PAINTER: There’s no place like home in West Michigan
May 28, 2014
They all live in Northwest Ottawa County. They are among a number of residents from this area who take to the highways on a regular basis to get to their jobs.
Why? They love living in Northwest Ottawa County. I don’t blame them. This is a great area to raise a family and a fun place to live.
I know quite a few families who live in Northwest Ottawa County but work in other communities — some as far as Chicago and Detroit. I also know some people who have chosen to retire here instead of warm climates like Arizona, Florida and Texas.
I’m sure there are many reasons why they are attracted to this area. However, I have to believe that our public schools system is one of the main attractions. The Grand Haven and Spring Lake school districts have stellar reputations for educating our children, and our students consistently rank high in academic endeavors.
What is not to like about our area. We have beautiful beaches, and a magnificent system of local, county and state parks and bicycle paths. There is plenty to do, especially during the summer months. And, we have a low crime rate.
Our local Chamber of Commerce has plenty of material for luring new businesses and residents to the area.
Sure, we still have growing pains. Everyone would like to see more higher-paying jobs come to the area. But the Chamber has played an important role in helping turn around the local economy.
Our area was like many throughout the 1960s and 1970s — heavily dependent on manufacturing jobs. That began to change in the 1980s as a number of manufacturing jobs began to disappear.
We’re more diversified now, as are many communities throughout the U.S. But there is something special about living in Northwest Ottawa County. I know from my own experiences.
Yes, I’ve heard the criticisms of lack of diversity and unfriendly people. We have people working hard on diversity issues. Personally, I haven’t found residents here to be unfriendly. Sure, sometimes it takes a while to get to know someone. But I can tell you that my experiences have been positive.
During my career as a journalist, we lived in many communities before settling down here.
My wife, Marilyn, and I lived in Texas, Arizona and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan before making this area our permanent home. We never lived in a community more than two years prior to moving here.
I once had a prospective employer ask me why we had moved so much. I wasn’t sure what to tell him, other than we moved around for better job opportunities.
While that was true, the real reason we moved so much is because we were looking for the right place to raise a family. We wanted a hometown that provided our kids a good education, and a place where they would be safe. We were also looking for a place where we could enjoy recreational opportunities.
We found that place in Northwest Ottawa County. We’ve lived here 28 years now. I wouldn’t trade our hometown for anyplace else.
Now, if we could just do something about the weather. The winter of 2014 is one we would just as soon forget. But I’ll put up with the weather because there are so many positives about living in this area.
— By Len Painter, Tribune community columnist