As the newest member of the Experience Grand Rapids leadership team, I’m commonly asked, “What do you do?” and “What does multicultural business development mean?”  In short, I lead and support the development of diverse business and community initiatives, which, in turn, support Experience Grand Rapids’ efforts to make a positive impact on the visitor experience and the regional economy.

These questions got me thinking about how we might regularly share with the community why and how we do what we do. So, we introduce our Friends of Grand Rapids quarterly newsletter that offers perspectives on how our team partners with people and organizations throughout the region to boost our economy and help make this a great place to visit, live, work, learn and play.

One such initiative is Bring It to Grand Rapids, a program to identify and recruit “Hometown Champions” to assist in bringing regional or national meetings to Grand Rapids. For decades, Experience Grand Rapids has recognized the value of community partners who are willing to tap into their business associations and networks to bring more meetings and conventions to town. Their efforts generate approximately 70 percent of our national sales leads.  And because meetings and conventions attract many first-time visitors from all over the world – people who fall in love with the area and return later as leisure travelers – the value of these leads multiplies.

One thing I love most about my job is that I get to help diversify the types of groups we bring to Grand Rapids. So, when I’m promoting a program like Bring It To GR, I love to see the passion and desire in our local residents and leaders to build and promote our city as a destination for a wide variety of events.

One thing I love most about my job is that I get to help diversify the types of groups we bring to Grand Rapids.

Case in point, one of our Hometown Champions, Christopher “CJ” Mehall, is a faculty member at Grand Valley State University. He helped bring the White Privilege Conference (WPC) to Grand Rapids this past April. WPC is a national conference that focuses on examining and unpacking the challenging concepts of privilege beyond skin color. Organizers encourage attendees and the communities that host them to continue the discourse beyond the conference. People are encouraged to talk about the intersections of privilege that impact all people, and most importantly to commit to a philosophy of understanding, respecting and connecting because of each other’s differences.

CJ is just one example of a Hometown Champion who not only supported the economic success of Grand Rapids, but also challenged the community to consider important social topics. If you’re interested in learning more about CJ’s efforts, check out his interview on the Grand Rapids Chamber’s “Good Company” podcast.

You, too, can be a Hometown Champion and help us diversify the meetings we host in Grand Rapids.  If you are affiliated with a regional or national organization that our experienced sales team can help bring to Grand Rapids, please contact Nancy Ruppert at (616) 233-3549 or

If you enjoyed this update and look forward to reading about other developments and projects that have a positive impact on our community, sign up for the Friends of GR quarterly newsletter. We enjoy sharing what we do with you.

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