by: Eric Wagaman
Kalamazoo, a diverse city with a one of a kind name. When you hear or see the name Kalamazoo, what is the first thing you think of? What kind of animals are in a Kalamazoo? (Yes…I have actually been asked that question). Or do you quickly think Bell’s Brewery, Gibson Guitar, Kalamazoo Promise and Checker Cab? Inversely, some may think of the Uber shooting spree and or the Chain Gang biker tragedy.
Over the last year, Kalamazoo has been in the news for all of the wrong reasons. The loathsome Uber shooting spree on the night of February 20, 2016 made headlines all over the world. Uber driver, Jason Dalton, went to various locations in Kalamazoo and killed six random individuals and injured an additional two. Then on June 7, 2016, an alleged drugged driver ran into a pack of road cyclists, the “Chain Gang”, killing five and critically injuring four more. Both of these events made national and global news.
One of my co-workers was in Ireland a recently and her taxi cab driver asked where she was from, “Kalamazoo”, she replied. The driver was familiar with Kalamazoo because of the Uber shooting spree. If a cab driver from Ireland knew about Kalamazoo, then others from around the country and even the world might have that same misconception of the city.
Those events rocked our community to its core, but the citizens and surrounding communities came together to lift our spirits in hopes of a positive future. The Wall Street Journal published a powerful article titled, “Five Bicycles in Kalamazoo” written by Jason Gay, that gave insight into the local impact of the tragedies. If you have not already, I would highly recommend reading this article.
If you are from Kalamazoo or the surrounding area you know what the city stands for. Kalamazoo is the home of two Fortune 500 companies, as well as being home to two of the largest medical corporations in the world, Stryker and Pfizer. The equipment produced by Stryker and the medications created by Pfizer are changing people’s lives every day.
We are also the birthplace of two other legendary companies, the Gibson Guitar Company and Checker Cab. The original Gibson building still stands in the heart of Downtown Kalamazoo. We are also the first town to have a college tuition incentive program for those in the Kalamazoo Public School district, called the Kalamazoo Promise. The Kalamazoo Promise pays college tuition in full and mandatory fees for up to 130 credit hours for students who graduate from the Kalamazoo Public School system.This program made the national news and was featured on many large publications.
Lastly, we host three colleges right in the city; Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University. Western Michigan University recently added a full medical school to their downtown campus as well as Kalamazoo Valley adding a large culinary institute. Our Western Michigan University Bronco football team has actually put our community back in the spotlight, for good reasons, by being the #12th ranked college football team in the country and undefeated as well! We recently just hosted ESPN’s acclaimed show, College GameDay, and are featured on ESPN regularly with the mantra, “Row the Boat.” On January 2nd, WMU will be playing in the Cotton Bowl on ESPN at 1 PM EST against the University of Wisconsin!
I have lived in Kalamazoo all of my life and have seen the impact my city has made on the lives of others, directly and indirectly. The city openly displays diversity and embraces individuals from all walks of life. I am proud of how our communities continue to come together during moments of distress and times of serenity. Kalamazoo is not a city that is only riddled with random acts of violence, like news headlines depict, we are a growing, vibrant and small city with a big heart for changing the world. From the scenic bike routes to top rated college universities and world renowned craft beer, Kalamazoo will continue to grow and make a lasting difference in the local communities and the world.
LOCAL.FRIENDLY.INSURANCE www.WhitakerLaChance.com (269) 324-7700
About the Author:
Eric Wagaman focuses on Brand Marketing and Development at the Whitaker LaChance Agency in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is a Senior at Western Michigan University in their top rated Sales and Business Marketing program. Eric is a driven individual who is passionate about meeting the needs of others by going beyond their expectations. During his free time, Eric enjoys golfing, hiking, attending sporting events and indulging in new restaurants.