Monday, September 30, 2013

Best of the Net 9/23-9/29

Grand Rapids Is Gaining Jobs

CareerBuilder and its subsidiary, Economic Modeling Specialists International, rank the Grand Rapids metro area as the second best metro area in the country for per-capita job growth according to the Grand Rapids Business Journal. The Career Builder study measured job growth since 2010 in the 100 largest metro areas in the U.S. With 513 new jobs per 10,000 people, Grand Rapids trails only Salt Lake City for the most new jobs per-capita.

The study found job increases in various industries in Grand Rapids, including a 16% increase in hospital jobs and "increases in various manufacturing segments such as plastics product (up 35%), motor vehicle parts (up 33%), metalworking machinery (up 30%) and office furniture (up 12%)."

Teach A Kid To Fish, Or Run a Food Business

Hiring a young person to work in a restaurant may teach him or her valuable lessons about hard work, but the Detroit Food Academy has loftier goals for Detroit's high school students. The Academy teaches students about food systems, cooking and food entrepreneurship. The year-round curriculum provides hands on training and concludes with the students launching their own food businesses. The program's mission is:

"To use hands-on experiential learning and real-world application to activate young Detroiters as critical thinkers, conscious consumers, life-long learners, values-based leaders, and community activists."

Michipreneur reports that the program started with students from one Detroit high school and is now operating out of four high schools. The academy's practical approach to food entrepreneurship is not a purely academic endeavor; it also has led to jobs for several students.

Breaking Good In Battle Creek

Breaking Bad aired its final episode last night, but Michigan will be the center of Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan's newest project. The Battle Creek Enquirer and multiple media outlets are reporting that Gilligan has created a police drama set in Battle Creek. The new cop show will air during the 2014-15 season on CBS with a guaranteed thirteen episodes.

Gilligan developed the idea for a show called "Battle Creek" several years ago, and now CBS has picked it up after seeing the overwhelming success of AMC's Breaking Bad. Kalamazoo's WWMT Newschannel 3 reports that film crews will begin begin shooting in Battle Creek next month, but it is unclear at this time how much of the filming will occur in Michigan.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Live from Michigan...It's Saturday Night!

The view from Studio 8H
If you tune into NBC sometime shortly after 11:30 on Saturday night, you will hear Mike O'Brien's name announced as a Saturday Night Live cast member. O'Brien, who grew up in Blissfield and is a University of Michigan alumnus, joins the cast after serving as an SNL writer for the last several years. He also hosts the hilarious internet series 7 Minutes in Heaven, for which he won a Webby Award.

Although he is not a household name yet, O'Brien has gone where few men and women have gone before. As former SNL cast member Jay Mohr explained to the New York Times:
The odds of getting on “Saturday Night Live” are zero. You could go to astronaut school, and you can learn how to get in a rocket and go to the moon, but there’s no “getting a stand-up on ‘Saturday Night Live’ ” school.
Jay Mohr’s analogy is statistically accurate. In the 55 years of the space program, approximately 320 Americans have suited up as astronauts, but only 139 people have made the cast of SNL during its 39 year run (and do not forget that many of those cast members were Canadians). On average, NASA accepts 5.8 astronauts per year, while SNL only accepts only 3.6 cast members per year. 

Maybe the lack of a "getting a stand-up on SNL school" is why Michigan follows the national trend of producing more astronauts than SNL cast members. Since NASA began sending people into outer space, eleven of its astronauts were born in Michigan and another five studied at the University of Michigan. In contrast, Michigan has only produced five SNL cast members: Gilda Radner, A. Whitney Brown, Tim Meadows, Tim Robinson and Mike O'Brien (David Spade supposedly was born in Birmingham, but his family moved when he was young).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Best of the Net 9/16-9/22

Penguins Marching To Detroit

The Detroit Zoo already offers the largest polar bear exhibit in North America, and now it is looking towards the South Pole for an even bigger exhibit. On Wednesday, the zoo announced it that it will be building a $21 million dollar penguin center. 80 penguins from four different species will live in the 24,000 square foot building. The exhibit will be called the Polk Family Conversation Center in honor of Bloomfield Hills' Stephen Polk's $10 million dollar gift to the zoo.

