Politics & Government

    Damaged Pure Michigan Brand Impedes Economic Development

    taintedpuremichiganv2Pure Michigan is a Damaged Brand

    As a Michigan resident I’ve followed the developments in Flint with a mixture of horror, sadness, outrage, and confusion.  This post is not about political blame. Having said that, I don’t deny the political element to the problem; it’s a sad tale of bad decisions on top of bad decisions, and some of those made for purely political reasons. Fact seeking people on both sides of the aisle need to take a very close look at what’s happened.

    The focus of this post is about the damage that has been done to the state of Michigan’s brand, Pure Michigan.  This is not being talked about, but it’s as damaging in the long run as the disaster itself. That damage to the impression and key message of the state will cost the good state of Michigan for years to come. Make no mistake, this problem in Flint means fewer new Michigan jobs and diminished future opportunities. The disaster in Flint, sadly, puts a stain on the Pure Michigan brand it will take years to clean up.

    Now and then you see how important — and fragile — a brand can be, and this disaster in Flint is a tragic clear case in point. The ruination of this once proud and authentic brand means that economic development across the entire state will be impacted. It will impact the tourist industry, manufacturing, and even agriculture. Would you buy fruit from a region where the water might be poisoned? It would give you pause for thought. Would you buy a home, or a second home in a state where water management is poorly done? Would you re-shore a plant in the state? Would you locate a high tech start up in Michigan? What was once taken for granted — safe water — is now an impediment to clean growth.

    Pure Michigan is (or was) a brilliant brand. It sums up in two simple words what people in Michigan, and our many tourist visitors, find to be lovely about the place –that’s it’s mostly, authentically, beautiful and pure. Outside of Detroit and a few other urban pockets in the state, it is hard to go anywhere that isn’t scenic. And water, we’re surrounded by it, and most of it is about as clean and pure as you’d hope for. Nestle bottles its Ice Mountain brand in Michigan. Ironically, even the Flint River, once quite polluted, is cleaner now than it’s been in 50 years. There are still trout, beavers, and bears in Michigan, and the forests have recovered after the clear cutting of over 100 years ago.

    The disaster clean up, the fix, will be expensive. So will the on-going medical treatment of all the people the mass poisoning has made sick. My heart bleeds most for the young children whose very brains have been impacted, and permanently. The City of Flint, a city that was once highly productive, will probably never recover. The recent small gains with manufacturers coming back to town will be halted. Property values there have disappeared and home owners are, overnight, ruined. All this is horrible, but it gets worse.

    Michigan itself, the entire state, is now painted with a brush the opposite of pure. It’s now an unhealthy place to live and work or establish a business. Not only unhealthy, but incompetent, unsafe, contaminated. This is the message that is being sent to the global marketplace right now. Maybe only Flint is actually ruined — but the brand Pure Michigan covers the entire state. The state-wide brand has been poisoned as badly as as the Flint water. Now the inherent brand promise feels like a very bad joke.

    If I’m a major manufacturer looking to locate a new plant somewhere, would I choose Michigan now? I would not, because people work at plants, and people are not going to want to move to Michigan. It won’t matter that Michigan is a right to work state because nobody will want to live here. But it’s “only Flint” you might say, and I would say, if the state allows this to happen in Flint, it could also happen in Benton Harbor, Traverse City, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Niles, or Detroit. I asked a CEO who is currently looking around for a place to locate a high tech start up. Star Sailor Power is one of those potentially huge companies in the new energy sector. In other words exactly what any state wants, high paying, clean jobs of the future. Here’s what Pamela Menges, Ph.D., a Michigan native, said:

    “I am the CEO of a funded high-tech start-up and we are seeking a state for our new head quarters.
    The situation in Flint and the apparent lack of responsible government and the continuing apparent
    problems with the political leadership surrounding water safety and resources gives me pause. Failing
    infrastructures throughout the US demand better government and more intelligent oversight. The 
    water issue is not just a quality of life issue, it is a matter of life and death in politically isolated
    communities like Flint.”

    At the core of any brand is the concept of trust. With a trust so broken, recovery is long and slow. The phrase “gives me pause” in Pamela Menges quote above is exactly what any brand, any state, does not want. This is what I mean when I say the brand has been tainted. This is how the brand damage will cost Michigan for years to come. Michigan will be ruled out.

    There have been brands that have had their names dragged through the mud in the past. Look at Tylenol. They recovered because they took massively fast action and put safety first. They took a big financial hit, but they recovered trust.

    Is that happening in Flint?  Is this happening in Michigan? No, all the finger pointing and blaming, all the avoidance of what caused this, all the dodging of responsibility — will only weaken the brand more. That’s a shame because for the most part Michigan is an incredibly beautiful, pure, place. Now with a diminished future.

    Comments

    Graphene Application Challenge Prize?

