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Grand Rapids thrives while Detroit struggles

2:23 AM, Jul 25, 2013   |    comments
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Downtown Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - While Detroit is suffering, Grand Rapids is thriving in many ways.

So how did Michigan's two largest cities go down such different paths?

We posed that question to Thomas Dilley, vice chair of the Grand Rapids Historical Commission.

He says it's not fair to compare the cities economically.

Detroit has different and much larger industries than Grand Rapids, many of which are owned outside of the city, whereas many large businesses here are family owned.

Dilley believes Grand Rapids has been more successful in dealing with the problems that face this city than they have in Detroit.

He also points to the 1967 Detroit Riot, the 1967 "Race Riot" in Grand Rapids, and the election of Grand Rapids' first black mayor in 1971.

Dilley says Lyman Parks and others like him were instrumental in not letting the racial divide bring Grand Rapids down.

He adds leaders here also helped to expand the city's industrial base so it wasn't just furniture.

"Fifty years ago, this was a declining, dilapidated commercial district. There were people in Grand Rapids that said 'no, this city is not going down.' This city is going to reinvent itself over and over again."

Dilley says today, Grand Rapids would not be thriving without the contributions of the Van Andel and DeVos families.

He says they've helped to create partnerships and have influenced others to move into the community.

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