A New American Gothic?

The first thing I thought of when I saw the picture of Maynard Kaufman and his wife, Barbara Giesler in front of their solar panels...

...was the 1930 American Gothic painting by Grant Wood.

Seems like an interesting comparison to illustrate that "the kind of people" in America is changing dramatically.

Ohio Talks Transportation

Ohio ramps up its statewide "Transportation Conversation" this month to promote more mobility choices, stimulate economic development, and maximize public investment.

Click here to take the survey, watch some videos, and see the calendar of events.

It's encouraging to see the Buckeye State put the power of the people at the center of envisioning the state's transportation future.

But in many ways the answers are clear: fix up the roads, adapt the cities to encourage more walking and biking, and urgently expand public transit.

A prosperous future, citizens will likely say, requires more than a rail line serving the Cleveland airport and bus rapid transit on Euclid Avenue.

Michigan Targets Water Tech Innovation

In perhaps the most encouraging sign yet that Michigan intends to move its carefree water policy into a 21st century increasingly defined by water scarcity and conflict, state officials are quietly shaping a strategy to position the Great Lakes State as a leading innovator in the promising field of water tech.

The so-called Michigan Water Technology Cluster, led by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, aims to generate jobs, attract private investment, and boost the state's overall competitiveness by promoting the research, development, commercialization, and deployment of modern technologies and management practices to sustain essential water resources.

According to planning documents obtained by the GLG, the MEDC's 2008 goals include: 1) establishing the Water Tech Cluster as a strategy to identify, evaluate, and pursue water-related economic development opportunities; 2) Identifying, selecting, and launching two to four demonstration projects; and 3) Honing a plan for 2009 and beyond that positions Michigan as a center of excellence for the advancement of sustainable water use technologies and management strategies.

States like Arizona and cities such as Milwaukee and Cleveland already are advancing similiar initiatives to get out in front of what's expected to be a growing multi-billion dollar global business as population growth, pollution, climate change, and other trends outstrip the availability of clean fresh water.

In Michigan, the effort aims to leverage the state's advanced manufacturing expertise, water-related academic expertise, and robust freshwater resources to:
  • Promote the efficient use and reuse of water;
  • Retain and attract water-dependent businesses;
  • Develop and expand the water technology and services supply chainl; and
  • Promote and develop ecosystem restoration technologies.
"The Water Technologies Cluster Initiative was officially launched on April 11, 2008," agency documents state. "The MEDC established a planning group with representatives from academia [including Dr. Nancy Love from the University of MI and Dr. Joan Rose from MSU], state government [including MEDC, MI Dept. of Environmental Quality, and MI Dept. of Agriculture] and industry [including Dow Water Solutions, Siemens Water Technologies, and NSF International]."

"The aforementioned planning group is in the process of developing short and long term objectives, which will include the identification and implementation of, possibly up to three Water Technologies [Centers of Excellence] by the end of 2008."

Great Lakes Restoration Blips on MI Radar

Contrary to a recent report in the Detroit News, the State of Michigan and, more specifically, the current cast of characters running the joint, have done little publicly to compel Congress to fully fund the $20 billion proposal to clean-up and restore the Great Lakes.

There's likely been behind-the-scenes conversations, and terse letters quietly mailed to the White House and federal administrators.

But Governor Jennifer Granholm has not made the urgent economic and environmental importance of Great Lakes restoration a recurring theme of her speeches to rally citizens.

Officials in neither the Michigan Economic Development Corporation nor the state Department of Environmental Quality have publicly stated restoration of the Great Lakes is a top priority and backed it up with bold and sustained action.

And I'm willing to bet a charter fishing boat trip on Lake Michigan that a poll of the State Legislature would reveal only a handful of lawmakers actually are aware there's a huge regional campaign undereway right now that's advocating for a historic Great Lakes clean-up.

It's just not been a priority. But now in the twilight of its reign, it appears Gov. Granholm's Administration is intensifying its interest in the restoration effort. Which is a fancy way of saying they'll produce another report on the matter.

"We want to make the White House a true partner," Lt. Gov. John Cherry told the Detroit News. "It's the right thing to do as stewards of this resource (and) it's the right thing to do for our economic development."

There's Gold in Them Thar Hills

There's plenty of evidence to suggest Michigan is stuck in the olden days.

The union strikes.

The plans for new coal-fueled power plants.

The old sewers which, in some corners of some cities, literally are still made of wood.

But nothing screams "1800's" quite like the idea of prospecting for gold, which is what a Canadian company is doing in the Upper Peninsula.

Folks in the UP, remember, are still fighting off the idea of digging for copper and nickel beneath some of the more untouched landscapes in the nation.

Success in the new economy, we're constantly reminded, depends on innovation and mining the minds of creative people for new ideas.

Michigan, however, seems all too comfortable rooting around in the ground for minerals and water.

Hopefully the Deadwood development strategy is taking its last breaths.