CEOs for Cities is a national network of decision-makers in government, business and philanthropy who gather to learn from each other and spark innovation.
In 2013 they met in Grand Rapids during ArtPrize, an art contest offering a $250,000 prize to the winner selected by public vote. More than 1,500 pieces of art are displayed in public spaces and private businesses that open up their properties to thousands of visitors for the 16-day event.
Sounds like the perfect place for a gathering that CEOs for Cities member Jerry Tubergen described like this: “People from around the country from different communities that have a vision of strengthening their communities and making it a vibrant place where, I think, the next generation of young talent want to be, contribute, and to continue to have an unfolding story.”
In fact, more than 50 percent of the conference agenda that year was dedicated to highlighting the collaboration and partnerships in Grand Rapids, CEOs for Cities President Lee Fisher told a reporter.
“The buzz in this city is unlike any city I’ve ever seen,” he said during the conference. “We have people from 75 cities, and all I’m hearing from people is: Why did we not know about this earlier?”
Laura Way, an attendee from Greensboro, North Carolina, had a great time at the conference and described Grand Rapids as “vibrant.”
“It’s just a lot of energy,” she said. “We had a great dinner last night. We walked around downtown. It just really feels like it's a town that has really embraced being a city and it's been really enjoyable to be here.”