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News & Press: FOCUS

The Measure of a Great Community

Sunday, July 1, 2018  
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What are the factors that determine what a great community looks like? The answer to that question will vary from person to person. However, there are a few common themes that tend to emerge when considering the qualities of world-class communities, including: good jobs, outstanding schools, safe communities, infrastructure, great neighborhoods, housing, culture and entertainment, parks, transportation, diversity and inclusiveness to name a few.

When you consider the qualities that make a community great, it is also natural to consider how the Lansing region stacks up. There are an endless number of attributes that advocates of the region will justifiably point to with pride that suggest that Greater Lansing is a very special place. Perhaps even more impressive would be to consider the metrics.

Lansing was rated number 50 on the Best 125 place to Live by U.S. News & World Reports. Photo courtesy of the Greater Lansing Michigan Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In the past three years alone, a wide range of prestigious organizations have ranked our community among the best in the country in a diverse number of categories. To the extent that we can measure the greatness of a community, Lansing ranks among the best in terms of affordability, housing, education, desirability for young professionals and businesses, and is considered to be among the most desirable places to work. Among the recent rankings and accolades:

“Those of us who live and work in this region have seen the investments that have been made and the progress Lansing has experienced over the past decade,” said Tim Daman, president and CEO of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRCC). “It is gratifying to see the recognitions from outside organizations that serve to confirm and validate the economic growth and investment that is literally occurring every day in Greater Lansing.”

An Award-Winning Combination of Livability and Affordability

The Livability report said Lansing came out with the “crown on our list of affordable cities — and for good reasons.” According to Livability, Lansing citizens spend nearly 40 percent less on key necessities, including rent, which is well below the national average. The report also cities median housing prices in Lansing at just $89,190 compared to the national number of $206, 300. Livability also cites the large number of colleges and universities, a welleducated and youthful population, outstanding businesses and a city it says is “bursting with culture.”

“It has its own ballet company, a symphony orchestra, a jazz festival and a blues festival, too,” says Livability. “This plus multiple farmer’s markets, art galleries, museums, theaters, The Wharton Center for Performing Arts and the historic Potter Park Zoo for endless options for fun.”

Lending Tree analyzed mortgage requests and offers for borrowers ages 35 and under between February 1, 2017 and February 1, 2018. The popularity of the region with young homebuyers is consistent with recent trends that have seen more young professionals commit to moving to and remaining in Lansing to work and live. The region has seen an explosion of new developments including restaurants and night spots geared towards the younger crowd. In 2010, the financial magazine Kiplinger recognized Lansing as one of 10 great cities for young adults.

“Lansing’s urban core is evolving into a lively network of amenities and businesses that are very appealing to young professionals,” said Chris Sell, director, alumni and entrepreneur engagement at Michigan State University. “Commercial districts such as Old Town and REO Town have become hip local destinations. New eateries, galleries, breweries, urban lofts, and retail businesses are popping up everywhere, and the community has really begun to rally around the things that make Lansing standout from other regions.”

More young professionals are choosing to live and work in Greater Lansing, which is rated among the best communities for affordable housing, livability and best college towns.

“I have a soft spot for Lansing since I grew up here, but it is truly remarkable to see the transformation that has taken place over the last 5-10 years in the Capital City,” said Katherine Japinga, president of the young professionals group Grand River Connection. “Business is booming, the economy is growing and Lansing is becoming a destination city for young professionals. The Lansing region has it all for young professionals – from unique bars and restaurants to world class theater and entertainment, and professional opportunities from healthcare to insurance – combine all of that with the affordable cost of living, housing options and world class educational institutions, there is no better place for young professionals to build their career.”

World-Class Education and Opportunities

From K-12 to graduate level programs, education in the Lansing region ranks among the best. Not only is the quality of education in the region world-class, the role of educational institutions in developing top talent for the region’s workforce of today and tomorrow cannot be overstated.

“When you think of vibrant regions and communities that offer an outstanding quality of life, images come to mind including a robust economy, solid infrastructure, attractive neighborhoods, and most importantly, outstanding schools and educational opportunities,” said Kristin Beltzer, LRCC executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “The Lansing region is rapidly becoming all of those things and much more. Our region is home to Michigan State University, Lansing Community College (the top community college in the state), and other higher education institutions such as Central Michigan University, Northwood University and Davenport University. Our K-12 systems are exceptionally strong, and the Ingham Intermediate School District and Eaton RESA have become great partners in bridging the gap between business and education. Collaboration is taking place throughout the entire tri-county region and we are seeing a resurgence in these entities as key economic drivers, which is putting our region on the national map.”

Michigan State University’s College of Education is consistently ranked among the best in the country. The college’s elementary and secondary education programs have held the nation’s topmost spots for 24 consecutive years and secured the top national program in higher education administration for the first time this year.

Ten Michigan State University graduate programs are positioned in the nation’s top 10, with five in the No. 1 position, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report ranking. Once again, MSU’s College of Education anchored the university’s 2019 standings. The college’s elementary and secondary education programs have held the nation’s top spots for 24 consecutive years and secured the top national program in higher education administration for the first time in 2018.

“These top rankings reflect the insightful and influential contributions of our faculty and alumni, whose work touches all levels of education,” said Robert Floden, Dean of the College of Education. “They are at the forefront of research, policy and practice, providing instruction and mentoring to the next generation of education leaders.”

