If there was one good thing that came out of the Great Recession, it's that it finally made Michigan and the industrial Midwest come to terms with reality: The massive employment from living-wage manufacturing was not coming back. No state, no country, no town was going to be magically turned around by some new assembly plant. That was the old model. It was fun while it lasted, but that era is definitely over.
As a consequence, Michigan lost population. Actually in this past decade we started to gain population again, just not as fast as some other states in the South and West. But now we have the opportunity to build on some of our strengths.
The cartoon is an exaggeration (as most cartoons are). But clearly our biggest advantage is our unique abundance of fresh water — lakes (great and otherwise), springs, rain, lots and lots of snow — we've got it all. As climate change goes on, it's just going to make us more attractive. Taking the lead in guaranteeing safe drinking water would be an obvious additional way to (as the business folks say) leverage our advantage.
Our manufacturing legacy also provides us with another distinct edge. We know how to make stuff. A little more emphasis on supporting trades and applied technology, and — boom! — we're a magnet attracting living wage jobs and creative industries.
If we want our Congressional seats back, we're gonna need new residents: Immigrants. Yet another advantage — we've grown like this before! (Both with people from other countries and by the Great Migration.) Immigrants bring new ideas, new energy, and new opportunity, especially to depleted cities and rural communities.
Also, we have the best beer.
John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.