Tag Archives: Michigan

Grand Rapids' Art-Economic Development Coup

I had my first opportunity to attend ArtPrize in Grand Rapids last Saturday. My oh my, have they ever hit upon a huge economic development success. Touted as the world’s largest open art competition, covering more than three square miles in the city’s central business district, ArtPrize is simply mind-boggling, inspiring, amazing, and entertaining all at the same time.

Source: mlive.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

All told, in 2102, you could see 1,517 entries (from 45 states and 56 countries) on display at 161 venues by walking the entire nine mile trail. It is quite amazing. ArtPrize offers a grand prize of $200,000

and total prizes of $560,000.

Source: flickr.com

 

 

 

 

Last Saturday was a beautiful autumn day in Grand Rapids and as a result, a huge crowd showed up for ArtPrize. Thousands upon thousands came from all over the State of Michigan and literally all over viagra natural the world. Any downtown business that was not open was very short-sighted, because most were packed well into the evening.

Source: weirdreview.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to a report entitled, The Economic Impact of ArtPrize 2011, by Anderson Economic Group, more than 322,000 people attended the free 19 day event in 2011 (its third year of existence) and spent more than $10 million (or approx. $30.50 per spectator). Another nearly $2 million was spent by organizers and the artists themselves. This does not even begin https://twitter.com/drjonesbilly to figure in the intangible benefits such as positive press, word of mouth, prestige for the city/region, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I had viagra free trial a tremendous time and saw some awe-inspiring pieces of art of every artistic genre imaginable. Thankfully, my date had a number of key locations and exhibits scouted ahead of time. My favorite was entitled “Birds” which is depicted earlier in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, did I note how cialis super active impressed I was with both downtown and frankly the entire city of Grand Rapids. There is a whole lot of economic and cultural vibe going on here. Watch out Indianapolis, Columbus, Twin Cities, and Madison, for Grand Rapids is rising fast and nipping at your heels. Very, very impressive! My kudos to the entire city and its citizens.

Rick Brown

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Filed under architecture, Art, Economic Development, Featured, Good Ideas, Urban Planning

The Rust Belt's Brain Drain Expressed in Music

Greater Lansing has an amazing music scene, but it’s seldom heard about outside a 100 mile or so radius from the state capital. Probably the best known band to hail from this area is The Verve Pipe, with its memorable #1 hit single “The Freshman.” Frontier Ruckus, The Hard Lessons, and Autumn Lull (among others) have also made a decent amount of buzz outside of their Greater Lansing roots.

Source: soundcloud.com

The Greater Lansing area alternative rock band Elliot Street Lunatic recently released their album Ghost Town Lullabies, and it’s simply superb! I cannot give it a high enough rating–it is literally off the charts for those of us who like alternative rock or indie music.

If there is any downside to the album, it is the sense the listener gets that the band feels it will eventually have to leave Mid-Michigan for the limelight and better opportunities elsewhere. This melancholy feeling is most clearly evident from some of the lyrics contained in the last two tracks, “Shine” and “Lullaby.”

Shine

“He said

That we are all out of time

As we head to the sky

So pack your bags tonight

 

And I know

That the world is slowing down

And I can tell

That everyone is lost, lost, lost, lost


And I can tell

That we will be on our own

So long

To everything you know

To everything you know.”

Lyrics by Elliot Street Lunatic

Lullaby

“And I know some day we will leave

To find a better place to call our home

And now we’re all alone…

And what if we could change it all

Would we be here watching the sun rise and fall

I thought we knew it all.”

Lyrics by Elliot Street Lunatic

As it turns out, two members of the band are already moving on. At the CD release party, it was announced that one is leaving for Denver and the other for graduate school. One can perceive the conflicted emotions that come with a move away from one’s friends and hometown roots. This contradiction is most clearly evident in the lyrics in the track “Hollow Tree.”

Hollow Tree

“You left it all behind

To start a brand new life

We could have had it all

But that’s not who we are

 

We live in a hollow tree

That doesn’t bother me

To sleep out in the cold

Is where I want to be

 

But when I hear them say

You could have been someone

I’ll never understand

Cause I know where I am.”

Lyrics by Elliot Street Lunatic

As a parent of three grown sons, all of whom may move away some day (the oldest will be moving out east this summer), these songs and this record really hit home. In Michigan and throughout much of the Rust Belt, the “brain drain” is a very real problem that continues to be difficult to overcome no matter how many cool cities, music venues, placemaking features, and great third places we create or highlight.

