Jordan Slate makes front page of The Pioneer

One of our Accountants, Jordan Slate, was featured on the front page of the Big Rapids Pioneer newspaper.

Congratulations, Jordan and thank you for representing H&S Companies in Big Rapids. We certainly appreciate all you do!

Check out the article titled, Young and Restless, in Monday, August 18th’s edition of Pioneer by clicking here, http://news.pioneergroup.com/bigrapidsnews/2014/08/18/young-restless/ …

Young and Restless

Posted by Megan Pacer on August 18th, 2014

Young professionals make compromises to live in Big Rapids


COMMITMENT: 24-year-old Jordan Slate works on a set of tax returns in his office at H. and S. Companies in Big Rapids. Having moved from a smaller town, Slate is content with the opportunities Big Rapids provides and plans to stay with the company and build a presence in the community. (Pioneer photo/Megan Pacer)

BIG RAPIDS –  Young professionals in Big Rapids are finding it difficult to navigate the territory of beginning a career in a small college town.

According to the data released by the U.S. Census Bureau, Michigan was the only state to see a decline in overall population between 2000 and 2010. In that 10-year period, 54,804 people left the state, bringing the total population down to 9,883,640.

With so many leaving the state, it seems cities and towns will need to work even harder to remain attractive to young, working people, and Big Rapids is no exception.

Without the status of a college student or the stability of an established homeowner or retiree, those just starting their careers in Big Rapids make up an isolated part of the population. Even so, many young adults have chosen to make the city their home as they grow in both their careers and personal lives.

A 29-year-old Ferris alum, Nicholas Campau has served as the associate dean of student life at Ferris State University for roughly a year. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice before a job opened up at the university. Having settled into his new position, Campau is confident that higher education is his calling and is now happy in the Big Rapids area with his family.

 

SETTLING DOWN: FSU Associate Dean of Student Life Nicholas Campau took a few years to find a suitable home for his family in Big Rapids. Despite experiencing issues with housing for young professionals, Campau cites the infectious college and community atmosphere as his reason for staying in the area. (Pioneer photo/Megan Pacer)

“There are checkpoints in your life that kind of steer you in the right direction, and that job was definitely one of them,” he said. “I love the atmosphere, I love the environment and I love my team that I work with. It’s an amazing working environment.”

Campau said he contemplated moving to Grand Rapids for work, and his decision to remain in Big Rapids was based largely on the university and the safe, community-driven atmosphere he felt in the city.

Now a member of the Big Rapids Jaycees, Campau strives to be involved in the community and particularly enjoys the outdoor activities the area has to offer such as hunting and bike riding.

“I grew up in Port Huron, and I never envisioned living anywhere smaller,” Campau said. “My wife and I really began to like the area. It has a tremendously strong community feel, particularly in the downtown area.”

The journey to get to this point, however, was not simple. Campau said one major drawback to living and working in a small college town is the housing market. It was difficult for he and his wife to find a suitable residence that was affordable, provided all the basic amenities and allowed them to keep their dog. With thousands of dollars in student debt left to pay, Campau said he cannot afford a down payment on a home, but that he makes too much to receive any aid when it comes to housing.

It took several years for Campau and his wife to be happy with their living situation. He said the search might have been easier if there were more options in Big Rapids for residents who are no longer students attending Ferris.

“The hardest thing is finding other people my age who aren’t in college,” Campau said. “Housing for young professionals is just a critically tough area. There’s a market, though not a large market, of young professionals who need somewhere that is clean, quiet and comfortable.”

Dr. Nicholas Czinder, of Czinder Eye Care in Big Rapids, also finds it difficult to connect with other young professionals outside of volunteer groups such as the Jaycees. A 2013 graduate of the Michigan College of Optometry, Czinder joined his father’s practice after graduation and plans to stay with their company for the next several years as it attempts to expand.

At 32, Czinder said friends his age who are not still in school or already settled down are few and far between.

“Big Rapids is great, especially because you can be in Grand Rapids in 45 minutes, you can be over to Mount Pleasant, you can be up north and you can be to the beach,” he said. “But I do feel in the minority for my age group here. I have people that are my friends, but they’re married with kids now.”

 

LONG-TERM PLANS: Dr. Nicholas Czinder, 32, discusses the pros and cons of starting his career in optometry in a small college town. While he has trouble finding people his own age, he plans to stay with Czinder Eye Care in Big Rapids for the foreseeable future. (Pioneer photo/Megan Pacer)

Czinder said that while he enjoys the proximity to nature and the relaxed atmosphere of the city, living in a college town can hinder his social experience as most bars and entertainment venues are targeted toward students.

“If I go to the bars, I’m mostly seeing college kids,” Czinder said. “I don’t necessarily want to be around that crowd anymore. Maybe four or five years ago.”

Campau also noted the town’s emphasis on catering to students during the school year. While he loves the university atmosphere and working with students, he said the way the city’s housing is structured around them can make it difficult to retain and attract other young professionals.

“Students are the lifeblood of the area,” Campau said. “That’s fine, but it has made recruiting at the institution very hard in terms of visiting faculty. How do you recruit someone from out of the area who will bring a wealth of talent if they won’t have a place to live?”

Both men noted other drawbacks to living in the area, such as limited dining and shopping options.

For others who have more recently left school, Big Rapids is the perfect place to begin a career. Jordan Slate, an accountant at H and S Companies on Warren Avenue, received his bachelor’s degree in accountancy from Ferris in May 2013 and has worked with the company for more than a year.

At 24, he said his proximity to college life has made the transition from Ferris to the workforce an easier one.

“My wife is still attending optometry school here,” Slate said. “We’re still kind of connected to university life in that perspective. We do look at the housing market just to see if we could afford it, but we just stick to renting right now.”

Originally from Hesperia, Slate said coming to Big Rapids actually provided him with more opportunities than he would have had otherwise. He said the town is well-suited for him in terms of development and entertainment, and that he plans to remain with H and S Companies while he gets more involved in the surrounding community.

Czinder and Campau both pointed to development as one avenue for Big Rapids to improve retention and become more attractive to young professionals.

“This is a great community for younger people like myself to step up and take over leadership, because the group that is running things now isn’t going to be doing it later on,” Czinder said. “People have built the city, but it’s now time for us to start transitioning and becoming involved in making this place better.”

Czinder said further development of Perry Avenue might help Big Rapids become more attractive to outsiders. He said he knows several young people who love the area and would like to stay, but have difficulty finding work within the city.

City Manager Steve Sobers said there may be opportunities for increased housing targeted toward young professionals in the future. On the corner of State and Baldwin Street, for example, the city is working to sell a site to a developer to be made into housing.

“Right now, the favored redevelopment of the Hanchett site is geared toward young professionals,” Sobers said.

In terms of entertainment, Sobers is confident that Big Rapids offers a variety of cultural and artistic activities that young professionals in the area could enjoy, including Artworks and Voca Lyrica.

“There are a lot of different things here if people want to find them,” he said. “There are a significant number of arts events for those types of folks that are very, very positive.”

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Czinder said. “I want to see it get better, but I think it’s just going to take time and it’s going to take the younger kids actually sticking around and wanting to take over leadership roles.”