Things looking up for the Mitten

Andrew Justus

Though the Tigers, Lions and Wolverines all lost last week and the temperatures have begun their fall plunge, our state of Michigan still has much to be cheerful about.

The auto industry has been solidly recovering. Grand Rapids is coming off another successful ArtPrize. Unemployment is falling faster than the national average. Detroit will build a new streetcar line on its famous Woodward Avenue, and a new bridge to Canada looks like it will finally be built.

Feelings of hope and anticipation in the future of our state are quite new to me, and I’m sure to many of you as well. For much of our lives we have known Michigan to be an economically depressed state, where it was impossible to find work and where we were constantly shown news of factories closing, police being laid off and political scandals. It was a place where no news was the best news. Recently, the frequency of good news has increased and the updates on outsourcing and cutbacks have slowed. Things aren’t completely wonderful yet; we still have the third-highest unemployment rate in the country and continue to bang our teeth together while driving over tattered roads. But, for the first time, it seems like the worst is in the rearview mirror of our collective cars, and hopefully those cars were all imported from Detroit and not some island in the Pacific Ocean where Hello Kitty is from.

State and federal politicians will try to take credit for this toddler-aged turnaround, but it is not theirs to claim. Sure, the governor’s tax reforms and the president’s loans to GM and Chrysler helped things along, but the real credit for our state’s turnaround lies with its people. The people who go to work and school every day, buying apples from the local orchard and getting haircuts from the barber down the street. They are the ones who are really putting our state back on its feet and surprising themselves by proving the naysayers wrong.

Maybe this change in fortunes for our marvelous mitten (and oddly shaped Upper Peninsula) shouldn’t be so much of a surprise after all. Maybe those who said “Will the last person in Michigan please turn off the lights” were just dumb and didn’t know what our state was about.

Michigan has always been a very vibrant state, one that can change with the times while keeping its character and gritty spirit. This is a state that, despite its faults, doesn’t know how to quit.

This is Michigan.