Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What can Michigan learn from Ecuador?

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By Mr. Sig

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I can continue posting during my week-long stay in Ecuador. I come here as much as my work allows since my fiancé lives here. Whenever I visit, I try to pay attention to the little things in order to gauge how well the country is advancing. Ecuador is not a third-world country, but it is still considered a developing economy. This makes everything more interesting. Some of the questions I try to answer are: how fast does the internet seem? How old are the computers in internet cafés? How clean are the bathrooms? Are there even bathrooms? How much trash is on the ground? Are the roads moderately smooth? Do I see cranes in the skyline? Do all the light bulbs work? These are the sorts of things that I try to pay attention to that gives me more of a feel for how the country is doing. Many people will argue that these observations are much more powerful and valid than measures of GDP, poverty, and unemployment. I tend to believe statistics only when they are outrageous one way of another.

This leads me to think about those who are looking to invest in Michigan. Surely, they pay attention to the small things to attain a certain comfort level with the investment in consideration. Here are some items I would pay attention to. How many dollar-stores and payday advance stores are around? How is the clerk at the gas station dressed? Is the gas station bathroom clean? Which establishment is fuller, McDonalds, or a real restaurant? Are the lawns mowed? Are the leaves raked? What does the public park look like?

As stewards of our own community, these are the small things we need to think about that can tilt the scale one way or another. How many times have you heard.. “I just don´t have a good feeling about this place.” This is not something that can be measured by any Economist, although the University of Michigan tries to do it with its consumer confidence index.

Here are some items that give me confidence that someone would like to invest.

  1. Our roads, although not in the best repair are clean of trash. This probably has something to do with the Adopt a Highway program which I can imagine is a pretty inexpensive way to keep our highways clean.
  2. The people have a Midwest charm. As John Galt mentioned in an earlier post, there is something different and charming about Michigan people versus those in, say, California. Friendly people make for a good work environment investors might think.
  3. Michigan people are proud of their home. Sports teams´ shirts and flags can be seen all over the place. Stadiums are full (well, maybe not the Lions) and fans are passionate. This sense of pride shows loyalty. To a prospective investor, this means that our workers are not likely to jump around to different jobs all the time. It says that employees that it hires are worth investing in.

I´ll stop at 3. If you want to see all the sorts of observations that scare away potential investors, I´m sure you can find plenty of articles outlining those. I´d rather not repeat what´s been said.

What do you think? What are the other immeasurables or “little things” that Michigan has that might (or not) convey a feeling of confidence to an investor?