Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thomas Edison and the Greeks

Thomas Edison noted that, "necessity is the mother of all invention." Necessity brings forth those willing to take on a challenge. Made in Michigan is willing to take on the challenge to bring forth the message of supporting Michigan first. We’re not the first to pioneer this effort and we won’t be the last either. However, it’s the size of our dream and daily diligence that separates us from others.

Our eyes are forward and we are not looking back. The Greek generals of ancient times would give the order to burn the boats once the soldiers were on shore. This would eliminate fear and any chance of self doubt. Victory is a must because our boats are ablaze.

The idea of reaching almost 10 million people with a message at first seemed overwhelming. We set goals and they were reached. We reset goals and they were obliterated. Now we find ourselves resetting the goals once again. It’s good to have this problem. 4,200 people in the first month seem to think we’re on to something. We anticipate over 10,000 people will have joined us in a united effort by March 1, 2009. All of a sudden, 50,000 people in our group by May 1, doesn’t seem beyond our reach. We’re that much closer to 1,000,000 Facebook users. We’re that much closer to the millions of Michigan people needed to make change.

People have already told us this is impossible. I firmly believe that our doubters actually want us to succeed. They want that one moment to say they knew all along that we would make it. We’re doing this for them too. The victory is big enough for all of us to share.

There is a Chinese proverb that states, “Fall down 99 times, get up 100.” We’re going to make mistakes. We already have. We’ve learned and moved on. We’re up and when we’re down, we’re still up. The daily arrival of compliments, suggestions and encouragement is nonstop. We simply cannot thank people enough. Your words are reminders of why we are doing this in the first place.

So we are taking our time and methodically making our moves. We’re being very selective with whom we partner with because we only want businesses of integrity. We only want to support businesses that not only share our beliefs but practice them. Your trust is most important to us. We are often asked what business we are in. We tell them the relationship business.

We’re already a success because of you. Continue to support this movement by inviting new friends. Start by changing your buying habits and encourage others to do so as well. Lead by example. During the month of February, visit one place in our state that you haven’t been to in awhile or have been putting off going to. Your choices make the difference.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Can You Spare Some Change

Change is everywhere these days. Battery powered cars are emerging while print media is disappearing. International borders are opening while department stores are closing. Face-to-face sentiments have been replaced by text messages. Most notably, Barack Obama’s inauguration symbolizes cultural and political change as he becomes our nation's 44th president.

Now I’m far from being sentimental. However, I do wish that soda pop still came in glass bottles. Seriously though, change is everywhere. Recently, I saw a vending machine that had an iPod and an iMac as offerings. Select E-5 for a total of $799. Naturally, the machine took Visa and not quarters.

Certain events in recent history such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina have changed us. The rise and fall of the stock markets and plummeting real estate prices have changed us too.

Michigan has been no stranger to change. The global shift in manufacturing has thrust change upon us. As the Information Age presses on, the temples of the Industrial Age still cling to the landscape, buying their precious time, naked and cold; Closed chapters of the by-gone era. How about the weather? Even winter just kind of happens one day.

Change is good and I dare say necessary. It gives us an opportunity to revisit our core beliefs and a chance to set a new course for the future. Change is never without shortcomings. However, the pain of change is always far less than the pain of regret. Are we as a state willing to reexamine our core beliefs? Are we willing to change enough to adapt to an evolving state future?

Change starts with the individual and the individuals’ habits. It’s the day-to-day habits. It’s your shopping patterns. Your hard earned dollars act as your ballots. Cast farewell to the institutions that have no roots or a false interest in our community. Bid adieu to companies that make nothing and invest little here. Say goodbye to stores that change the physical landscape, pillage our resources, and take profits across state lines. Michigan made quality is unparalleled. Buying local keeps our neighbors employed, creates stronger community bonds, promotes talent and skills, raises our standard of living and attracts investments that share our values of deep-rooted loyalty, hard work, and commitment to excellence. Speak up and be heard. Demand better for your money. Demand Michigan made. Demand Michigan owned and operated. Abandon the familiar. Drive the extra mile. Spend the extra dollar. Ask the tough questions. Read the labels.

Like it or not, we are each other’s keepers. We started Made in Michigan as an investment in people: From the cherry picker in Northport; to the pine forest lumberjack in Covington; to the line worker in Warren. The resurrection of this great state will be determined by our decisions. Empower your family, neighbors, coworkers, friends, or the person sitting next to you at the doctor’s office to explore this principle. Spend it here and keep it here. Make it the rule not the exception.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

When is bad really bad?

It's almost zero degrees outside. That's natural but bad. The Lions were 0-16 this season. That's pretty bad. Market instability. Bad. Unemployment in Michigan was at 9.8% in November of 2008 ( That's bad. Someone inevitably chimes in that, "it could be worse." I suppose. The unemployment rate during the Great Depression was approximately 25%. So by comparison, the general feeling of most people, including many in Michigan, is that we're not even half-way to bad yet.

