Kalamazoo City Hall

The City of Kalamazoo: Blue Cross Customer for 80 Years

When Glenn Miller crooned about having a gal in Kalamazoo in 1942, we’d already been partnering with this gem of a town for three years.

City leaders being presented with an 80-year plaque.

Kalamazoo’s Shelly Dusek, director, Human Resources/Labor Relations and Patsy Moore, deputy city manager accept an 80-year plaque from Michelle VanTorre-Werme, director, Regional Sales Health Plan Business, BCBSM.

In fact, the city is Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s longest continuous customer, with no interruptions in health plan coverage since we started offering plans in 1939.

While a lot has changed since then, it’s easy to see why Miller and artists such as Hank Snow, Johnny Cash, Primus, Ben Folds and others have waxed poetic about the city over the years. With a population of about 75,000 it’s big enough to have a cool factor, but small enough to feel like you can make your mark. There’s a vibrant nightlife mixed with enough green space to enjoy whatever scenery or vibe you’re in the mood for.

For those reasons and many more, we think this southwest Michigan town is a great place to visit and live. If Kalamazoo were a person, we’d describe them as:

  • Outdoorsy: Whether you want to bike or hike local trails, paddle the Kalamazoo River, go rock climbing or enjoy a day of picking your favorite summer and fall fruits at local farms and orchards, Kalamazoo has you covered.
  • Artsy: Exhibits, music, theatre and interactive experiences are just a few of the ways to enjoy the robust arts scene in Kalamazoo. Popular local venues include Kalamazoo State Theater, Miller Auditorium and Kalamazoo Civic Theater.
  • Kalamazoo tree lighting

    Kalamazoo’s annual tree lighting ceremony.

    Fun: The birthplace of Michigan’s oldest craft brewery (hi, Bell’s!), Kalamazoo’s nightlife keeps getting livelier. With plenty of places to sip and dine, hear live music or dance the night away, there’s no excuse for a dull weekend here.

  • Entrepreneurial: Kalamazoo has been home to many influential businesses and industries over the years. There’s medical equipment-maker Stryker Corporation, pharmaceutical research and manufacturing firm, Pfizer (formerly the Upjohn Company) and global product maker Newell Rubbermaid. And perhaps the inspiration for all those songs about the city: Gibson Guitars, known for their iconic instruments, started humbly in the late 1800s out of a one-room workshop right in Kalamazoo.
  • Smart: The Kalamazoo Promise provides students attending Kalamazoo Public Schools with free tuition for four years at any public university or community college in Michigan, as well as select private universities. The city itself is home to Western Michigan University, the WMU Homer Stryker School of Medicine, Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo Valley Community College and a Davenport University campus.
  • Inclusive: Kalamazoo boasts a diverse population and everyone is welcome here! Summer festivals celebrate the origins of residents – whether you hail from the Mediterranean, Caribbean or have Irish or Scottish roots, there’s a festival for you. Ribfest celebrates the best of local, American cuisine and music, while year-round, the Black Arts & Cultural Center focuses on preserving and developing the cultural heritage and artistic ability of the city’s African American population.
  • 80-year cake from Boonzaaijer BakeryA Bit of a Foodie. Ready to nosh? Local favorites include farm-to-table FoodDance Restaurant, coffee and pastries at Sweetwater’s Donut Mill and dessert from Boonzaaijer Bakery (it’s where we got this celebratory cake from).

This list barely scratches the surface of what Kalamazoo has to offer. There’s also a thriving health care community, great shopping, local sports teams, tons of family-friendly events throughout the year and intriguing places to visit like Binder Park Zoo, the Gilmore Car Museum and AirZoo.

With all it’s amenities, another important element of what makes Kalamazoo special is its people. They’re hard-working, down-to-earth, and have community pride. We’ve been honored to support the city’s employees past and present in protecting and improving their health and we look forward to many more years of partnership and service.

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Photos courtesy of city of Kalamazoo and MIBluesPerspectives.

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