In The Right Place’s role as the regional economic development organization, we often talk about what makes this community the ‘right place’ for businesses to grow and create jobs. Without a doubt, there are many reasons to live and do business in West Michigan - which tends to make these conversations straightforward. However, as the events of these past several days have brought to light, there are also painful realities being experienced by our communities of color that we must address. These conversations are critical, and far more complex.
We are committed to having these tough conversations and we stand alongside our community members of color in pursuing justice and demanding change. How can we build a more inclusive and prosperous West Michigan? How can we create a place where all people, regardless of their skin color, share in this prosperity? These are just a few of the questions we are asking ourselves because we want this region to be the right place not just for some, but for all.
We want Grand Rapids to be a place where systemic racism is not perpetuated, protected, or accepted. We want this to be a place where racial injustice does not influence opportunities such as quality of education and advancement in the workforce. It should not be a death sentence to be a person of color in this country.
As leaders in the community, we are committed to continuing honest discussions about these grim and painful realities. We are listening. We also know that listening alone will not eradicate racism. Our neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends who are people of color deserve more – they deserve real, measurable change.
Our organization’s mission is to drive sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity for all. Yet we know that we cannot tackle systemic racism alone. This pervasive problem is several hundred years in the making and it will take time, collaboration and continuous dedication to eliminate its hold within our community.
However, there is reason to be hopeful. We have never been a community that sits by idly, waiting for someone else to solve our problems. Evidence of this can be seen in the thousands of people who marched peacefully last week to demand change, and it can also be seen in the hundreds who voluntarily showed up to repair the damage done to our city by a few isolated actors.
This collaborative spirit and drive built Grand Rapids into a place we are proud to call home, and it will guide us as we work to dismantle systemic racism and the anguish it causes. By working alongside one another, we know our community will emerge stronger and more resilient than ever before.
Birgit M. Klohs
President & CEO
The Right Place, Inc.