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Your Story: a small business owner thinking about leaving the state

Photo submitted by Gary Stock
Gary Stock on his land near the Paw Paw River. Preserving this land is what keeps Stock, sometimes reluctantly, in the state.

Gary Stock calls himself a member of the “creative class.”He is a longtime resident of Kalamazoo, Mich.

But he has an almost a love-hate relationship with his home state. He’s a successful small-business owner and very involved in his community, the type of person Gov. Rick Synder has said he wants to keep in Michigan by cutting business taxes or through other economic incentives. Stock said he values the ease of running a business in the state, but not because of taxes. He runs an internet company called Nexcerpt and said working in a town without a lot of start-ups has its advantages.

“The value of being here was we didn’t have the exorbitant costs they would have in San Francisco or Boston,” Stock said.

Stock sold an earlier company he started during the internet boom to one of those companies in San Francisco. He made enough money to do something he really wanted to do. He bought 180 acres of land on the Paw Paw River. Preserving this land has become a passion. But it frustrates him, too, because it keeps him here. Stock isn’t concerned about his lands value. He didn’t buy it as an investment.

“I bought it to protect the species around here, ones like the box turtle.” He said. “I began to learn just how rare these were. But, there are hundreds of them on this land. So I’ve put most of this land under conservation easement with the state land conservancy.  I’m not totally done protecting it yet. Until I am it’s a little hard to think about moving.”

But Stock does want to move. One of those reasons, Stock said, is that he’s single and there’s a bigger dating pool in a bigger city. But he is also concerned as what he sees as the political climate in the state trying to push people apart.

“I feel like it serves a political purpose for leaders who should be thinking about what we have in common to drive us apart,” He said. Stock thinks the people he calls his community, artists, musicians, and writers, are being vilified. “I feel like I’m being told that my values are not valued,” He said.

Stock used to chair the Van Buren County Planning Commission, where he saw a lot of people unwilling to work with each other. Stock himself is a self-proclaimed environmentalist-but he’s worked with lots of developers to get their projects started.  He thinks there is a way for groups who see themselves as having a lot of political differences to work together. He’s not very hopeful that this will change anytime soon. Asked if he thinks he’ll leave Michigan in the next ten years he said, “That’s a total coin toss.  There is a decent chance that I will do that, yeah. “