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Top 10 Reasons Why Kalamazoo is a Great Place to Live and Work

City of Kalamazoo Gateway

We unabashedly love Kalamazoo. From Portage to Parchment, from the arts to the Air Zoo, the greater Kalamazoo region is a great place to live and work.

Since March, we've been using KzooConnect to highlight many of the people and places from around the region. As the end of 2014 approaches, we decided to revisit some of our most popular stories as we consider the top reasons why we love Kalamazoo!

10. Cool People Making Cool Things

Animal health, advanced manufacturing, technology... the list goes on. For young professionals like Hannah DeZeeuw, Kalamazoo offers ample opportunity to start her career. After using her Kalamazoo Promise scholarship to attend Michigan State University, she came back to the area to work for Stryker. Others, like Jen Johnson, who became Executive Director for Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes this year, contribute to Kalamazoo's flourishing nonprofit sector. This leads us to another reason we love Kalamazoo!

Read: Promise Recipient Returns to her Roots and Loving Where You Live is as Simple as Being Selective

9. Kalamazoo is Known for its Generosity
It's been said that whole states lack the spirit of philanthropy that exists in Kalamazoo. This isn't a reputation based solely on our past. It's exemplified through the young professionals living in Kalamazoo today. We spoke with many who passionately expressed their desire to give back and pay it forward. We think that's why a guest post on millennial giving trends by Joanna Donnelly Dales, Vice President of Donor Relations of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, was among our most read. Another popular post was about local companies that encourage volunteerism with incentives for paid time off.

Read: Millennials Choose to Live and Give in Kalamazoo and Local Companies Encourage Volunteerism with PTO Incentives

8. Arts and Culture are Part of Our DNA
Whether for work or personal expression, from architecture to industrial design to a vast array of fine arts, there's a creative energy that permeates the region. Some folks are fortunate enough to incorporate art into their work, like Yolonda Lavender, Interim Executive Director of the Black Arts and Cultural Center (BACC). Others, like Bronco by day, DJ at night Jayson Rose, have made it their hobby.

Read: Cherished Memories Fuel Cultivation of Arts & Culture and Bronco by Day, DJ by Night, Kalamazoo Fan 24-7

7. We Make the World Healthier
The region's roots in healthcare are deep. We've been contributing to advances in pharmaceuticals and medical devices for more than a century. This year, Kalamazoo became home to many future doctors with the opening of the Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. Soon, a generation of young physicians will contribute directly to patient care.

Read: Kalamazoo Becomes Home to Many Future Doctors

6. Kalamazoo is a Great Place to Start a Business
Kalamazoo's rich history of invention and discovery make it a globally recognized name. Something about the community attracts innovators, industry builders, and entrepreneurs. Today, entrepreneurs like Persefoni Lauhon and Alex Woodward continue this legacy. These Western Michigan University (WMU) students created E-Z Bind for the heavy trucking industry and launched their new venture at WMU's Starting Gate program. Local Chocolatier Dale Anderson runs a different kind of business. Confections with Convictions sells artisan chocolate while helping transform the lives of young felons.

Read: Two Western Students Create their Own Binding Business and Local Chocolatier Creates Enticing Treats through Convictions

5. Technology Thrives Here
Maybe it is because we're an intersection for education and industry, but high-tech companies have long called Kalamazoo home. This year, local industry leader Secant Technologies expanded its regional presence when it unveiled a state-of-technology data center, which offers local businesses data security and reliability.

Read: Secant Technologies Creates Data Fortress in Kalamazoo

4. Kalamazooians are Passionate About 'Place'
For the past three years, Kalamazooians have gathered annually at a placemaking event to reimagine shared space where we live, work and play together. This year, at Go Places, a packed room at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Kalamazoo spent a day working on collective ideas around four local projects. In another story, we met a young man who spends every day focused on sustainability. William Derouin's "place" is his alma mater, WMU. A Kalamazoo Promise scholarship recipient, Derouin works at the college's Office for Sustainability as Permaculture Coordinator.

Read: Making a Place for Growth and Connections and Connections to Home Create a Promising Future

3. It's a Great Place to Play
The short commutes and easy access to shopping, dining, and year-round outdoor sports and activities make it seem like there's more free time here. Maybe that's why newcomers fall in love with the region so quickly, as First National Bank of Michigan controller Matt Morgan did. Local Girls on the Run coach Chelsey Jones appreciates all that the region offers. She strives to inspire this appreciation in the third- through fifth-grade-girls at St. Augustine Cathedral School where she coaches.

Read: Transplant Finds Home in Kalamazoo and From Competitive Gymnastics to Marathon Running

2. Downtown Kalamazoo
With its vibrant, Art Deco-style architecture and growing entertainment district, downtown Kalamazoo's loft living is close to local businesses and shops. For some, this means walking distance to work. WorkSquared interior designers Lauren Van Houten and Breanne Vander Lugt, shared with us their love of this urban lifestyle. And if you are downtown, don't be surprised to run into friends at one of the many pubs there, as Katy Perry and John Mayer did.

Read: Live Where You Work and John Mayer and Katy Perry Spotted Reuniting at Olde Peninsula!?

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

You could make this claim about nearly everyone we interviewed this year. Kalamazoo is a place that offers the amenities and resources that make finding your life's work possible - and pursuing it a fun and exciting journey. But three individuals in particular stood out. Jason McClellan shared his passion for cooking with others as the Executive Chef of Fieldstone Grill. Kevin Romeo, owner of Rhino Media Productions, talked about feeding his appetite for entrepreneurship and creativity through his work. And Sam Reese of Bell's Brewery has found his life's work in the popular art of craft beer.

Read: Cooking Up Connections in Kalamazoo, Tasty Conversations, Inspiring Connections, and From English to Escanaba, Brewer Takes a Leap for Kalamazoo Beer

We hope you've enjoyed reading -or perhaps re-reading -our top stories of the year. We'd love to know if our Top Reasons Why We Love Kalamazoo matches yours! Join the conversation.

Did we spark ideas for people and places around the region you'd like to read about in 2015? Post them in the comments below.

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