In Defense of Michigan, the Great Lake State

Posted by on Apr 29, 2009 in Dirt, Leadership and Management | No Comments

I should preface this by noting that it is not a direct attack on any one person, just simply my feelings about how I think my home state is generally treated, and why I think it is an unfair portrayal.

Okay, I’ll admit it. The State of Michigan has had it rough for the last, well, nine years. Our two best means of income, autos and tourism, are feeling the crush of the economic crisis; we have the highest unemployment in the country. We are struggling, but we aren’t giving up, and we don’t plan on it. We happen to specialize in recovering; it’s what we do. We’ve done it time and again.

And yes, I get it: it snows here. It snows a lot, and it snows for half of the year. Snow makes life a little more difficult, it requires you to shovel, scrape ice off your car window, wear boots, and own a winter coat. I hate shoveling as much as the next person, but I deal. As I’ve told my friends before, it makes you hardy; it builds character….and I don’t mean that jokingly, I mean it seriously. It does. If I can survive sub zero temperatures and a foot and a half of snow, I can survive a term paper or a crisis at work. Dig in, get to work. It’s the way we do things here in Michigan. Besides, you are rewarded with the most beautiful of springs, summers, and falls. I put our season changes up against anybody’s: People go up north just to watch the leaves change. We go deep into every season: you get real fall, real winter, real spring, and real summer here. Every experience. You don’t miss anything.

Now, I am coming from a biased position. Although not born here, I’ve lived here for all but one (the first) of my 27 years. I love Michigan. I love my state…most people do. I love my town and I love my school. I love the people of Michigan; I appreciate how hard they work and how nice they are

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But yes, things are tough here. Unemployment is terrifying. The Lions are dismal. Snow is cold. But please, stop assuming this is a bad place to be. I’m getting tired of the assumptions that Michigan has nothing to offer, or that it’s just cloudy all the time. Or that the people are all fat. Or that there is nothing to do. Or, as I was told on my graduate school orientation, “make sure to by indoor plants because you will hate yourself for much of February”. Seriously? Look for positives. Assume that this is a good place to be, and you will, in fact, discover that it is. I think most people hate Michigan because they are told that they should…for many of the graduate students that I know, they come from a coast, they never leave East Lansing, and then they go elsewhere for the summer. To them, Michigan is only snow. But it is so much more.

A friend’s blog recently joked about how Michigan would not be a good place for a vacation. I beg to differ. Much of the Midwest, historically, has vacationed in Michigan. We have mountains, we have state forests, we have more golfing than any other state besides Florida, and more coastline than any other state in the lower 48 (not California, or Texas, or Florida…MICHIGAN). We make wine (8th most wineries in the nation), we have good beer (8th most breweries in the US), we have cute little towns, full of bed and breakfasts and rental cottages. We have beautiful vistas overlooking beautiful lakes, we have islands, we have sand dunes. And best of all, our state is full of really, really nice people. Not to mention, it is all very, very cheap.

If you are looking for a weekend in a bustling metropolis, then no, Michigan might not be the first place. But if you want to relax and enjoy nature, this is the place to visit. If you want that, and to be a part of a state that will revitalize our economy and lead our nation out of this recession, then you should probably move here.
Just don’t forget your shovel.