There are a lot of things that are not working economically in Michigan. You need only look at "for sale" signs on any block or abandoned buildings in nearly any downtown to know every day that that is true. Though, I believe we are on the rise! Today, as we enter yet another new era in Michigan leadership, I humbly offer this prosperity prayer to guide us:
God grant us the creativity to change the things that are not working;
courage to accept and build upon the things that are;
and the wisdom to know that collaboration will make the difference.
It is clear from the election results that the nation, and especially our state is growing long on need and short on patience. There is a temptation to interpret that as a need to start anew, and while a fresh start often sounds good, there are few times when such a gigantic leap reaps all reward and no consequence. It is with that in mind that I'd like to ask our newly elected leaders, especially here in Michigan, for wisdom that extends beyond our circumstance.
Creativity to Change: According to Webster's "Creativity is marked by the ability or power to create; to bring into existence, to invest with a new form, to produce through imaginative skill, to make or bring into existence something new." That does not mean it always has to be revolutionary, but it does mean a change in the status quo.
It is time to accept that many manufacturing, and particularly automotive jobs, will not come back to us--though these industries are far from dead. We can lament all we want about how that should not have happened, or complain about jobs going overseas, but while those emotions may be valid they will not lead to our economic recovery. If we want reinvestment in Michigan plants then it is about time we truly ask: "What are we doing wrong? How can we be more productive? What role can I play as an employee to make my company more productive or profitable? Where are the dollars I spend going and how can I keep more of them here?"
We also need to diversify our economy even more than we have and attract not only new employers, but new industries, and simultaneously encourage existing businesses to grow. We need a more business-friendly environment, and that does mean tackling the tax structure, investing in education, and actively cultivating entrepreneurship. Drastic changes are needed--as is patience because we all know that change does not come overnight, no matter how much we wish it did.
Most important of all, we must actively adjust our own negative mindsets, before we can expect to alter the nation's perspective of us. We cannot recruit new employers to a state that has an old industrial image. We will not keep talent in a state that does not listen to what the next generation needs and wants (technology, mass transit, community, culture, etc). We won't draw tourists to a state that its own people have stopped promoting positively. We are not just our economy!
Throughout this particularly ugly campaign season I repeatedly heard those who wanted to lead our state describe it as needing a return to greatness. We have never ceased being a great state--we are an incredible community that is suffering through an economic decline. We are innovative, generous, hard working people. Tap into our love for our home and our long history of ingenuity and resilience. Michigan's resources are abundant--as is its beauty. We have world class universities, sports, and culture. If we put it all to better, more creative use, we will be employed again.
Courage to Accept & Build: A new regime is coming in and hopefully that means new ideas and fresh perspectives, which is awesome. It does not mean that we must destroy all that came before us and start anew. I hope our new leaders will truly spend their transition time analyzing what is working and keep it, no matter whose idea it was. Find the money to fund the Pure Michigan tourism campaign. It worked. It brought people here AND it spread beautiful pictures of our state around the nation.
There are also incentives in place for new industries like battery production and filmmaking. Whether you agree or not with their creation, the reality is, incentives geared toward entire industries take time to work and are therefore not meant to be short-term. Even hinting at renegotiating or repealing them now sends a negative message. We need those outside the state to believe that we have a long-term plan and that we will not change the parameters every time the wind blows. More importantly, they ARE working. New businesses have come here from out of state to build batteries and make movies. Better yet, existing small & mid-sized businesses have been energized and diversified by the new opportunities. Plus, when it comes to Hollywood being in our backyard instead of their own, it generates a level of positive PR we cannot create ourselves, nor afford to buy--especially in this new age of social media. Celebs like Demi Moore, Ashton Kutcher, Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Erin Cummings and the other stars of Detroit 1-8-7 are tweeting, posting pics, and talking about our restaurants, sports teams, and the sights and sounds of Michigan that they love. They are helping alter the state's image in unique and invaluable ways.
Wisdom to Collaborate: Alas arguably the most important element of all will be our ability to collaborate. I'm tired of hearing empty talk about bipartisan cooperation. Words alone are meaningless. Today I heard a candidate who was not elected make a call for bipartisan cooperation, while in the same sentence he couldn't even manage the class and dignity to name the official who beat him. He still referred to him as his "opponent" and to the President of the United States as "the democrat in the oval office." Really? The ads throughout the campaign season, seemingly in the thousands, were so negative it was hard to find even ONE that told us why we should vote FOR someone instead of AGAINST their opponent. These were our so called leaders? Bullying among kids is out of control and is lierally leading to lives lost. Is it any wonder why with the kind of "leadership" we've seen on display from adults whose positions suggest they merit respect?
So today, as I end this missive on the new era and my prayer for an economically healthier Michigan, I am making a plea to our new and returning leaders, (and each of us), for actual collaboration. Meet in backrooms if you have to if you're afraid of being seen getting along. Name a bill what it is instead of what will market it better against what "the other side" will call it. Share your own thoughts when you speak, not party talking points that tell me what side of the aisle you're on without benefit of ever having heard of you before. Open your eyes, ears, minds, and hearts. I wonder what would happen if we heard each other's opinions from a "what about that idea can I accept and build upon?" perspective instead of "what in what they said can I tear down first?"
There is more that unites us than divides us. When we all realize that and act upon it, our economy will be as great as our lakes.
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