Despite efforts to beef up the cultural and economic vibrancy of the region, in the opening song “Ghost Town,” the band’s lyrics reflect a concern that at least some communities remain stuck in neutral.

Ghost Town

“When no one’s around to ever make a sound

When no one’s around to ever make a sound

Cause this old Ghost Town’s going nowhere.”

Lyrics by Elliot Street Lunatic

Whether the band is referring to Greater Lansing or another community doesn’t really matter. The perception among young people growing up in many parts of the Rust Belt is there are brighter lights and greater opportunities elsewhere. It may be as close by as Chicago, or as far away as the east and west coasts. Either way, it is bad news for many communities dotting the Rust Belt.

 

Elliot Street Lunatic - Source: statenews.com

Personally, I hope the two remaining original members of Elliot Street Lunatic will maintain their roots and thrive with their new bandmates here in Greater Lansing. In our digital world, geography has become virtually irrelevant when is comes to finding outstanding music like Ghost Town Lullabies.

 

Rick Brown

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Filed under Art, Brain Drain, Economic Development, Headline

The Difficulties of Consolidating Communities

Very interesting story in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal about the difficulties of consolidating local governments and local government services.

It focuses on Michigan and Governor Rick Snyder’s push to consolidate some of its many units of government (1,773 municipalities, 609 school districts, 1,071 fire departments and 608 police departments, according to the story).

Though mergers might make fiscal sense, they aren’t always popular, as the story explains:

“Over the years, consolidation proposals haven’t fared well with voters. Of the 105 referendums on city-county mergers since 1902, only 27 have passed, the most recent in 2000, when Louisville, Ky., merged into Jefferson County, according to David Rusk, a Democratic ex-mayor of Albuquerque and a proponent of consolidation. Last year, voters vetoed a merger of Memphis, Tenn., with Shelby County. In March, Memphis voters approved a merger of the city and county school systems, over strong suburban opposition. The county board of education has sued to block the merger.”

-KG

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Filed under regionalism, sprawl, Urban Planning

What’s the next Asian Carp?

For some less-than-reassuring reading, take a look at this piece in the Grand Rapids Press, which highlights some potential invasive species threats to the Great Lakes.

We’ve all heard about the threat posed by Asian carp, but there are other species that could hurt the Lakes, this article explains.

Among the 75 contenders: the northern snakehead (pictured above and subject of the movies ‘Snakehead Terror’ and ‘Frankenfish,’ according to Wikipedia), monkey goby, New Zealand mudsnail, killer shrimp, golden mussel and hydrilla, according to the Press.

-KG

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Filed under Featured, Great Lakes, regionalism, the environment

Urban Farms: Bad Idea?

Urban farming in places like Detroit (and elsewhere) has gotten a lot of good press, this blog included.

But the author of this piece, Richard Longworth says we shouldn’t necessarily be praising urban farming, but instead seeing it as a symptom of how far some cities have fallen. (We’ve written about Longworth, and his work at the Chicago Council’s Global Midwest Initiative before.) His suggestion? Better grocery options for central-city neighborhoods, including big box retailers like Wal-Mart.

Reading Longworth’s post reminded me of a speech I heard at last year’s GLUE (Great Lakes Urban Exchange) conference in Cleveland. The speaker, from the Genesee County (Flint) Landbank, said some in the urban planning community mistakenly might assume inner city residents are always enthusiastic about having an urban farm in their neighborhood. This isn’t necessarily true though, she pointed out. Some residents who migrated to Flint (or Detroit or Cleveland or wherever) came from a background of being rural sharecroppers in the South. A sizeable number of folks in the Flint community she dealt with were not enthused about farming in their neighborhoods, they wanted where they lived to feel like a city. 

What do you think?