On a recent trip to Somerset mall, I couldn't help notice the large number of people shopping. Economists say that's good. Retailers have seen better. The irony being that adjacent to the mall in Automation Alley, there is much unrest. Even with bailout money and the North American International Auto Show at Cobo, futures are very uncertain and that's bad. At the library the other day, I couldn't help but overhear high school seniors one-upping each other about Spring Break. After all, Spring Break is only about 65 days away. I'm sure they'll have plenty of fun.

But when is bad really bad? When do we recognize what's coming? Will bad be a lantern hung from a bell tower and two if its worse? Even though we're about 45% of the way to Depression era numbers, people are waiting for the feeling and it doesn't feel like it's that bad. Ask someone in the mortgage business if they have the feeling yet. They might. Maybe people just want a sign. Start looking in the front yards of your neighborhood. There are signs.

We have to accept what's happening but we don't have to like it or even take it. There is an economic crisis occurring in the state of Michigan. I'm encouraging each one of us to take back our state. Take it back one dollar at a time. Over the next year, I urge each and every citizen to start putting Michigan first. Stay in Michigan this year. Watch the sun set from the dunes overlooking Lake Michigan. Have some fudge. Catch some jazz down at Hart Plaza or visit the Detroit Institute of Arts. Have a weenie over a campfire somewhere in da' UP, eh. Pick your own strawberries or visit the orchards. Start spending your money wisely. Start living within your means and target your dollars to stay in Michigan by buying Michigan made products. The entire premise of the Made in Michigan movement is to provide you with the education and the resources to make that happen. We will make sure you have those items necessary to make change both for the state and for yourself.

It's not over. It's just time for a new beginning and a renewal of our thinking. We fell down but we're right back up. It's not if we change but rather when we change. Our work ethic, as a collective, simply will not allow that. We refuse to be a footnote in an Economics book. We will change. When we do, the nation will be inspired and follow Michigan's lead once again.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The First Few Steps

Setting the bar low is a problem--except in a limbo contest. The problem with low goals are that they are too easily attained. A real vision does not confuse baby steps with giant steps.

Some three weeks ago, when I created the Made in Michigan Facebook group, I set a few goals. I knew that this was a good idea. The problem with my vision was that this is the greatest idea and the timing is right. I didn't fully recognize what was in my hands. I wasn't wrong, but rather a lower level of right. The goal was for the group to be 500 people strong by March 1, 2009. My eyes were open but that's not vision considering we went 500 strong this morning at exactly 9:00 am. We were then supposed to have 1,000 guests by June 1, 2009. The eraser is already in my hand. I fell forward not backward. I'm setting new!

At 500 members, we've already grabbed the attention of a few major food retailers and manufacturers. At 5,000 members, our dance card starts to get pretty full. At 50,000 members, real change is occuring and Lansing starts to notice. At 5,000,000 members, the state of Michigan has pulled as together, as a majority, and we make head way out of a recession.

Facebook has allowed us to get started. I'm amazed at how quickly people will become part of groups such as "1,000,000 People United Who Like Cheese Pizza" or "I Bet I Can Find 1,000,000 People Who Like Breathing." From the mundane to the magnificant, it's all there. Our Facebook page is just the first step. Made in Michigan is taking the next step today.

It's not a fad. It's common sense. Common sense is free but if not properly exercised it can be costly. It's the way it should always be--in times of recession and boom. You've witnessed the frustration of American companies sending their operations to other states and overseas. Then it should be easy to draw the line when it comes to Michigan businesses. Loyalties should be given to those who stand loyal to us. It's purchasing dollars that will tell the story of your loyalty. Being part of the Made in Michgan movement is also free. You are already part of it and as long as you live here, you will always be part of it.

Made in Michigan is taking it's first steps in reconnecting the relationships between consumer, producer, and retailer. We're going to be hosting Michigan product fairs inside grocery stores around the state. We're going to introduce you to both new and familiar Michigan made products. Further, we're telling retailers to step up awareness of Michigan made products. Also, we're asking the producers to focus on competitive pricing without sacrificing product quality. Our initial efforts will be in the retail food industry, then on to the retail service industry and on to heavy manufacturing. We anticipate hosting regional and state-wide product expos uniting all three retail groups under one roof. It's going to be huge!

Take your first step. Visit our Facebook page often and watch for big changes. Read the blog. Refer us to your friends, neighbors, and coworkers. There is never a fee, no membership dues, or even secret handshakes. Your next trip to the grocery store, spend just $10 on Michigan made products. That purchase is your oath.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Leading by example.

A woman once came to Gandhi and asked him to please tell her son to give up eating sugar. Gandhi asked the woman to bring the boy back in a week. Exactly one week later the woman returned, and Gandhi said to the boy, "Please give up eating sugar." The woman thanked the Mahatma, and, as she turned to go, asked him why he had not said those words a week ago."Gandhi replied, "Because a week ago, I had not given up eating sugar."

