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Making a Difference in Michigan in 2012

by Lisa Diggs on Jan 01st 2012

A new year is upon us and it is absolutely brimming with possibilities.  Although we have a distance to go, each day I see encouraging signs that recovery is within our grasp, and finally attitudes of optimism abound.  That was certainly not the case when I launched this campaign back in November of 2007.  In fact, at that time, many people questioned the very validity of a buy local concept in a global economy, believing it had no place anymore or could make no difference...but you have proven the naysayers wrong.  Together we have purchased products made in Michigan; sought out independent restaurants and retailers; encouraged entrepreneurs; and changed the way people think about where their dollars are going.  Now I believe we can do even more.  I'm going to share with you 6 goals, in no particular order, that we will be working toward in 2012, along with many ways (big and small) that you can make a difference, and I hope you will.

Change Michigan's Image on a National & Global Level

Over the years I've found that there are two types of people in Michigan when it comes to the image of our state and the cities within her: fiercely proud or mostly self-deprecating.  While I certainly appreciate the value of being aware our flaws and having a sense of humor about them, we've hit the point where self-deprecating is shooting ourselves in the foot.  (After all, isn't that what we have the national media for?)  It's time we stop whining or joking and start BRAGGING instead.  We need to boast about our abundance of fresh food, stunning vistas, world class arts, electrifying sports, and on and on and on.  Why?  Quite simply stated, people want to visit, work, and live, in places like that, and our shrinking state can use more awareness of our riches.  Fortunately, a fantastic opportunity is on the horizon to start the lovefest.  Michigan is celebrating 175 years as a state on January 26, 2012.  That landmark anniversary gives us a perfect excuse to invite the world to focus on us.  Please invite family, friends, colleagues, organizations, etc. to join in by taking to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Peoplemovers, print, radio, television, etc. and shouting positive stores of our glorious state from the rooftops.  Click HERE to learn more.   

Challenge More Organizations to Buy Michigan

When this campaign first began, we were right on the verge of a holiday season so the emphasis was on groceries and gifts during that critical shopping period.  Now that we've gotten so many consumers to think about what they are buying and where they are shopping over these past four years, it's time to inspire a similar change among organizations.  This year we are issuing a challenge to every entrepreneur, corporation, nonprofit, and government entitiy to examine the products they use and the suppliers from which they come, and to seek out opportunities to shift more dollars toward local companies.  We recognize that products and services must do what you need them to do, provide the quality you expect, at a price you can afford.  We are not asking you to hire a Michigan-based company solely because they're local, but we are asking organizations to ACTIVELY seek out opportunities to allow Michigan companies to COMPETE for your business in 2012.    

Expand the Campaign through More Sponsorship Dollars

I'm frequently asked, especially by reporters, where the money comes from to run this campaign.  The answer is from Michigan-based organizations that believe in, and benefit from, the messages we convey.  I'm so grateful to everyone that has contributed dollars and services to keep the campaign going and growing.  This year we have much more we hope to be able to do like holding events, promoting Michigan businesses beyond our borders, working with youth groups, increasing our marketing presence, and much more.  Honestly, we need more financial support to take these steps, and even to maintain what we already do.  Thus, we are creating new sponsorship opportunities to promote our partners through our newsletter, website, events, and Grocery Guide in the months to come. If your organization is already a sponsor, I want to personally thank you for your support and encourage you to renew and/or enhance our partnership in the coming year.  If you haven't contributed financially yet, please note that you can upgrade to a sponsored listing at any time for as low as $75 a year (that's only about 6 bucks a month), and help your business, our campaign, and Michigan's economy to grow in the new year. 

Increase Our Michigan Blue Pages Directory to 5,000+

Our Michigan Blue Pages online directory is absolutely the most frequently visited section of the site.  Individuals and organizations turn to it to find products grown or made in Michigan, independently-owned businesses, new suppliers, and just about anything under the sun.  The more companies that are listed, the more invaluable this resource becomes.  That is why we are working hard to increase the number of organizations that are participating, but could use more help.  While we want to see growth in all categories, I am especially interested in seeing more restaurants, retailers, manufacturers, technology, and alternative energy companies listed.  If you have connections in any of these industries and are willing to get involved, please email and let us know.  In the meantime, anyone is welcome to help.  Search the directory for the Michigan-based businesses you would most recommend, and if they are not listed yet, CONTACT THEM and invite them to build a listing.  The process only takes a few moments and a basic listing is FREE.  Working together we can reach many more companies. 

Reach 10,000+ Pledges

As I write this, we have just surpassed the 6,600 mark of people taking our Pledge!  If you are one of those dedicated Michigan supporters, I really appreciate your commitment.  Now I'm hoping to inspire you to get others to join us.  If you've worked on one of our Pledge drives you know that the most frequent objection we hear is, "I already do that."  In other words, my actions are what counts, not adding my name, right?  It is true that we are much more concerned with people walking the walk, yet there is strength in numbers.  The growing pledge number is a visible demonstration to Michigan businesses that we are serious about supporting them with our dollars if they are serious about keeping jobs here.  In fact, one CEO, who employs 350 people, said that watching the pledge number grow encourages him to keep doing business in Michigan instead of moving those jobs out of state.  He challenged us to reach 10,000 names, and that's reason enough for me to set this goal.  Please use email and social media to invite others to join you in taking the Pledge, and consider holding a drive (no money--just names) in your community.

Inspire Teachers & Students to Get Involved in the Campaign

When I went away to college I bought the same brand of toothpaste as my parents without giving it a thought.  It may have been a perfectly excellent choice, but the fact that I didn't even think about which to get, is a sign of how early we develop buying habits.  This year, we'd like to see more teachers, community leaders, college groups, high schools, and students get involved in the campaign.  The first reason is to get our youngest generations thinking about the power of a dollar and making conscientious buying decisions.  The second reason is that I often speak with kids who tell me they'd like to stay in Michigan, but don't see a future for themselves here.  Most of them are referring to employment, and they are years away from even attempting to permanently join the workforce.  They often don't know what they'd like to do yet, but already believe they can't do it here...five or six years from now...even though they want to stay.  Let's help them dream of a Michigan life again.  If you're an educator or student at any level who is willing to volunteer, please send an email to  We are seeking help to develop lesson plans, participate in social media campaigns, create contests, and/or host a pledge drive in your school or community. 

We've come a long way with this campaign.  Everywhere you look businesses are now making an effort to tell you if they're a Michigan company or label local products because they know that you care if they are from here.  Families are putting more locally grown produce in their shopping carts and visiting farmers' markets.  Yes,we've come a long way, and yet we can do so much more.  It's a new day, it's a new dawn, and we are on the move.  Please join us in revitalizing the economy and image of our amazing product, one purchase, one person at a time.

Thanks for all you do! I wish you and your loved ones a healthy, prosperous, and laughter-filled 2012!

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