-KG

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Filed under Featured, Green Jobs, Real Estate, sprawl, the environment, Urban Farming, Urban Planning

Lessons from Germany’s Ruhr District, Part 3

Rust Wire correspondent Ivy Hughes recently visited Germany’s Ruhr District, a northwestern part of the country recovering from the loss of jobs in of the steel and coal industry. The district includes 53 cites and more than 5.3 million residents. The region is a 2010 European Capital of Culture, an annul EU designation awarded to a city or region for the purpose of showcasing its cultural development. As such, the municipalities within the Ruhr District worked within a €62.5 million budget to create 300 projects and 2,500 events highlighting its cultural assets and efforts to reconstruct an economy devastated by the demise a prominent industrial sector. This three-part series highlights some of the structural, economic and cultural changes a region similar to the Rust Belt in terms of industrial and economic collapse is making to facilitate economic diversification. Her trip was made possible through the Ecologic Institute and sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office through the Transatlantic Climate Bridge. Here’s where to read Part One and Part Two.


Part Three: Cultivating Creativity

Rust Belt cities are rehabbing waterfronts, adding cultural centers and creating walkable and sustainable city centers to catch the eye of the creative class, a group of individuals who place greater importance on sense of place than previous generations.

Michigan’s working on this, but the 2010 European Capital of Culture designation propelled Germany’s Ruhr District to accelerate this concept by creating 5,5000 culture events in one year that attracted 10.5 million visitors.

One of the events that garnered extensive international attention was the “world’s biggest picnic.” For a day, more than 37 miles of the A40/B1, which is one of Europe’s busiest highways, was closed to all motorized traffic so residents could walk, bike, socialize and, of course, hangout on picnic benches lining the highway. The intent wasn’t to lower cholesterol or lay claim to the world’s largest picnic: It was to encourage residents to view an irritant — the highway — as catalyst for community building.

Plenty of Michigan communities are doing something similar without the backing of federal, state and local funding. In Lansing, Mich., the regional land bank, residents and artist overtook an old motel and turned it into an art project.

The Deluxe Inn was the entry point to REO Town, a part of Lansing that was cut off from regional commerce by a highway years ago. Before the demolition, Lansing graffiti artists took over the motel, turning it into a prodigious community art project that brought much needed attention to an up and coming neighborhood. Many of the graffiti panels have been preserved and will be incorporated into other city art projects. Now that the hotel’s been demolished, a funky sign designed by area artists serves as the neighborhood’s entry point, not a seedy motel.

Using art to showcase potential is one way to facilitate change, but in order to maintain peaked interest, communities must provide burgeoning cultural centers.

The Gasometer in Oberhausen, Germany is a inspiring example of using art to breathe life into a regional eyesore. Standing at more than 380 feet, the Gasometer was Europe’s largest disc-type gasholder.

It was decommissioned in 1988 and is now an exhibition space. It currently houses the “Out of this World — Wonders of the Solar System” exhibit and the world’s largest man made moon, which hangs from the main exhibit hall and is captivating in an Alice in Wonderland-like way.

The Gasometer overlooks the Emscher River, which flows past some of the region’s most impressive works of art as well the Metronom Theatre, a large shopping center, athletic pavilion, restaurants and a landscape park.

Out of this World — Wonders of the Solar System exhibit runs through 2010 and will be followed by the “Magical Places” exhibit which will showcase natural and historical wonders and replace the giant moon with a giant rain forest tree.

So far, Michigan doesn’t have a framework for this type of cultural center (the state also lacks Germany’s cooperative atmosphere and funding sources) but Michigan’s change agents operate on an unfunded, passionate, grassroots level. Germany’s approach is more top down and Michigan’s, at least at this point, is bottom up but either way, both regions are making cultural and economic shifts needed to captivate the nomadic creative class.

-Ivy Hughes




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Filed under Art, Economic Development, Good Ideas, Green Jobs, Headline, U.S. Auto Industry

Lessons from Germany’s Ruhr District, Part 2

Rust Wire correspondent Ivy Hughes recently visited Germany’s Ruhr District, a northwestern part of the country recovering from the loss of jobs in of the steel and coal industry. The district includes 53 cites and more than 5.3 million residents. The region is a 2010 European Capital of Culture, an annul EU designation awarded to a city or region for the purpose of showcasing its cultural development. As such, the municipalities within the Ruhr District worked within a €62.5 million budget to create 300 projects and 2,500 events highlighting its cultural assets and efforts to reconstruct an economy devastated by the demise a prominent industrial sector. This three-part series highlights some of the structural, economic and cultural changes a region similar to the Rust Belt in terms of industrial and economic collapse is making to facilitate economic diversification. Her trip was made possible through the Ecologic Institute and sponsored by the German Federal Foreign Office through the Transatlantic Climate Bridge. Read Part One of her series here.

