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Employers work to bring talent back to West Michigan

The annual ReThink Michigan networking event connects employers with West Michigan natives to bring them back home.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — During one of the biggest bar nights of the year, why not spend the first few hours of it networking?

"That's why we do it on the night before Thanksgiving," said Rachel Gray, Executive Director of Hello West Michigan. "People are already coming to us. They're coming home to see their families if they still have ties here."

Hello West Michigan is a nonprofit dedicated to helping people relocate to the West Michigan area. 

"When we help candidates relocate, we not only help them with job connections but also resources about the area" said Gray. "What do you want to know when you're relocating to a new place. Also connections with services, with realtors, with relocation partners."

The 11th annual ReThink West Michigan networking fair is designed to bring job recruiters from some of West Michigan's biggest companies to people looking for new opportunities while they're home for the holidays.

"Over the 11 years, we've had probably in the thousands of candidates now that have come through this event, and at least 80 that we know of that have been hired," said Gray. "And people don't always tell us. We have people who this is really the start of their journey for what could very well be a new trajectory for them in their life."

Some, like John Schneider who works at Meijer Corporate, found that new trajectory in 2013.

"My wife and I were living in Chicago, we were born and raised in Grand Rapids and wanted to move our family back, so heard about this event and came and found a job through this event," said Schneider. "I made a connection, followed up with that connection, it was actually at Amway, another great and local Grand Rapids company."

Schneider, now on the other side of the table recruiting for Meijer, is helping others find their start in the communities that raised them.

"It's one of the best decisions I ever made," said Schneider. "Like I said, my wife and I grew up here, we love the community, we've had friends that either stayed or come back, and I feel lucky to have worked for two iconic family owned Grand Rapids companies that have had a great impact on our community."

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