Equitable Economic Development and Mobility Strategy for Grand Rapids

HR&A led development of a strategic roadmap to achieve equitable economic development and mobility in the City of Grand Rapids.


Driven by expansions in the healthcare and manufacturing industries, the Grand Rapids economy grew significantly following the recession, with unemployment hitting a low of 3.4% in 2018. However, this prosperity has not reached everyone in the city. The challenges facing Grand Rapids — chief among them racial and neighborhood-level disparities in access to economic opportunity and reliable and safe transportation to good jobs — are deep-seated issues that have frustrated the best efforts of many American cities. A strategy that is successful in addressing these issues must capitalize on the city’s advantages to continue to drive economic growth, while broadening opportunity and targeting initiatives to communities that have so far been left out.


HR&A led an interdisciplinary team that worked closely with the City of Grand Rapids and a steering committee of civic, business and resident stakeholders to develop strategies to advance the city’s economic development and mobility objectives. As part of this effort, HR&A conducted in-depth interviews and analysis to identify the city’s strengths and challenges, and gathered input from community members about the intersection of equity and economic development in their daily lives. HR&A then worked alongside the City and committee members to develop viable strategies that address the existing gaps in Grand Rapids’ economic development toolkit.
Recognizing that mobility also plays an integral role in economic opportunity and access, HR&A also supported Nelson\Nygaard’s work to develop relevant strategies to improve transportation safety and accessibility. HR&A subsequently developed a strategic plan designed to achieve the goal of a more equitable, just city. The final plan, Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategy was released in January 2020; it provides detailed guidance on actions the City and its partners will take to promote inclusive economic growth and equitable transportation access.
Implementation of the plan is currently underway, beginning with 11 near-term strategies including employing an equitable development scorecard to evaluate and award incentives, expanding resources provided to Corridor Improvement Authorities, and creating a transparent and visible centralized information hub for economic development services.