After losing my campaign for Ann Arbor City Council in 2008 (by a landslide) I started looking around for other ways that I could become more involved in my community. In addition to joining Ann Arbor Rotary and working with three local non-profit organizations that I deeply admire, I have been volunteering at Ann Arbor SPARK, SPARK East and the New Enterprise Forum, NEF, and GLEQ to work with local entrepreneurs that have promising business ideas that potentially could help breathe some life into our tired local economy.
As a volunteer coach for the Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurs, ACE-10, Business Plan Competition, the luck of the draw brought an interesting idea for a new Not-For-Profit organization that resonated with me almost immediately. (See Youth of Tomorrow at YOFT.org)
Most business plans that come across my desk these days are from energetic young professionals looking to make a killing promoting the “Next New Thing” against all odds. To my surprise I was sent an extremely well thought out Executive Summary written by a 25-year old engineering student, Marc Alexander, from Kettering University in Flint, MI. Further research on the author revealed a truly amazing story of a young man that some how managed to make the best of a seemingly “bad hand” life dealt to him. A great example of, “if life gives you lemons…make lemonade!” When most others would simply make excuses for why they can’t get ahead in life this young man with an infectious smile, a sparkle in his eye and and “almost naive”, radiates an indomitable will to persevere and achieve his personal goals. How could I not get involved?
Remarkably his personal goals are not based on based on monetary and personal gain but on his desire and passion to help others achieve their goals– indeed a young Bodhisattva! His inspiration has opened my eyes and helped me formulate some thoughts on economic development in Ann Arbor, SE Michigan, Michigan, the Mid-West, U.S. and the the World.
The recent international financial meltdown and the Global Warming Conference should vividly remind us of how interconnected the world has become. They should serve as a stark lesson to us on the value of economic cooperation. Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand” has been replaced by Lucas Film’s “may the ‘Force’ be with you”. Our “Force” is the will and spirit of ALL residents of our great State.
The entire state of Michigan is looking to Ann Arbor to become the technological engine that will help push the State out of the economic depression we are mired in. As we all work hard to help jump start our local economy we need to look at the bigger picture and let Marc Alexander remind us what good does it do to “get rich” if we leave everyone else behind? How can sustainable economic development take place in Ann Arbor and leave Ypsilanti behind? How can SE Michigan and Michigan have lasting prosperity while Detroit still has burned out homes, factories, bankrupt schools and 30% unemployment? You get the idea! Sustainable success cannot be achieved by a “beggar thy neighbor” attitude on any geographic scale. If we sacrifice this core value we do so at our own peril. Thanks Marc! I have already received a precious gift from you.