We lead by example. Words alone just don't do it. I dare not compare myself to Gandhi though. However, I feel it important enough to lead the Made in Michigan group by example. If a difference is ever going to made, than it starts with me.

I just came back from the grocery store. The grocery store is a Michigan based company. I'm off to a good start. We shop twice a week and I spent our budget allotment of $80. This is par for the course. However, keeping in mind the statistic that if each home spent $10 of their weekly food budget on Michigan made products, $36 million dollars would trickle back into our local economy each week. It was time to do my part. My wife gave me a list. I walked the clearly marked aisles and looked for the Made in Michigan signs by products. I found them. This store does a far better job at this than most other grocery stores. I managed to stick to the list with only two impulse purchases. Check out time. I stuffed two recycled paper bags full of groceries. My mission complete. When the handshakes were done and the dust cleared, I managed to purchase seven Michigan made items totaling $21.63. About 25% of the total bill. Wait, wait! I had a $10 off coupon for spending over $70. I'm cheap and I'm all smiles. A small victory in the name of Michigan. It started with me.

I'm not asking anyone to be a fanatic. However, fanatics are always welcome. Change your buying habits just $10 at a time. You'll get to know the products, it takes time. Truth: some products are more expensive, some products are less expensive, most are the same price. If your grocer doesn't have Made in Michigan labels, insist that they do. It demonstrates a solid relationship between retailer and producer while drawing the customer to the product. Let's face it, if it helps sell more groceries, your grocer will do it. It's a stimulus package without a bailout. Really though, it means jobs. It starts with you.

We're in a hushed economic state of emergency. No one wants to say it, but I will. It's politely called a recession because like all major storms it doesn't exactly fit the textbook definition of a something worse-a depression. We're all in this together regardless of in-state geography, age, gender, race, or employment status. Don't expect the other 49 states to feel sorry for us or understand our situation-they won't. Take action for just $10 each week. The required effort is minimal while the results are extraordinary.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Dream, The Struggle, The Victory

Made in Michigan is a grass-roots movement focused on consumer education by promoting products that are actually made in Michigan. If every household in the state spent $10 on Michigan made products, than $36 million dollars would be put back into the local economy--each week! Buying local keeps the money here instead of: Bentonville, Arkansas; Issaquah, Washington; or Cincinnati, Ohio. It means jobs and a chance at economic stability. I'm a Michigan man. This is my state. This is my story.

I'm an organic farmer. Well, not yet, but I will be. That's my dream. Let me back up just a bit. I graduated from Wayne State with the aspiration of becoming a teacher. After all, it was practical and safe and that's how I was raised. Look both ways before crossing and color within the lines. So I taught Science for a few years until I realized I was off course. I strayed from the dream. So to remedy the matter, I took a job working for the railroad. This was more practical and safer. After all, I paid union dues now. It was fun and by definition, a good job. Until yesterday, when I found out that I'm getting laid off. Chrysler is our biggest customer and when they don't move cars off their lots by rail, jobs get cut. I got cut. I strayed from the dream.

I'm 35 years old. I have a beautiful and wonderfully supportive wife. She too is unemployed. I'm also the proud father of a little blonde haired, blue-eyed angel of a son. He's a toddler and thinks the sun rises and sets with me. To him, I'm Superman. In reality, I'm just an ordinary guy--with an extraordinary dream. It's big enough to share.

So why did I create Made in Michigan? If more people bought Chrysler cars, I'd still have a job. My story is far from unique. I asked myself how I can help someone else in a situation similar to mine. It's simple, buy the products of the Michigan company they work for. It goes beyond the product--it's an investment in people. It's said that a rising tide raises all ships. This maxim holds more truth today than it ever has. Buying Michigan made products keeps the economic cycle vibrant. It keeps the money here. It keeps jobs here. It keeps people here. It keeps the spirit here. It's time to take a bold, fresh look at how and where we spend our money. I started this movement two weeks ago on Facebook. The first week, only my wife joined ( I told you she was supportive). I decided to step out and invite 60 people to join me. The majority of those people joined and offered positive feedback. I asked them to invite just one guest each. They favorably responded and the group doubled in size in just 72 hours, united in cause. Since then, I estimate a new guest joins Made in Michigan about every 30 minutes. No we're not breaking Facebook speed records but the word is out. People are ready to buy, ready to support. They want to know what the products are and where they can get them. Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit. I've since been in contact with a major grocer who would like to partner with our movement and is open to ideas. This is the start of something big. You simply can not stop an idea whose time has come. Michigan, our time is now.

As for me, I've already made peace with my situation. I have a wonderful family, therefore I have everything. I've gained far more than I've lost and I have an opportunity to again follow my dream. The slate is clean once again and I'm going to go back to school to study organic horticulture. Classes start in April.

I invite you to follow me on this journey.