Reshoring

    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

    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

    Baby Steps To Breakthrough In Regional Economic Development

    Creativity, Innovation, and Economic Development — Embracing the Challenge Better Questions Means Better Answers for Regional Economic Development It’s about Attitudes, Projects, and Baby Steps Economic Development is important and challenging work. Having just interviewed players in this field and surveyed some regional initiatives — it’s clear that innovative work is being done in regional economic development — by some. I suspect that many in the field find the economic development challenge overwhelming. A bit like the Bob character in What about Bob, it’s tough to be creative when you are afraid to take a simple step. Thank you Bill Murray for a memorable character. Let’s face it, some regions always seem to lose out on the new plant. Some




    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

    Support RAMI

    We Can’t Get Serious About Manufacturing Soon Enough. I support RAMI. I read with interest a post on the congressional blog The Hill. In a rare example of cross party cooperation it would appear that the Senate is taking action on supporting growth in our manufacturing sector. Do read the piece but in essence the idea is to set up a national network for manufacturing innovation. This would build on the pilot center/hubs for innovation already set up by the Obama administration. Kudos to Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Roy Blunt (R-Missouri). I like your style gentlemen — first for working in a true bipartisan manner, and secondly for doing it on something so important. The bill is called Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act (RAMI). Congressman Tom Reed (R-New York) and




    Read More..
    Comments

    A New Idea for Black Friday

    The concept of Black Friday has me thinking about what we reward as consumers. My idea of shopping has nothing to do with sharp elbows, crowds, or even bargains. The kind of shopping I like is when I find something truly unique, really special and creative or innovative, at a small shop or family business. Best for me if it’s made in America, and of high quality craftsmanship, to me, this is real value — and I’ll buy that, I’ll reward that. That kind of shopping is increasingly hard to do. As I watched CNN this morning I was a bit amazed by all the “news” around the concept of Black Friday. Man-on-the-spot interviews at shopping malls, traffic reports from WalMart,




    Read More..
    Comments

    The Innovation State of the Union

    President Obama made mention in his state of the union address that he wishes to expand the National Netowrk for Manufacturing Innovation concept. I wholly applaud the idea, AND, there might be a more fundamental challenge that needs addressed first. I’ve made the acquaintance of a thought leader with her finger on the pulse of where the nation sits in terms of technological readiness to innovate. Her name is Pamela Menges, and she’s President of a high-tech start up in Cincinnati. She’s also a professor at the University of Cincinnati in their Engineering department. Steve Jobs once challenged Obama to find him 30,000 engineers so he could build a plant in California. That challenge remains a big one, and again,




    Read More..
    Comments

    Detroit Soup — Serving Hope & Innovation

    As a Michigander I’m always looking for some good vibes on the economy. I found it last night on NBC Nightly News, an inspirational story about Detroit Soup.  It’s not a restaurant, but it does serve soup — and something a lot more precious for down-on-its-luck-Motown — hope. Here’s the concept: Detroit Soup is a monthly dinner to fund creative and entrepreneurial projects. Micro grants are awarded at the dinner. Five dollars ($5.00) is the entry fee and it gets you a simple meal — soup, salad, bread — and a vote. They hold the dinner in an old warehouse. Click over to their site and read their backstory, it’s interesting. Apparently this concept has been happening for over three years.




    Read More..
    Comments

    Reshoring – Why It Makes Sense

    It’s a shame that the reshoring trend (of manufacturing back to the USA) will take years to be realized. I’m a fan of course, I’ve written about it here before. Like many trends, it’s emerging in dribs and drabs; and some dispute it’s even really happening. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to raise funds for new manufacturing ventures in the USA. It’s a sad truth today that VC’s are more interested in funding the next iPhone app than a start-up that actually makes something. It’s also not good that the most likely candidates for reshoring — high tech equipment intensive/low labour requirement operations — are very expensive to set up. The business case can be hard




    Read More..
    Comments