Every week, I am lucky enough to have the same experience – often, multiple times. I’ll hang up the phone after interviewing someone for a story and say to myself, “I can’t believe that person exists and s/he is doing that thing.” It’s absolutely overwhelming. In a state that seems to only get bad press – the only state in the nation to decline in population in the 2010 Census – I am constantly speaking to people who are inventing, investing, creating and building here. So I take a moment to feel awestruck, and then go about the business of telling each story, not only because each story needs to be told, but also in the hopes that they contribute to a changing narrative about Michigan.
I write about business, innovation, community, entrepreneurship and development in Michigan. It’s hard to explain this to people without someone making a crack about how I must be a fiction writer. Very funny. But on Thursday I interviewed a guy who is making the world’s first commercially-available super conductor. They’ll be available by the end of the year and retail for about $10 million. And he’s doing that in Lansing. In fact, he said Lansing is one of the only places in the world where it’s even possible to do what he’s doing. A few weeks ago, I spoke with a group of men who will be helping to rebuild cities in the Republic of Iraq to the tune of $5.5 billion – from Metro Detroit. And yes, a lot of that money is going to be spent with Michigan manufacturers. If that doesn’t knock your socks off, there is a serious problem with your socks. Really, it’s these are the kinds of things that makes you go, “who needs those 537,000 people who left Michigan in the last decade? More room for us and all our awesomeness.”
Can these stories be told enough? I don’t feel like they can. And every week I write them up and ship them out and then wonder, did everybody hear that? Are you listening? Old Town Lansing flipped a 90 percent vacancy rate to a 90 percent occupancy rate in just over a decade. Did you get that? Have you organized a parade?
The collective body of my Michigan writing has yet to inspire a parade. That doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying. My new, if nebulous, career goal is to continue to find new ways to tell the story of what’s happening in Michigan. Mike and I most recently started writing about our Michigan-made wedding as a way to showcase all the great local vendors we love. That has been, and will continue to be fun, and we’ve even been surprised to have attracted some press for it. That’s all well and good, but the scope is also a bit narrow. It’s also going to end in less than four months when the actual wedding finally happens (guess it’d better turn out to be a good time after all that, right?). So what to do next?
I’m not sure. But until I figure it out, my plan is to use this blog to tell those “wow” stories I come across each week in a different way. To write about what I’m writing about, more or less. Because if I’m going to stand akimbo and shake my finger at the world for not appreciating all the amazing things happening in Michigan, I’d better be doing everything I can to make sure the stories get told.