A city of strength & diversity
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Wyoming, Michigan for our focus on Economic Growth & Development in U.S. Cities
A diverse place to live isn’t difficult to come by, but one that truly embraces and celebrates diversity, that brings people together and provides equal opportunities for all, is unique.
The City of Wyoming, Michigan is a one-of-a-kind place that welcomes people of all cultures and creeds, while providing services and amenities to ensure everyone enjoys a good quality of life, through their wide range of housing for all income brackets, employment diversification, and preparing for a fiscally responsible future.
Some of Wyoming’s quality of life measures include creating a downtown with a wide range of residential options, while at the same time creating retail opportunities and neighborhood hubs. They’ve also taken what was once a site of broken dreams and turned it into a community space full of possibility through public-private partnerships. Wyoming thrives on beneficial partnerships that continue to provide meaningful and lasting change to the city and its residents. Wyoming is also equipped with a plethora of recreational facilities, parks, and more to fit the needs of families, young people, and seniors – including walking, hiking, and biking trails.
Curtis Holt, City Manager of Wyoming, boasts about the city’s diversity every chance he gets. He shares, “Wyoming is really a community of communities within our city and we cater to every type of person out there: a person who wants to live in a smaller home, a larger home, who wants a smaller school district for their friends. Our parks are very good and we have many, many opportunities for jobs too, as we have a lot of businesses in our community including a GM plant. So when I look at the City of Wyoming, I see a community that has every type of opportunity available to anybody who might want to live here.”
The City of Wyoming is adjacent to Grand Rapids and is one of eight cities in the Grand Rapids Metro Area. Holt believes this prime location affords residents the ease and accessibility to take part in some of the Michigan west region’s most famous arts and culture activities and festivals. The city has a population of about 76,000 – an increase of about people since the 2010 census – and they expect a lot more people to come to Wyoming as the city rolls out its housing master plan, which includes workforce housing.
Housing stock across the country is low, but Wyoming is solving that problem one development at a time. Nicole Hofert, City of Wyoming Director of Planning and Economic Development, reports, “We’re building more developments with single family homes at all income levels, with care not to leave out the middle class, but also developing apartment complexes, seniors communities and more. We’re also creating retail and community hubs within neighbourhoods to ensure people have what they need close to home. We’re a very interesting and diverse community. A large percentage of our population is foreign-born. When you travel through our community you’ll find these nodes of culture and I think that’s something that’s unique and something that we want to celebrate more.”
Wyoming is also starting phase three of their Housing Flats Program. They’ve already created 400 units of workforce housing and expect the third phase to start in 2023. As Hofert attests, “The city is constantly working toward fulfilling its goals across the board. One of our goals that we highlighted in our Master Plan was to provide a diverse housing stock as we continue to grow.”
Wyoming has a very healthy industrial base, including the General Motors plant and its largest employers are the University of Michigan Health West, Gordon Food Service, and UPS, along with the municipal government and seven school districts. The city also works closely with its Chamber of Commerce to bring programs to businesses seeking assistance.
During the 2008, recession one of the GM plants in the city closed, leaving an 80-acre brownfield. The city worked with a few different developers with no luck, but managed to have the property transferred to the municipality and remediate the soil. In 2016 the property was cleared. Wyoming then collaborated with Franklin Partners three years ago to redevelop the site. The partnership slowed through the pandemic and eventually Wyoming sold the property to Franklin Partners, but retained the ability to dictate what type of project they wanted to see on the property. Holt notes, “The site on 36th Street is geared toward manufacturing. Our goal from the beginning has been advanced manufacturing on that site. That is what we’re looking for.”
On the other side of the street is a five-acre piece of property that used to be a parking lot for the factory, but has been used by the nearby schools as a parking lot for their sports field. The City of Wyoming and Franklin Partners are redeveloping that site as a Farmers’ and Community Market with outdoor and indoor vendor space – at a cost of $1.5 million to Franklin Partners. The parking lot can also be used by the school. Holt says, “Franklin Partners have been a really good development partner. Over the years, they’ve done some really nice projects in Wyoming and we’re looking forward to more good projects with Franklin Partners on what we would now call site 36, which is the site of the old GM stamping plant.”
Wyoming was built as a more suburban area of Grand Rapids and did not have a downtown district, but the municipality is working toward creating one on a section of 28th Street, which is where the new city hall building and the workforce housing is located. There are also many mixed-use developments in the works for retail, restaurants and office space. Deputy City Manager John McCarter says creating this downtown district may help bring more life to the city. He notes, “Downtowns, historically, have been a destination that as time went on, as malls came to dominate our spending patterns, really were left behind. This breathes life back into that section of 28th Street. We really think it will be a regional destination and bring this part of our community back to life.”
The city is also very environmentally conscious. They take their water from Lake Michigan, which is about 30 miles away. The pipeline also provides water to every town in between and the city charges them a wholesale fee. Wyoming is now in the process of building a redundant pipeline to ensure the city is never without water. During maintenance or an emergency, the other line can be used. They are also adding another intake about a mile out into the lake, again to ensure that if any systems with the first intake fail that the city continues to receive water. The wastewater, or as McCarter likes to call it “clean water” facility uses UV technologies to clean the water and return it to the lake.
Although the city does not currently have EV charging stations it is looking into them, but there are privately-owned chargers in the community. Wyoming also has access to high speed internet and cable through a variety of providers.
City staff are looking forward to having their Master Plan well into effect in the next three to five years. Hofert is hoping to see those community retail nodes come to life, while McCarter hopes to see the old GM facility turn into something great for the community, as well as to see the population grow and continue to diversify.
As for Holt, he is hoping to figure out what defines Wyoming for the next 50 years of its existence through things like community projects, but also fiscal responsibility. He says, “We’re a city that actively pursues our asset management plan, so when you talk about things like infrastructure, we know it takes about $5 million in road dollars annually to maintain our streets and we put that money into our streets every year. The same is true of our utilities. All those things we do annually. Along with our excellent facilities, we also do asset management. As we say to people all the time, at the City of Wyoming, we pay our bills and we take care of what we have.”
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AT A GLANCE
What: A beautiful, diverse city; population 76,000
Where: Kent County, Michigan