I moved to Ann Arbor in 1983 at the ripe age of four (almost five), which means I’ve spent the majority of my life here but I would not consider myself a “townie”: I have never been to a show at The Ark, I know how to avoid the traffic caused by the famous Ann Arbor Art Fair and home U-M football games, and despite my love of food, I have only eaten at half of the 12 Essential Ann Arbor Restaurants. So, why did I not leave Ann Arbor after attending the University of Michigan and head west to Chicago or Los Angeles or east to New York like a lot of my fellow classmates? It is because — despite what Leslie Knope would say — Ann Arbor is the greatest town in America. I am not the only person that feels this way, Livability.com in 2018, rated it the best place to live. As you make your New Year’s resolutions, I invite you to consider making Ann Arbor your hometown for the next phase of your life and career.
Ann Arbor is a Smart Town
The largest organization in Ann Arbor is the University of Michigan which educates 45,000 students in 263 distinct degree programs and employs nearly 32,000 individuals. This proximity to the university creates an abundance of smart people in the region with knowledge that covers a broad range of topics. The University of Michigan is a ranked academic institution (#4 public university according to U.S. News and World Report) and thus cultivates an appreciation for education. This theme extends to the Ann Arbor public schools where all four public high schools in Ann Arbor rank amongst the top 25 in Michigan. This has impacted me in multiple ways:
- When I wanted to supplement my education with an MBA, I was able to attend U-M Ross Business School, a top 10 MBA program at evening while I still continued to work.
- As my wife and I started a family, we were able to provide our children with a great, free public education.
- Dinner with friends is always educational. You always come away from it learning about wide-ranging topics from cryptocurrency to public health to social justice.
Ann Arbor is a City of Entrepreneurs
Ann Arbor-based Duo Security made headlines in 2018 when it was bought by Cisco for $2.35 billion. The city is actually home to a significant entrepreneurial hub, accounting for 35 percent of the startups in the state and 50 percent of the venture capital firms. Ann Arbor is so well-known for its startup activity that Delta Sky Magazine dubbed it “Startup City.” A lot of this activity is “sparked” (pun intended) by Ann Arbor SPARK who seeks to promote Ann Arbor and foster collaboration amongst investors, companies, and individuals to support the growth of companies and creation of jobs. This means that when a large company leaves Ann Arbor along with 2,100 high-paying jobs, that Ann Arbor SPARK, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the University of Michigan, and the community of entrepreneurs step up to build new value and jobs in its place.
Ann Arbor is a Big City
From my neighborhood home in southwest Ann Arbor, I am only a short two-mile walk, bus, or electric scooter ride to downtown Ann Arbor. Once downtown, the options of what to do (like any big city) are endless.
Ann Arbor has more than 300 dining options that seemingly cover every type of food one could want to eat and even some fusion restaurants that seek to create a whole new type of food offering. Some of my favorites include:
- Knight’s Steakhouse: Great steak, generous cocktails, and a hometown feel.
- Zingerman’s Delicatessen: Serves some of the world’s best sandwiches. My favorite is the Reuben.
- Angelo’s: Amazing breakfast offerings whether it be the massive omelets or deep-fried raisin bread French toast. This restaurant is so beloved, Dick Siegel wrote a song about it!
- Wolverine State Brewing Co.: Award-winning microbrewery specializing in lagers with incredibly good food. I highly recommend the pulled pork nachos paired with the Gulo Gulo.
One of the biggest complaints of college students that come back home is “this place closes too early”. This is not a problem in Ann Arbor as I found out in my twenties. Now that I am in my forties, it is also nice to know that you do not have to wait until midnight for the nightlife to start as you do in big cities.
I covered in the introduction that I have never been to The Ark. Apparently, I am one of only a few persons in Ann Arbor that can say this. The Ark is a non-profit organization dedicated to hosting folk and roots performances. With more than 300 performances a year, the list of people who have played there is quite impressive. Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan has some of the best acoustics of any concert hall and plays host to a diverse list of musical acts. Finally, the Blind Pig has a storied history of hosting up and coming rock acts and is still a great place to see live music.
- The Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum is an interactive museum where children (and adults) can explore scientific concepts.
- The University of Michigan Museum of Art – is one of the largest university art museums.
- The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History – has permanent exhibits on dinosaurs and other prehistoric life, Michigan wildlife, anthropology, geology, changing temporary exhibits, and a Planetarium. Currently-= under renovation, it will reopen in April 2019.
Ann Arbor is a Small Town
Yes — Ann Arbor is both a big city and a small town. Just as a short two miles from my house northeast will take me into the downtown area, a two-mile jog west will take me into the country with active farms. This farm community congregates each Wednesday and Saturday at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, as well as dozens of others throughout the region. The city of Ann Arbor is only 28 square miles and significantly smaller than large cities in the Midwest like Detroit (143), Milwaukee (96), and Chicago (234). While it is impossible to know the name of all its 120,000 residents, you’ll find that when you’re out-and-about, you’ll almost always run into someone you know. I love this because it creates a sense of community. A community that bands together to put on awesome annual events such as Festifools, Ann Arbor Summer Festival, and the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run.
Ann Arbor is a Diverse Town
One of the things that I like most about Ann Arbor is its diversity. The university and ample employment attract people from all walks of life as displayed by its demographics which was rated “A” by niche.com for its ethnic and economic diversity. The natural outcome of this is an attitude that not only “tolerates” but more importantly celebrates our differences. This is evidenced by its perfect score in the LGBTQ Municipal Equality Index, its large international community, and (on a lighter note) a town that’s known for its liberal leanings also produced outgoing Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder.
Make Ann Arbor Your Next Home
I hope that all these reasons will inspire you to consider Ann Arbor during your next job search. In addition to all these great community perks — high-performing schools, world-class arts and culture attractions, and some of the best food options in the Midwest — you’ll find a connected and supportive tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Be sure to subscribe to Ann Arbor SPARK talent newsletter to stay on top of the latest job postings or check them out for yourself online.
This guest blog is part of our Talent Profile series, featuring individuals who live, work, and play in the Ann Arbor region. Check out other stories like this one.