Saturday, March 29, 2014
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
One of the challenges for Flint Expatriates is figuring out a way to give back to the city even though we no longer live there. One way is to make a donation to Drive Flint, a business plan competition for startup or emerging businesses whose measure of success includes playing an active role in Flint’s revitalization.
The Flint Journal's Dominic Adams described the contest in an article earlier this month:
The “drive Flint" prize is part of Michigan Corps’ “Michigan social entrepreneurship challenge,” to come up with long-term solutions to the state’s social challenges, the nonprofit organization said in a statement.
The goal is to discover ideas that are having a positive impact on the Flint community, said Elizabeth Garlow, executive director of Michigan Corps. “The competition is focused on the advent of ventures that enhance the quality of life in the community.”Your donation will help fund a cash grant for the winning business plan and the winner will also gain access to Michigan Corps’ social impact investment fellowship and entrepreneur support services, which includes training that prepares entrepreneurs for investments of more than $50,000.
“Flint is full of grassroots entrepreneurs seeking prosperity, civic and community change,” Mayor Dayne Walling said in a statement. “The creation of the “drive Flint” prize is truly groundbreaking, as it gives all entrepreneurs who are passionate about Flint’s future an opportunity to share their ideas, connect with support resources and a community of fellow innovators.”
Visit Drive Flint to find more information and make a donation. The goal is $15,000.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
After years of chronicling just how bad things have gotten in America's shrinking cities, the national media now seems obsessed with stories about how to save places like Detroit. It's a welcome change, although the coverage often tends to underplay just how much work remains to be done, while overplaying the role of urban homesteaders and other newcomers in the revival.
As Ashley Woods points out in the Huffington Post, long-time residents who never left their cities are frequently left out of the equation:
Last month, Thomas Sugrue, the scholar who literally wrote the book on Detroit, traveled to the Motor City to deliver a tough message to business and political leaders. Detroit's comeback, he said, depends on whether the city can improve the lives of working-class African-Americans.
"Revitalization" is a buzzword in the city, which filed for bankruptcy last year and grapples with widespread blight and high unemployment and poverty rates. In spite of all this, Detroit is often celebrated as a hipster paradise and tourist destination by national media outlets.
But Sugrue said Detroit's recent successes in its downtown area and in Midtown, the city's cultural center, aren't benefiting the majority of residents.While plucky urban homesteaders make for inspiring stories, many of the more pragmatic efforts to turn these cities around don't get much coverage. In a recent essay for Belt Magazine, I made my pitch for land banks:
While it lacks the emotional appeal of stories about the young idealists who venture back to these struggling cities, land banks are a more far-reaching and clear-eyed attempt to help places like Flint. They don’t focus on getting residents into abandoned housing; instead, they concentrate on eliminating empty structures.
Admittedly, the land-bank approach appeals more to the head than the heart. It requires cities to let go of the past and admit they might never regain the growing populations, thriving economies, and broad middle-class prosperity of the post-war boom. Though it’s not an economic plan that will generate new jobs, it is a logical step toward stabilization and it lays the groundwork for the future.
If they are in it for the long haul, newcomers to cities like Flint, Detroit, Cleveland, and Gary can play a role. But let's not forget the current residents who are doing the heavy lifting, or the programs and policies that will bring about the biggest change:
There’s no silver bullet that will solve the problem of abandoned houses in America’s shrinking cities. Well-meaning Rust Belt expatriates like me can lend a hand. Dedicated urban homesteaders can save some houses with money, carpentry skills, and sheer force of will. Innovative projects like Detroit’s Write A House, which gives a renovated home to writers who move to the Motor City, can play a role in stabilizing neighborhoods. But the staggering number of empty houses means that these laudable efforts are only a small part of the solution. Land banks and other initiatives to demolish the structures that no one wants will have a far greater impact.
Friday, March 21, 2014
Flint Expatriate Howard Bragman, shown here in front of his childhood home on Sheffield Avenue, is the public relations expert who oversaw Missouri football player Michael Sam's coming out before the NFL draft. Blake Thorne has a profile of Bragman in today's Flint Journal that touches on his Vehicle City roots and his approach to working with Sam:
Bragman's philosophy — one the agents and Sam were on board with — was that Sam needed to tell his story, on his terms, and quickly get back to focusing on football. The announcement came with just a few high profile interviews: ESPN and The New York Times. Sam would not be making public appearances or marching in parades or making the talk show rounds. He needed to show future teams, the league and the rest of the world that his priority is football.
“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” Sam said in the Times. “I just want to own my truth.”
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Are you a Michigan expatriate looking for a way to help out the Great Lake State? Then take this survey:
"This survey is designed to collect information about the most effective ways to engage Michigan community alumni, meaning individuals now living outside of Michigan who are interested in promoting, supporting and investing in Michigan’s future. The survey will take 5-10 minutes and the results will inform a co-learning initiative sponsored by the Michigan State University Center for Regional Economic Innovation (http://www.reicenter.org) that will be used to advance strategies for engaging alumni in tangible efforts that support Michigan’s economic progress, primarily through opportunities to invest in entrepreneurship and local community development."Go here to take the survey.
Friday, March 7, 2014
Despite being holed up in an auto plant for weeks on end and battling police, National Guard troops, and management goons, the Flint Sit-Down Strikers still managed to be more stylish than today's Google workers.
Does foosball make you dress badly?
Google's Sergey Brin, in jogging socks and mom jeans, just looks depressed in a faceoff with the dapper Alfred P. Sloan, who turned G.M. into the world's largest corporation.
Twitter's Jack Dorsey, with the collar pop and sunglasses, is no match for G.M. kingpin Charles Stewart Mott's eyebrows and lap dog combination.
This one really isn't fair. G.M. founder Billy Durant, in his jaunty driving cap, can't help but laugh at Google founder Larry Page's unfortunate shirt.
Louis Chevrolet shows Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg that a t-shirt and fleece is not how you do casual by opting for a suit, tie, goggles, and leather driving gloves. Mustache and cigarette are optional but highly recommended.
Still more fashion advice from the early auto industry for today's high-tech titans. Fashion isn't just the clothes, but how you wear them. And how you act in public while you're wearing them. G.M. founder Billy Durant and automotive pioneer J. Dallas Dort show how to hang out in style. And then there's the founders of Google.