Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reinventing Michigan

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By Guest Writer Mr. Paul

I was recently walking through the town of Eastport, Maine. The claim to fame of Eastport is that it is the easternmost city in the United States. Eastport is a semi-touristy town that prospered under the sardine industry. When I was visiting with my wife there wasn’t much more than gift shops, antique shops, art shops, and a fantastic lobster restaurantish place. Up before the crack of dawn and in Eastport before the town woke up we had nothing to do but provide business to a local breakfast place which we were looking for anyways.

We wandered the streets as things started to get going. The shops started to open up and as they did we entered. The second shop that we went into was an art gallery operated by Jim Levendosky. Jim happened to be the first person we talked to that morning. Surprisingly he was from Pittsburgh. We made conversation about Pittsburgh as my wife’s parents had just moved there. Within our conversation I made the comment that Pittsburgh had reinvented itself. He took no time disagreeing with that statement. What he did say was very interesting. He mentioned that it was not a matter of reinvention, but that the old generation was dying out and replaced by new blood. It is this new blood that the city stands on now. Old traditional buildings remain but are filled with new tenants. Pittsburgh didn’t decide to change, it simply changed.

As a former Michigander, Jim’s statement struck a chord with me. There is plenty of talk about reinventing the state. We are going to be a mecca of higher education, green energy, entertainment, etc. In addition we are going to retain the title of automobile capital of the world. GM, Ford, and Chrysler will all thrive once this reinvention is complete. This is a bunch of hogwash. What is in our control is not the reinvention of Michigan, but the demise of Michigan. Michigan can be great, but it can’t be engineered to greatness.

Fixing Michigan requires eliminating industry specific tax incentives, laws, and regulations and return to uniform policies. We then have to sit back on our easy chairs and watch the state restructure. The old blood needs to get out of the way and let the new blood move in. Old tradition rich industries need to either become viable on their own or get out of the way. We need to move away from the mentality of control and simply let things happen. Cities and states aren’t invented. They form on their own based on the resources available. Boundaries can be drawn but that is all that we can do. Just as cities and states are not invented they cannot be reinvented. If we control the possibilities then the possibilities have an end. Without control the possibilities are endless as the flow of resources to and from the state would be unobstructed.


  1. That's an interesting idea that Michigan could be reinvented by the "new blood" moving in. I think the concern is that so many young people leave Michigan, that there isn't any "new blood" around. I wonder how Pittsburgh did it (case study time! haha). In many ways, they are similar to Detroit. Good colleges (Carnegie Mellon) and an industrial history.

  2. I don’t think that it is a matter of there not being new blood in Michigan. The new blood can come from anywhere. The bottom line is that we are trying to pick and choose who wins and we’ve been picking wrong for so long that it seems that it is time to stop trying to pick. We need to make Michigan the state of opportunity. People need to believe that they can come in, have an idea, work hard, and achieve goals. Generally the last three things are pretty engrained in us as humans, but we need to let people in.