Southwestern Michigan is known for excellent agriculture with fruit, vegetable and flower growing and a notable Dutch influence. It is also known for its Lake Michigan shore beaches, dunes and state parks. These beach areas are known around the Midwest for their sandy, almost Southern California-like beaches and summer recreation.
Niles is a small and fairly nondescript light manufacturing town three miles north of the Indiana border and only 15 miles from South Bend, and along the South Shore line to Chicago (but too far to commute regularly downtown for work).
Benton Harbor, and its twin city St. Joseph, were originally an agricultural port for the area but have become somewhat declining industrial and commercial cities with considerable poverty and decay. Tourism is a plus for the area as a whole. Cost of living is very reasonable. On the whole, the area has a number of positives but also some rough edges.
The area contains mostly level to gently rolling terrain inland with areas of deciduous forest. The climate is mostly continental with moderation from Lake Michigan including fewer temperature extremes, later and cooler springs, and longer and warmer falls than much of the rest of the state. Summer days are pleasantly warm, with lake breezes and a few weeks of hot, humid weather. Most summer nights are comfortable. Winters are cloudy with strong northwesterly winds and occasionally heavy lake-effect snows. Prolonged cold waves are infrequent but below-zero temperatures are fairly common. First freeze is early October, last is late April.