This past weekend showcased several great examples of the progress Michigan is making as part of an amazing recovery over the past several years. It is a recovery we are seeing evidence of everywhere, and even some national news coverage to validate what we see. Unfortunately, there was also a big reminder today of what we continue to do to slow ourselves down.
First the good. Downtown Detroit Days, a three-day shopping extravaganza anchored by City Lofts and Somerset Collection reminded us this past weekend of the power retail can play as part of our recovery. As I walked down Woodward Avenue Saturday afternoon, the bustling activity was a glimpse into our near future. People of all shapes and sizes enjoying the weekend, and supporting our economy. I saw high profile business leaders walking through the City Loft space with their families shopping and basking in the glow of the energy. These were the same leaders who are putting their money, energy and passion into making a difference. And, it’s working.
This sense of optimism and enthusiasm was still riding high when I cracked open my Sunday Freep this morning. That giddiness stopped cold, however, when I read about a “Pure Michigan” blunder. To be fair, it’s probably only a blunder in my mind. In Carol Cain’s column, I learned about how Mario Batali is helping promote Michigan tourism by leveraging his national cooking brand in Traverse City. I absolutely love that. Problem is that the Michigan Economic Development Corp, brags about how they engaged Webber Shandwick, a PR firm that is a division of Interpublic Group. They are a publicly traded mega-firm with offices throughout the world. I think their headquarters might be in London or New York. It’s kinda unclear from their website. And yes, they do have an office in Birmingham. I know one thing for sure, all the profits they are making off the Pure Michigan account are not going to a business owner here in Michigan.
For the life of me, I don’t understand why this concept is so difficult to understand. When a Michigan governmental unit sends work like this to a shop with a footprint throughout the world, it does two destructive things. First, the MEDC tells the world the competencies here in Michigan are not at a standard worthy of its business. Second, it pushes profits to places other than our great state. And guess what, talent follows the money.
Make no mistake, Webber Shandwick is a talented PR firm. All kinds of awards, tons of profits, lots of really important sounding people with impressive titles. But are they better than the firms owned and headquartered here in Michigan? No.
I can think of a dozen killer PR firms who could have done this work. Firms with owners who have invested in making Michigan better. They have put their names on their doors and deserve the consideration of Michigan – especially when they are promoting a campaign like Pure Michigan. People with last names like Tanner and Friedman; Eisbrenner and Hermanoff, Lambert & Edwards along with Vallee-Smith. These, and many more folks have earned it and deserve the work of our state.
This is not the first time I’ve rung this bell. I’m sure it won’t be the last time. Until we start acting with a sense of authentic pride in the people, the business and the talent we’ve created right here in Michigan we won’t be 100% “Pure”.