get to do what they love for a living!)

If our number one reason for loving the Kalamazoo region sounds familiar, it captured last year’s top spot too. This year’s favorite feature story is different, but it once again embodies the best qualities about living here. Those qualities are personified in the story of Joseph Barnett and Stephen John, both recent WMU grads. In short order, this young and inventive duo has racked up multiple awards for inventing the NeoVent??"a respiratory solution for premature infants around the world. Their simple, energy efficient solution promises a safe and inexpensive alternative to traditional ventilators. Joseph and Stephen join a long list of creative problem solvers who’ve hailed from the Kalamazoo region, many within the field of healthcare and related life sciences.

Read: WMU Students Aim to Assist Newborns in Developing Countries

Did we spark fond memories of your 2015? We hope you've enjoyed revisiting some of our favorite stories of the year. We'd love to know hear from you! Why do you love Kalamazoo? Join the conversation.
Are there people and places around the region you'd like to read about in 2016? Post them in the comments below.

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