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Grand Rapids at a Tipping Point | Business

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Grand Rapids at a Tipping Point
Grand Rapids at a Tipping Point

J. Bennett Rylah

Kristopher Larson, the relatively new executive director of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), comes to Grand Rapids from Long Beach, CA where he acted as VP of the Downtown Long Beach Association. Before that, Larson lived in Raleigh, NC. So, it's suffice to say, we're zeroing in on Larson's first Michigan winter.

Larson says he was born and raised in Raleigh and was there for a "very fun part" of the city's transformation. "When I was a kid," he says, "[Raleigh] had a population similar to Grand Rapids -- about 180,000. When I left, it was 400,000. We had all these tremendous opportunities, and helping to direct a lot of that was a fun time. But, eventually, I just wanted to stretch my legs."

Larson moved to California at the beginning of the recession and stayed there for four years. Los Angeles was intriguing to him. "You have the archetypal view communicated via media, and then you get there, and it's something quite different," he says. "It's a city of many different types of experiences."

And then there's Grand Rapids. A different climate, a smaller size, a different culture. Why come here? "The biggest thing," Larson says, "would be the opportunity. [Grand Rapids] is at that tipping point where a lot of things are coming together, and it's not downhill from here. There's certainly a swelling of local support coming from many directions, and I think that's going to help usher in a new wave of enthusiasm."

One of Grand Rapids' biggest assets, Larson feels, and perhaps an underestimated one, is civic pride. "[Civic pride] can be such a brilliant advantage in...