    The Graphene Challenge Graphene is a new material that is just in its infancy in terms of commerical usage. It’s from graphite, the stuff in pencils. It’s magical stuff — 150 times stronger than steel, flexible like rubber, and potentially usable in electronics, water filtration, energy, building construction, medical, and more. It’s the thinnest material known to man at this moment. It’s 250 times more conductive or “mobile” than silicon. It hit the news again recently as scientists have discovered a much cheaper way to produce the material. This is a market that is about to explode. It’s frustratingly hard to work with. But that’s the fun part.  Unfortunately for the USA, it would see the prime early movers in




    Read More..
    Comments

    Paying Lip Service to Developing Entrepreneurs

    There is a very frightening trend happening in the USA. We are not growing entrepreneurs. See my “Seven Ways to Grow Entrepreneurs” below! What is it we believe in our capitalist country? Isn’t it something like this: Anybody who works very hard, has a bit of talent and a good idea, can start something, grow it, and do well.  Isn’t that the essence of the entrepreneurial American dream? Yes, there is more to it than that. Yes, you can fail. Yes, it’s a market driven meritocracy — or it should be. I’ve always taken this entrepreneurial spirit for granted – it’s who we are! I’ve always assumed that as the years go by, more and more Americans (and this extends




    Read More..
    Comments

    Domain Knowledge Matters Donald Trump

    Call me king of the obvious but I’d like to remind folks about something related to leadership, innovation, and the upcoming election. Domain Knowledge Matters I’m not taking political sides here but I’m going to make a point about Donald Trump’s candidacy. Let’s face it he has captured the attention of a large group of people. This is factual — the polls have him leading the GOP field. My opinion on why he’s doing so well is this: Trump says things that are bold, straightforward, non-PC and they echo the sentiments of many Americans. People love this approach because it’s just not what they’re used to hearing from a politician. I’ll put aside the notions and accusations that he’s racist,




    Read More..
    Comments

    GOP Debate: No Mention of Manufacturing

    A short post to make an observation. Say what you will about the GOP debate last night — and there is much to say — there was no attention paid to manufacturing. Search the transcript, you’ll not find the word mentioned a single time. Wow, it’s a very big point to miss. In related topics innovation was mentioned once, and infrastructure, a huge problem, was not mentioned at all. Why is it important and a big missing that manufacturing wasn’t mentioned? Manufacturing, and the middle class jobs that accompany renewed manufacturing, are absolutely essential to sustained, healthy economic growth. Our growth right now is anaemic in large part because of this missing element. We are not going to be a




    Read More..
    Comments

    “Open For Business” is a Promise Made

    Open for Business  It’s a real joy when a business opens its doors for the first time. “Open for Business” sounds and feels like hope and possibility to me. Starting a new business is where creativity blossoms and where innovation is made real. You’ve created something and you want to deliver that value for a fair payment in return. That’s what an entrepreneur does. Why would the government put anything in the way of a win-win business transaction? The law recently passed in Indiana (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) is being fiercely debated. I really don’t want to comment, much, on the moral aspect of the law, I want to comment instead on what it means to open your doors for business




    Read More..
    Comments

    The Flaming Lips and Economic Development

    Consider Attending the Creativity World Forum 2015 As many of you know I’ve participated in the annual State of Creativity Forum in Oklahoma for several years. I’ve written here previously about how effective their model is in getting broad-based involvement, participation, and attendance. This is arguably the most successful creativity conference in the world right now. Those interested in the creativity and innovation field should attend Creativity World Forum 2015 if at all possible. It’s affordable, the content is superb, and it’s a great networking opportunity. It’s in just a few weeks, so register, and make plans now to arrive in Oklahoma City for the March 31st one day event. The illustrious Sir Ken Robinson is  returning as a keynoter (he




    Read More..
    Comments

    FAQ Re: Dr. Alan Black

    Greetings from gray and chilly Three Oaks, Michigan. As gloomy as it is, I’m grateful to be here and free. Freedom is not something we should take for granted. Later this morning I’ll take a walk outside around my pond and say prayers for my friend Alan Black. I might take a photograph. When he’s released I hope he’ll come visit me here so we can enjoy a walk outside together — and photograph whatever catches our eye. Below is the latest information from Friends of Alan Black. The FAQ pretty much says it all. Much of this has been covered in news reports, but FAB thought it would be helpful to put all the facts into one document. Alan’s




    Read More..
    Comments

    Help Detained USA Citizen In Abu Dhabi

    This is a departure for this blog. While there is a direct connection to creativity and innovation it is essentially a press release written by concerned leaders in the creativity and innovation international community. One of our own, Dr. Robert Alan Black, has been detained in Abu Dhabi. The details are below. My request is that if you are so moved, please contact the offices of your elected officials. USA citizens can find contact information here.  Press Release For Immediate Release Contact:                     Rosemary Rein Phone number:       239-910-3354 Email:                         rosemaryrein@rosemaryrein.com   American Creativity Expert Detained In Abu Dhabi Friday October 31, 2014 – Athens, Georgia. Dr. Robert Alan Black, an Athens resident, is being held in Al Wathba prison in




    Read More..
    Comments

    Rural Broadband Necessary for Rural Innovation

    Tuesday– September 23, 2014 It’s nice to see that people are recognizing that innovation isn’t always in Silicon Valley. Writing you today from the countryside in Three Oaks, Michigan, aka “Michiana” — where my poky web access is satellite based. Steve Case’s article earlier this week in the Washington Post  — Why innovation and start-ups are thriving in ‘flyover’ country —  is spot on. Case, you may recall, was co-founder of AOL. He correctly identifies the reasons why Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati, and other smaller cities are becoming vibrant centers of start-ups. He’s asking for investments of time and money to be made in order to further the trend. I agree, and… He didn’t go far enough with his article — he missed one




    Read More..
    Comments