What Century is This?

For every company that symbolizes Michigan's creeping transition to the knowledge economy - Google, United Solar Ovonic, Compuware - there seems to be a similiar number of profiteers trying to perpetuate business as usual and pull the state back towards the outmoded development patterns of the 20th century.

Just look at the types of enterprises the state's Department of Environmental Quality is approving out of the gate in 2007. The agency recently gave prelimary approval to Kennecott Minerals Company's plan to dig for nickel and copper beneath the Yellow Dog River in the Upper Peninsula. And the agency also awarded preliminary approval for Nestle Water's plan to mine high quality H2O from the water systems of two designated trout streams in the central Lower Peninsula. What's next, trapping beavers for fur?

Both developments promise to create dozens - maybe even 100 - jobs. But they both also raise significant questions about Michigan's desire and ability to protect the water resources and natural amenities that drives its quality of life, arguably the state's most important asset in the global economy.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jennifer Granholm used an appearance at the Detroit Auto Show to remind us - yet again - that innovation is the key organizing principle of 21st century prosperity. Indeed, ideas and information are the essential raw material in the modern economy.