The center will feature 310,000 gallons of water for the penguins to play in. Human visitors will be able to walk through a series of tunnels while penguins swim next to, above and below them. The zoo hopes to open the center in 2015. Until then, watch this virtual walk-through from the Detroit News and imagine how breathtaking the penguin center will be.

The U.P. Is Diversifying Its Economy But Is Still A Tourist Hotspot

The U.P.'s economy has revolved around mining, lumber and tourism for decades, but residents are making efforts to diversify its economy. The Lansing State Journal reports that the U.P. is expanding its small-manufacturing, high-tech business and fish farming efforts. Through a strategy known as “economic gardening,” U.P. business and government leaders are trying find businesses that are able to export ideas and products to both national and international markets by expanding high-tech research and design efforts. Although the U.P. will still be a destination for those seeking natural beauty, these economic efforts illustrate that the U.P. is forward-thinking.

Even with attempts to diversify its economy, the U.P. will not fix something that is not broken. The tourism industry is still strong and is growing stronger. The Lansing State Journal reports that tourism accounts for ten percent of U.P. jobs and that a three percent increase in tourism jobs is expected by 2017.

Detroit Is A Lean Mean Green Machine

Inspired by John Gallagher's book "Reimagining Detroit," filmmaker Carrie LeZotte has directed a documentary focusing on citizens who are making Detroit and other cities into more sustainable communities. This Detroit Unspun story highlights how LeZotte, like all Detroiters, was tired of the national narrative of a broken Detroit and its urban decay. Instead of accepting that narrative, LeZotte's film Lean, Mean and Green focuses on Detroiters and grassroots heroes in Youngstown, Ohio, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and two European cities who have confronting the same challenges Detroit faces.

The film premiers September 25 at 7:00 p.m. at the Detroit Film Theatre. For a trailer, please visit the link above. If you are interested in supporting the film financially, please visit their Kickstarter page here.

New Jobs In Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. recently announced that three businesses will receive grants to help them open facilities in Michigan and bring more than 250 jobs to the state. ADAC Automotive is a Grand Rapids based automotive products supplier that will expand its operations in Muskegon, bringing 97 new jobs to the city.

Firstronic LLC, which manufactures circuit boards, chose to install high tech automation in a Grand Rapids manufacturing plant. The $2.2 million investment will bring up to 121 jobs to the region.

Ann Arbor expects 32 new jobs from Longbow Advantage Inc., a Montreal-based supply chain software development company. The company chose Ann Arbor over a site in Illinois.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Michigan: Always Rolling forward

My wife was a Navy brat and grew up mostly on the East and West Coasts, but luckily for me, my father-in-law was briefly stationed at Selfridge Air National Guard base during the early 1990s. She ended up spending her last three years of high school at Mt. Clemens High and then ended up enrolling at the University of Michigan, where I met her.

Until I went to college and met people like my wife who had not spent their whole lives in Michigan, I did not realize how many things that I took for granted as "normal," such as Michigan lefts, Devil’s Night and Sweetest Day, were uncommon or nonexistent outside of Michigan.

My favorite story of my in-laws' introduction to Michigan life involves their first dinner they had in their new state. After a tiring day of moving into their new home on base, they went out to eat and asked the waitress what drinks the restaurant had. The waitress rattled off the usual Coke or Pepsi products and then Vernors. My in-laws, having never heard of Vernors, asked what it was, and the waitress, with a befuddled look on her face, said, "It's Vernors." My perplexed in-laws asked again and only to get the same reply: "It's Vernors." After several rounds of this, someone finally asked if it was like Coke or 7-Up. The waitress, probably still in shock that my in-laws did not know what Vernors was, explained, "It's kind of like ginger ale." My mother-in-law tried it and has been a Vernors devotee ever since.

I sometimes like to explain to others that one of the things I love about Michigan (besides Vernors) compared to the DC area is the more laid back and slower way of life. However, the slower way of life does not apply to driving. Visitors and new Michiganders must adjust to the "rolling forward" that Michigan drivers do at red lights. Despite my wife's insistence that she did not see this in the other states she lived in, I did not believe this was a Michigan thing until I moved to the East Coast and came back for a visit.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Best of the Net 9/9-9/15

What??? Detroit Isn't Just A Jobless Wasteland???