Part Two: Alternating Alternative Models

Green. It’s no longer a color or even a buzzword; it’s criteria for tax credits and the genesis of a lifestyle. It’s also an industry, one aging manufacturing regions are relying on for economic recovery.

It took the desecration of Michigan’s prevailing economic driver (autos) and the Ruhr district’s (steel and coal) for the regions to recognize the impossibly of expecting one or two industries to be the economic panacea for an entire region or state. Today, both regions are diversifying economic portfolios rooted in alternative energy.

Michigan is handing incentives to alternative energy companies, persuading them to fill empty industrial facilities and hire unemployed, skilled manufacturing talent. The state has had some success, but replacing one industry with another without creating a pipeline for talent or new enterprise, could propel Michigan into a solar powered unemployment hike.

Michigan has some effective business incubators, but they lack continuity particularly as it relates to fueling the alternative energy sector. Incubator tenants have access to resources and cheap workspace but when they expand outside of the incubator, they are, in a manner of speaking, on their own.

The Science Park in Gelsenkirchen, Germany is the most comprehensive example of incubation that I’ve seen because it was developed as a cyclical, rather than a linear, business model. Everything in the park and the surrounding area   — landscape, structures, housing stock, education, talent and industry — move together. The park and Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (FhG ISE) churn talent and support business; alternative energy businesses power the park; and new companies use the park to test new products.

The Science Park sits on the former 5.4 million square foot Rheinelbe coal mine in southern Gelsenkirchen. The coal mine opened in 1929 and closed in 1984. In 1989, plans were laid to turn the area into a hotbed for alternative energy enterprise and research.

Thanks to a €44 million investment, the Science Center opened in 1995. Several energy-based companies moved into the park and in 1996, construction of what would be one of the world’s largest roof top solar fields, began on Science Center. During its 30-year life expectancy, the field is expected to prevent the emission of 4,500 tons of carbon dioxide.

The Science Park is aesthetically appealing — it looks out onto a lake and recreational space divided by a 300-meter glass lift, it’s located on contaminated industrial property, and includes a biomass park — but it works because it’s the nucleus of something much greater.

The Science Park is part of International Building Exhibition Emscher Park (IBA) Emscher Park Project, a 10-year regional plan to implement 120 alternative energy-based projects in 17 cities with a population of approximately 2 million people. The Science Park is surrounded by former industrial neighborhoods turned into solar villages; a solar power plant developed on former ore and coalbunkers; alternative energy companies; a biomass park; the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (FhG ISE) as a lab; and R&D space. It’s an alternative energy Petri dish.

Michigan is working on something similar….sort of. Renovation of the approximately 4.7 million square foot former Ford Wixom Assembly Plant is the state’s first full scale push for an alternative energy park. The three alternative companies committed to the “Ford Renewable Energy Park” — Xtreme Power, Clairvoyant Energy and Oerlikon Solar — are expected to start producing photovoltaic panels, advanced battery storage technologies and other renewable energy components by 2012.

A “regional center for jobs training and education” is planned for the complex as is some model to bring spin-offs to market, making the “Ford Renewable Energy Park” the state’s most ambitious attempt at creating a genuine alternative energy incubator. Not surprisingly, funding is an issue. The companies are waiting on additional funding for the approximately $725 million renovation.

Completion of the complex would be a huge feat for Michigan but it’s hard to imagine the Ford Renewable Energy Park impacting the Detroit Tri-Country region like the Science Park did the 17 cities included in the Emscher Park Project.

Approximately four million people live in the Detroit Tri-County area, which includes 200 cities and towns. It’s difficult to conceptualize even half of the Detroit Tri-County population (2 million people) and half of its municipalities (100) coalescing to develop a 10-year plan to foster the region’s alternative energy sector. Michigan is one of the most politically and racial divisive regions of the country and, obviously, economics is a major issue.

However, resident-driven cultural, economic, environmental and development projects are popping up all over the state and the groups pulling these projects together, are much more adept at collaboration than the spider web of Michigan’s political factions, business groups and unions.

But the state has to start somewhere and no one knows where alternative energy is headed. Michigan is assessing its assets and is taking a risk on the Ford Renewable Energy Park and for a state with one of the country’s highest unemployment rates, that’s something.

-Ivy Hughes

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