MSU’s nuclear physics graduate program also maintained the No. 1 ranking in its category. MSU surpassed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the top spot in 2010 and has held its position ever since. Bolstering MSU’s reputation in the field is the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB), a new scientific user facility for nuclear science, under construction now on campus. Also securing its position as the top national program is the Eli Broad College of Business’s supply chain management program, which reached No. 1 last year after surpassing MIT. ranked Lansing Community College (LCC) the No. 1 community college out of 28 public two-year institutions in Michigan. The site, which serves as a comprehensive guide to accredited and online educational institutions, placed LCC at the top of its Top 10 List based on numbers from the U.S. Department of Education and Michigan Center for Educational Performance Information.

Lansing Community College was ranked the number one community college in Michigan by

“We are proud to be part of Lansing’s renaissance and foster an environment that contributes to the development of our next generation of workers, scholars and educators,” said Dr. Brent Knight, LCC President.

Business Growth and Investment Leading the Way

The Lansing region is fortunate to have a rich history of business leadership that has contributed mightily to the quality of life. From its early days as a manufacturing hub to the modern times as a leader in the 21st century economy, business commitment to our region has provided jobs, investment and leadership in driving the region forward. That growth has been recognized by a number of prestigious organizations.

Auto-Owners Insurance Company, a multi-line property and casualty and life insurer, moved up 23 places to No. 375 on the annual Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations. The ranking makes Auto-Owners the 15th largest Michigan-based business on the Fortune 500 list.

This is the 16th straight year Auto-Owners has appeared in the Fortune 500 list and is its highest ranking ever. The company had $7.604 billion in revenue for 2017.

“We are pleased to not only make the Fortune 500 list again, but to make such a large leap in the rankings,” said Auto-Owners Insurance Company Chairman and CEO Jeff Tagsold. “Being ranked among the top 500 companies in America is an important distinction in which we take pride. Thanks to our outstanding staff and the work of our independent agents, we continue to provide excellent customer service.”

Jackson National Life Insurance Company® offers a variety of investment and retirement products designed to help their customers reach their most important financial goals. The company started in 1961 as a family-owned company and has grown through the years to a multi-billion-dollar organization and was recently recognized as No. 364 on Forbes’ list of America’s Best Employers.

The region’s small business community is among the most robust in Michigan as evidenced by the number of companies recently recognized on the prestigious 50 Companies to Watch by Michigan Celebrates Small Business. Honorees included Harvest Creative Services, M3 Group and Triterra, all based in Lansing. Other Chamber members recognized were Joost Vapor of Grand Rapids and Kunz Leigh & Associates of Lathrup Village. Saddleback BBQ of Okemos was named Best Small Business of the Year. SU2 Systems of Lansing received an honorable mention as SmartZone Best Small Business.

Greater Lansing businesses have established a well-deserved reputation for having outstanding cultures, which attract and retain the best talent in the country. The Detroit Free Press recently named five Lansing employers as being one of the Top Workplaces in Michigan, including: MSU Federal Credit Union (#5 large companies), Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan (#15 large companies), Dart Bank (#52 midsize companies), Cinnaire (#27 small companies) and CASE Credit Union (#54 small companies).

“Fulfilling our mission and core values to serve members and build stronger communities begins with our employees,” said April Clobes, MSUFCU’s president and CEO. “We provide an engaging work environment, a culture through which they can connect with one another, and internal resources with which they can learn and grow, helping to empower employees to make the best decisions possible to serve our members.”

Cinnaire was also among seven Chamber members named to Crain’s Detroit Cool Places to Work list in 2017. The others included, Kapnick Insurance, Warner Norcross & Judd, Lambert Edwards, Two Men and A Truck, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Dewpoint and Lake Trust Credit Union.

“It is a true honor to receive recognition as a Crain’s Cool Place to work,” said Mark McDaniel, Cinnaire president and CEO. “Our vision is to provide a workplace that allows our staff to grow professionally and personally in a unique and inspiring environment. What truly makes Cinnaire ‘cool’ is the commitment and dedication our staff has consistently shown in our 23-year history. Our employees are the heartbeat of Cinnaire and we remain committed to creating benefits to show our gratitude for the value they bring to our organization.”

The Drive for Continuous Improvement and Innovation

There is still work to be done in building a world-class community. For example, Michigan ranks in the middle of the pack (#27) in Chief Executive Magazine’s 2018 Best & Worst States for Business. It should be noted that ranking is a sharp improvement from recent years where Michigan ranked near the bottom of the country.

“Governor Snyder and his administration have worked hard over the past eight years to improve the tax structure and the overall business climate in the state,” said Daman. “The efforts have led to more jobs, more business setting up shop and more opportunities.”

Those who make decisions about where to make business investments feel the Lansing region is a good bet. Investment and development has been brisk throughout the region for several years with a number of other exciting projects in the pipeline.

Outside recognitions are nice and Lansing is certainly enjoying well-deserved national attention. What really matters is continued progress toward building a world-class region of which we can all be proud of. By whatever standard you choose to apply, anecdotal evidence or the mounting number of analytics-based surveys, when it comes to qualities of an outstanding community, Greater Lansing certainly measures up with the very best.

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