Michigan’s Western shore is dotted with dozens of small, successful tourist towns. For generations now people have been coming up from Chicago, Detroit and as far away as Indianapolis to enjoy the sugar-sand beaches and beautiful scenery. Towns like New Buffalo, Saugatuck, Grand Haven and Ludington have been synonymous with summer crowds looking to enjoy the brief season.
There is another side to the area, a story that has been frequently told through negative press around plant closings and job loss and urban decay. Muskegon was one of those communities that was hit hard by the contraction of the manufacturing sector. But something happened after this town was given up as somewhere to be passed by on the way to nicer places – the community went to work.
Elected leaders, community organizers, and small businesses looked at the vacant buildings and old industrial lots and saw an opportunity. The community decided to work together to improve the place they live, rather than give it up for dead. Today, it is difficult to keep track of all the new projects that are ongoing in the downtown area. Business is booming and people are coming back to a once nearly abandoned city center. A new convention center (set to open in 2021), plans for improvements to the deep water port, expansions of hotels and new housing options are just a few of the projects that total over $100 million dollars of new investments for the community.
There simply isn’t the space to talk about all of the successful small businesses that have sprung up because of this investment. One only need walk down Western Ave to see the change from just a few years ago. New construction, new businesses, and perhaps most importantly, new residents are out and about every single night and weekend. All of this because a community decided that they wouldn’t quit on the place they call home.
“I don’t think we should be stuck in a place where we’re believing we’re not a great community,” Muskegon Community College President Dale Nesbary said to MiBiz.com. “We’re way past the hump. We moved here because we could see the potential. We have businesses moving here, businesses locating their world headquarters here. This is a great location to be.”
Further information can be found on the Downtown Muskegon Business Improvement District’s website.