Cindy Larsen has been with the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce for 18 years and currently serves as its president, so you could say she knows a thing or two about what it takes to spark growth, engage residents and build up local businesses.
But there's one thing she wants you to know most about the community she's proud to belong to:
"Muskegon is beautiful—and the wonderful thing about beauty, is that it means something different to everyone."
What is Watch Muskegon and what is the campaign all about?
A couple years back, our local businesses expressed concern about Muskegon not having the strongest image and that's what motivated us at the Chamber to focus in on the issue. We have a great story to tell, so we came up with Watch Muskegon as a way to improve Muskegon's image for the better through three components: marketing, beautification and education. Once launched, we were overwhelmed with how well received the campaign was by the community and, in return, the engagement that has emerged because of it.
How do you see this making an impact on the community?
Watch Muskegon is positively impacting Muskegon in many ways currently and we're seeing it progressively expand throughout the city—from enhanced corridors when entering the city, to an increase in educational resources getting in the hands of residents. Also, not only do workers want to come to Muskegon for their jobs, but they also want to live here and call this their home. We notice this in turn continuously builds strong neighborhoods, increases resident involvement and boosts personal investment in the community.
What is the "National Strong Town Contest"—and how did Muskegon score the win?
When we heard about the contest and its focus specifically on sustainable and resilient communities, we said, "Oh wow! Those are exactly the things we're working so hard on!" Done bracket-style during March, the contest is heavily reliant on voting from our residents—and did they ever show up. Just having some great trees and landscaping doesn't make your community great; you also need to have engaged community residents. It's because of them we were given this honor. Here in Muskegon, we're lucky to have such a diverse economic base providing sustainability for years to come—split between industry sectors like manufacturing, tourism, aerospace, food production and more. The center of it all: the people. We're constantly working to ensure the community is designed to be a resilient place where everyone can thrive.
What's your favorite part about belonging to the Muskegon community?
It seems obvious to say the natural beauty we have, but it's true. The dunes, woods, waterways—it's all around you. But people also recognize beauty in many different ways: through diversity, art, culture, et cetera. Additionally, Muskegon is an affordable place to live and make a difference. There are so many ways to get involved and in on the action.
Regardless of your means, you can help make a positive impact.
Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for West Michigan Woman.