Conversation on Community
Richard Longworth, senior fellow of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an expert on globalization's impact on the Midwest, spoke with WMUK in Kalamazoo leading up to his participation on the September 11 "Albion Tomorrow" panel discussion.
Albion is a city of 9,144 residents (2000 US census) located on the eastern edge of Calhoun County in south central Michigan. A diverse and welcoming community located at the junction of the east and south branches of the Kalamazoo River, the city’s racial-ethnic mix is approximately 61% Caucasian, 33% African American, 4.5% Hispanic or Latino, and 1.5% other groups. The median income for a household in the city is $30,245. Twenty percent of the population and 15% of families live below the poverty level, with children under the age of 18 making up over a quarter of those living in poverty.
For much of its history, Albion’s economy was rooted in agriculture and manufacturing. But with the closing of its last foundry in 2002 due to continuing changes in the automobile industry, Albion has entered a significant economic transition and diversification. Today, Albion College is the community’s largest employer, and economic expansion is occurring at the new Andersons ethanol plant on Albion’s west side, along with significant job growth at Guardian Industries (a producer of fiberglass insulation), Patriot Antenna Systems, and other area firms.
Although some businesses closed their doors in Albion during the last several years, the Albion Downtown Development Authority and the City of Albion have recently completed a marketing study that provides a blueprint for future growth. One of the key recommendations of this study is the redevelopment of the Cass Street corridor connecting the college campus with the downtown center, and the College is partnering with the City of Albion to make this linkage a reality.
Notwithstanding the economic challenges that have confronted many smaller communities in “rustbelt” states in the north central US, what is notable about Albion is the degree to which it lives up to its reputation as “The Friendliest College Town in the Midwest.” There is widespread collaboration among residents and organizations in the community with students and staff from the College on matters related to public education, faith-based organizations, recreation, business development, and the environment. Our students who are involved in the City of Albion consistently report how much their community work and relationships with community members are enriching their education and equipping them to be engaged, contributing citizens in our increasingly diverse and global society.
The future of Albion is promising. With a retooled local economy, a highly regarded and growing college, beautiful parks and countryside, and an impressive level of campus-community collaboration, we believe we are a model small city with much to offer to students, families, employers, and visitors.