Changing Rural Narratives: A Ground Level Conversation In Grand Rapids
Changing Rural Narratives: a Ground Level Conversation in Grand Rapids
By Tom Weber.
While #mprraccoon was grabbing the attention of the world for scaling a building in an urban center, a conversation in Grand Rapids, Minn. last week focused on foxes playing in the yard, loons calling in the evening, and other interactions with nature. The Great Outdoors, as we heard in an event at the Blandin Foundation, is a key reason why people choose to live in Grand Rapids.
The event Wednesday evening was part of MPR’s Ground Level series , which is as much listening tour as anything. We were interested in hearing from people on why they live in Grand Rapids, what they worry about and celebrate in daily life, and what are some of the issues leaders should focus on. The goal wasn’t to solve any of the issues but rather hear people out.
A survey for Ground Level from the APM Research Lab had found that within Minnesota there are significant regional differences in the way people feel about the direction our state is heading. There are differences in how hopeful we feel, how much confidence we have in our institutions and how confident we feel about the future. Perceptions are key, as well. While metro area Minnesotans might consider Grand Rapids a rural city, people in the city view it more as the regional population center that it is. Nearly 11,000 people live within the borders of Grand Rapids, but as one guest pointed out, the surrounding areas and townships increase that number to about 20,000.
MPR news host Tom Weber moderated the event before about 50 people joined us, along with Ben Winchester , a rural sociologist and research fellow with UMN Extensions, who offered context and data-driven insight in the conversation. Winchester works with the University of Minnesota extension office on rural economic issues.