Dual Personalities

The best and worst of the Great Lakes region has been on display in the national media lately. Most notably in the New York Times, one of America's flagship newspapers.

On one hand, the region is portrayed as a progressive, innovative, and open minded place with big plans to not only participate in, but actually help to shape, the global community. The Times, for example, recently covered the green building boom in Grand Rapids. The paper also highlighted the region's increasingly aggressive shift toward energy innovation to combat terrorism, climate change, and other troubling mega trends.

These are the stories that report the region's push toward modernity. They point to a new and more prosperous future.

Then there are the stories that report the region's inclination to live in the past, and its penchant for clinging tight to outmoded ways of operating that stunt growth and reputation alike. It's the story of divisive, partisan politics and reckless tax debates in Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio. And it's the story of urban decay, racism, and complacency in Illinois.

Transforming the Rust Belt into the Blue Belt will take 100 years. But it begins with moderation in politics, reanimation of that lost innovative spirit, and renewed commitment to the region's basic assets - hardworking and entrepreneurial cities, globally unique Great Lakes, and world-class institutions of higher learning.