As a regional economic development organization for West Michigan, it is the responsibility of our research team to analyze both the strengths and weaknesses of the region’s economy. There are two ways we do this; the first is to evaluate our region’s performance, and the second is to leverage our regional economic data to contextualize and compare ourselves to others. To evaluate the region’s performance, we ask questions of the data, such as: Are quality jobs growing? Is our Gross Metropolitan Product (GMP) growing? What is the standard of living for our residents? Are all residents participating in the regional economic growth? Much of this data is then compiled and shared in The Right Place Data Center and the West Michigan Regional Dashboard.

Contextualization and comparison are key steps in leveraging all of this data. With the wealth of knowledge readily available in this digital age, there’s no shortage of comparative studies available to determine how regions stack up to one another. Our research team identifies the highest quality comparative studies and analyzes them in order to gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening in our regional economy.

While some rankings compare metros using a singular indicator (ex. total job growth), comparison studies that utilize a wider range of indicators are much more valuable. For this reason, our research and data team always looks forward to the release of Brookings Institution’s Annual Metro Monitor.

The goal of the Metro Monitor is to deepen understanding of economic success by thinking beyond growth alone. The report more broadly evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of America’s metros, measuring them at a regional level to provide valuable insights into the parts that make up the whole of each state. This year’s edition of the Metro Monitor focuses on trends in Growth, Prosperity, and Inclusion (including race) for the 100 largest U.S. metro areas.

A Closer look at Grand Rapids’ Report

The Grand Rapids-Wyoming Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) consists of Kent, Ottawa, Montcalm and Barry counties. With an estimated 1,069,405 residents, it’s the 53rd largest MSA in the nation.

Here are the results for the Grand Rapids-Wyoming MSA for the 2019 Metro Monitor

10-year analysis: 2007 – 2017

  • Growth: Overall Rank 28 out of 100
    • Percentage change in jobs 16.0% (15 out of 100)
    • Percentage change in Gross Metro Product 16.4% (29 out of 100)
    • Percentage change in jobs at young firms -20.8% (70 out of 100)
  • Prosperity: Overall Rank 61 out of 100
    • Percentage change in productivity 0.3% (83 out of 100)
    • Percentage change in standard of living 7.9% (24 out of 100)
    • Percentage change in average annual wage 4.5% (57 out of 100)
  • Inclusion: Overall Rank 9 out of 100
    • Percentage change in median earnings -2.0% (59 out of 100)
    • Percentage change in relative poverty -8.5% (19 out of 100)
    • Percentage change in employment rate 6.5% (2 out of 100)
  • Inclusion by race: Overall 28 out of 100
    • Change in white/people of color median earnings gap -$1,299 (32 out of 100)
    • Change in white/people of color relative poverty gap -1.4 points (30 out of 100)
    • Change in white/people of color employment rate gap -2.1 points (40 out of 100)

Key Takeaways

Our region has been in high-growth mode since exiting the Great Recession in 2009, a trend reflected in the Metro Monitor growth indicators. During this period of exponential growth, the region has also made forward strides in creating a more inclusive economy. Data indicates that our regional economy is becoming more inclusive for all people, not just white non-Hispanic residents. This trend must continue for West Michigan to remain globally competitive and maintain a sustainable regional economy that attracts talent to the region.