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Kalamazoo and Battle Creek (34)

An effort that began two years ago to nurture Southwest Michigan medical device startups has since taken on a broader reach that now extends across Michigan and even over state lines.

After years of planning and preparation, Western Michigan University opens its new medical school this month, ushering in a new era for both the university and the health care and life science industries in Southwest Michigan.

Call it the circle of life for any local music scene. In the wake of one of the state’s worst economic recessions, some of the region’s entertainment venues were forced to shut their doors, but now others have launched and are inviting musicians to new stages.

Manufacturing often gets the blame or the credit for Michigan’s economic situation, and the same could be said for the economy in Southwest Michigan.

A rundown of the most high-profile projects in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek and why they matter.

The commercial real estate markets in Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties still tell a story of recovery. While companies continue to improve their performance and pump life back into their balance sheets, some brokers in the market are watching from the sidelines, waiting for the action to heat up. 

Higher education institutions in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo are continuing to gain traction among a wide range of students including those enrolling for their first-ever college experience and those coming back for a degree or certification that could lead to a better job.

The growth of the craft beer scene in Southwest Michigan means that from Kalamazoo to Paw Paw or from Marshall to Battle Creek, drinkers can find beers to fit their palates, whether it’s the wild experimental brews at Dark Horse or summer wheat beers like Bell’s Oberon and Arcadia Ales’ Whitsun. 

Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo has stepped up to the plate over the past year, booking acts that fans might normally have to drive 45 minutes north on U.S. 131 to check out. Battle Creek showcasing grassroots talent.

Working out of a kitchen in the offices of the Burmese American Initiative in Springfield, a woman named Rita creates noodle dishes that are sold only on Fridays through a business called the Unstoppable Noodle.

Disc golf courses, cardboard sled races, and locally grown food in urban settings likely never would have happened in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo without the creative class that is gaining traction in both communities.

Regional malls may soon become a part of American nostalgia as changing consumer and business trends are moving away from large, costly shopping malls to smaller often mixed-use developments. As those trends take hold, they have the potential to reshape the retail landscape in communities in Southwest Michigan.


After becoming part of Bronson Healthcare Group, the largest physician practice in Southwest Michigan is now focused on integrating into the health system and expanding clinical services as needed across the market.

The passing of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010 helped open a new chapter for the Battle Creek area. 

Ongoing projects are solidifying the presence of both Borgess Health and Bronson Healthcare Group in Battle Creek, as the two Kalamazoo-based health systems continue to invest in the market. 

Perception is not reality when economic comparisons are made about Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Despite what on the surface seems like two different economic bases and two communities with divergent talent needs, the data show that Battle Creek and Kalamazoo are not that dissimilar, at least on paper. 

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