Fast Company

Reinventing Michigan

Last night I spoke to a group of students at Alma College, a small liberal arts college in the very center of Michigan, about the economic crisis and the election. This state, of course, has been one of the canaries in the coal mine of the US economy, and the students were eager to discuss possibilities for change. One young woman, an economics major, said she'd seen foreclosed homes for sale on eBay, one of which, in Saginaw about an hour from the college, apparently went to a Chicago woman for $1.75. We talked about whether they, as new graduates, would be receptive to an opportunity such as Baltimore's 'urban homesteading' program of the 1970s, which sold abandoned houses at nominal prices combined with low-interest construction loans to help people restablize and rehabilitate moribund neighborhoods. (These days, of course, you'd want to put some of the financing towards an energy retrofit). But rather than stay and make a go of it in Michigan, many of them said they were majoring in foreign relations and looking to opportunities in countries like South Africa and South Korea.

The students I sat with at dinner were equally concerned with the environment as well as the economy, which is why it's little surprise most of them opposed the bailout bid of Michigan's largest company, General Motors.  "If they can't make efficient cars that people want to buy, then what's the point of propping them up with subsidies?" another econ major pointed out. Based on the experience of a classmate, he suggested the company's Asian subsidiaries might be better at adapting to market realities, including the potential new reality of a price on carbon.  I didn't get to ask the opinion of the college's brand-new chef, Chef Dan, who served our salmon and tiramisu. Apparently he had been an engineer at GM for 20 years before taking an early buyout and going to culinary school.

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2 Comments

  • John Agno

    Perhaps, a more wholist approach is warranted...

    Several things need to happen to get the economy off the slow-growth track. First, the private sector in the U.S. must concentrate on generating more productivity gains at home.

    In addition, U.S. companies need to focus on creating more innovative goods and services that can be produced in this country and shipped abroad.

    We are seldom interested in our "roots" until we discover that we have fallen off-the-track that our ancestors set for us to grow and prosper. Those that went before us assembled significant experiences and knowledge that can be applied to the situations we find ourselves living today.

    "An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced." Ayn Rand

    More at: http://coachingtip.blogs.com/c...

  • John Agno

    Perhaps, a more wholist approach is warranted...

    Several things need to happen to get the economy off the slow-growth track. First, the private sector in the U.S. must concentrate on generating more productivity gains at home.

    In addition, U.S. companies need to focus on creating more innovative goods and services that can be produced in this country and shipped abroad.

    We are seldom interested in our "roots" until we discover that we have fallen off-the-track that our ancestors set for us to grow and prosper. Those that went before us assembled significant experiences and knowledge that can be applied to the situations we find ourselves living today.

    "An honest man is one who knows that he can't consume more than he has produced." Ayn Rand

    More at: http://coachingtip.blogs.com/c...