Economic Development and Manufacturing

Grand Rapids ranks among top 10 'Emerging Cities' in US for global trade

November 7, 2014
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Grand Rapids ranks among top 10 'Emerging Cities' in US for global trade
Global Trade Magazine covers the global marketplace. Courtesy The Right Place

Grand Rapids is considered one of the nation's top markets to invest in for companies planning to expand their global reach.

Global Trade Magazine, a quarterly publication on the global marketplace, has selected Grand Rapids as one of the top 10 “Emerging Cities” in the U.S. in its third-annual report on “America’s Best Cities for Global Trade.”

The other cities selected in the “Emerging Cities” category are located across the country: Detroit; Birmingham, Ala.; Boston; Fayetteville, Ark.; Norfolk, Va.; Salt Lake City; Raleigh, N.C.; St. Paul, Minn.; and Sugar Land, Texas.


Global Trade Magazine developed a variety of categories to evaluate cities across the country, by identifying 10 specific needs globally minded and competitive companies consider in selecting a new location for expansion or relocation.

In the 2014 report, 100 cities are rated across 10 categories: emerging cities, business environment, employee friendly, export assistance, global vibe, innovative, logistics infrastructure, proximity to universities, site-selection assistance and skilled workforce.

Grand Rapids was chosen as an “Emerging City” based on an overall analysis of how the region is excelling in the categories of interest, rather than solely on gross domestic product or export totals, according to Steve Lowery, senior editor, Global Trade Magazine.

Not a “newcomer”

The designation further validates the ability of Grand Rapids to compete on a global scale, said Birgit Klohs, president and CEO, The Right Place, a regional economic development nonprofit.

Klohs said The Right Place “continues to see great interest from international companies in our region, as well as numerous West Michigan-based companies increasing their global reach overseas.”

Tim Mroz, a spokesperson for The Right Place, said that during a discussion with the publication’s editor, it was noted that the significance of Grand Rapids being identified as an “Emerging City” means it’s considered a good potential investment for companies looking to strategically grow, rather than a newcomer to the global trade industry.

Mroz said the recognition by Global Trade Magazine is a positive for Grand Rapids.

“It is read by those in our industry who do make decisions on the expansion and relocation of companies around the U.S.,” Mroz said. “It is obviously very good news for us.”

The report “America’s Best Cities for Global Trade” will be in the Nov. 10 print edition of Global Trade Magazine.

No. 8 in export growth

Each year, the Bookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase release an analysis of each metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, and their total exports in comparison to other MSAs as part of its Global Cities initiative.

In 2012, the Grand Rapids-Wyoming region had $6.8 billion in exports with an annualized export growth rate of 13.4 percent from 2009 to 2012. Based on the annualized export growth, the MSA is ranked eighth in the top 100 MSAs.

“There is a lot of product leaving this region, which is good for us as economic developers,” Mroz said. “That is the basis of the economic development philosophy: the more you can make and ship outside your region and receive goods in return . . . that then increases the wealth of your community.

“Grand Rapids has always been a major export city, and I would expand it out of Grand Rapids and say West Michigan has always been a major export region. With 20 to 25 percent economic base in manufacturing and manufacturing having a global marketplace, it would make sense that West Michigan is fairly strong in exports.”  

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