'Cool Cities' grant recipients report progress and delays
By Amy F. Bailey / Associated Press
PORTLAND -- Riverside boardwalks. Renovated storefronts. Loft apartments.
Those are among the improvements paid for by state grants last year under Gov. Jennifer Granholm's plan to make urban areas across Michigan more appealing to young professionals.
So this has been the Californian Governor Granholm's plan to bring Michigan back. Cool Cites?
With the "Cool Cities" initiative and other programs, the state hopes to not only keep more of its native college students but hold onto those from other states who come to Michigan to attend its colleges and universities.
Not everyone, however, thinks "Cool Cities" will make a difference. Central Michigan University economics professor Michael Shields says it will take decades, not years, to determine whether Granholm's program successfully creates cities appealing to young adults.
What do Michigan's core cities offer to the "creative class?" Eliminate all cities under 100,000, and we have Detroit, Grand Rapids, Warren, Sterling Heights, Lansing, Flint, Ann Arbor, and Livonia. Livonia, Warren, and Sterling Heights are all suburbs of Detroit - so the core cities are Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Flint. Ann Arbor will always have a creative class since they have UM. Lansing and East Lansing have state government and Michigan State University, so even if GM goes down, they have something to fall back on. Flint is a company town, and probably in the toughest shape of any core city. It is 100% dependent on GM. Grand Rapids seems to be in good shape from the times I've been there. I don't know if it is a "cool city", but I liked it as it has a bit of a small town feel.
But all those cities are dwarfed by Detroit - the face of Michigan to the rest of the world. Is Detroit a "cool city?" Depends on who you ask. It has always been a gritty tough blue collar city. It built America's cars for 100 years. It is the headquarters of the unions. It gave us Motown, Bob Seger(via Ann Arbor), Ted Nugent, Emimem and Kid Rock. The Grind Line of the Red Wings is as popular as the stars. The "Bad Boys" of the Pistons are legendary.
Is this popular with the new "creative class", many of which consider anything blue collar "uncool?" I doubt it. Especially since Detroit has to compete with Chicago, Cleveland, and Madison alone in the nearby area(maybe add Toronto too as it's 5 hours away by car). That's not even accounting for New York, LA, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Austin, Atlanta, Miami, Washington DC, and cities with warmer climates than here in Michigan.
And once again Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Center hits the nail on the head.
"Cool is in the eye of the beholder," LaFaive says. "As soon as the governor encourages something because she says it's cool, young people are going to think it's not cool."
Instead of the fluff, we need to concentrate on the factors we can control. Instead of "cool cities", let's focus on the realities. We are a high tax state extremely unfriendly to small businesses. There's nothing cool about that. We're losing jobs due to our business climate while the rest of the country is recovering. There's nothing cool about that. If we want "cool cities" here, then let's have the jobs here first.
Secondly, if the "creative class" and these "young professionals" are job hopping and rarely stay in the same place, why are we as a state trying to throw a hail mary pass to attract them? Even if they move here, how are we going to keep them? What will happen five years from now?
Most people don't think of Livingston County as a "cool" area. That said, it's still the fastest growing county in the state. Royal Oak, what many think of as a "cool suburb", declined in population. People move out here to raise families. Good schools, low county tax rates, low crime, rural character, and generally good people.
Instead of trying to have cool cities, the state needs to concentrate on Michigan being a good place to raise families.
Lastly, everybody knows that the coolest part of Michigan is "Up North!" That's God's country.