Looking for a job? Want to live in a metro area with a low cost of living that you will not get in San Francisco, New York or DC? Well, I've got the perfect place for you...a little town called Detroit that has named one of the top ten metro areas for recent college grads:
The good news is that Rustbelt metros like Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland appear to have turned the corner. These metros have a lot to offer highly educated recent grads: affordable housing, a low cost of living, authentic neighborhoods, and revitalizing cores, as well as a relatively high level of job openings for in fast-growing highly-educated fields. Metros many young and educated twenty-somethings have largely written off deserve a closer look from those seeking work in today's recovering but still tough job market.
Detroit might be 312 years old and may have been through some rough times, but it's rebounding like Dennis Rodman before he moved to Chicago and started hanging out with Korean dictators.

Exported From Michigan

Exported from Michigan is a full length documentary focusing on the ways Michiganders are using education, local economy and big business ideas to improve quality of life within the state. The documentary also aims to combat the national narrative of a hopeless Michigan by highlighting Michiganders who are creating solutions to their economic woes that other hard hit areas of the country can emulate.

The documentary is 75% completed and is seeking funding through a kickstarter campaign. Both the film's website and the kickstarter site contain trailers for the documentary that show the film's high production quality. If you would like to help fund the final 25% of the project, click here.

Detroit Bike City

The Motor City is becoming a cyclists' city through the efforts of local bike enthusiasts. Organizations such as Bike Detroit and Tour de Troit are promoting biking as an alternative way to commute and also are encouraging bicycle safety and the increase in greenways in Detroit.

Bike Detroit conducts rides through the city once or twice per week from March through October. Tour de Troit sponsors the largest cycling event in the city, the Tour de Troit Ride, and several other events throughout the year. This year's Tour de Troit is this Saturday, September 21. The event that interests me most, however, is Tour de Troit's Paczki Run through Hamtramck on Fat Tuesday. Paczki and beer for finishers! Where do I sign up?

Beards Brewery Believes It's Best is conducting a search for the Best Brewery in Michigan. MLive's John Gonzalez will visit 38 breweries throughout the state (tough job, but someone has to do it). In a preview of Gonzalez's tour, MLive writer Fritz Klug featured Petoskey's Beards Brewery.

Beards has a creative approach to the brewery business model. It is not a brewpub because they do not make their own food on site. Instead, customers are encouraged to bring their own food from other local businesses to enjoy while sipping Beards' brews. Customers can also bring in games, books and vinyl records that the brewery will play on an actual record player. Sounds like a must visit for any beer lover's trip to Petoskey.

Detroit Revitalizing Its Riverfront

When I was growing up in Metro Detroit in the 1980s, I remember being underwhelmed by Detroit's riverfront. Now, I am happy to see that there has been a significant transformation that has made the riverfront more pedestrian friendly. The positive changes along the river are primarily the result of efforts by the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, the city's partnership with Kresge and General Motors.

This article details many of the conservancy's achievements along the water and contains a photo gallery highlighting the beautiful areas along the river.

The Rapid Transit System Is Grand

Michigan is a car state and might not be known for its public transit systems, but Grand Rapids has a transit system that is second to none. For the second time in ten years, the American Public Transportation Association named their transit system, The Rapid, as the Outstanding Mid-Sized Transportation System in the United States.

The Rapid provided 11.9 million rides in 2012, setting a record for the Grand Rapids metro area. The Rapid beat out 76 other midsized transit systems nationwide for the award.

Co-working And Working Out In Detroit

If you are looking to start up a business in Detroit, consider Bamboo Detroit. Bamboo provides office space in a collaborative environment to entrepreneurs. Bamboo operates out of the old Mannequin Building near Greektown on Brush Street. The low-cost office space allows entrepreneurs to focus on their ideas without worrying too much about paying rent. The monthly membership fee is a mere $99 per month.

After a long day working at Bamboo Detroit, these entrepreneurs will soon be able to head to Anytime Fitness in Downtown Detroit. Curbed confirms that the 24 hour fitness chain will be moving into the Security Trusts Lofts building with a scheduled opening of New Year's Day (perfect timing for those resolutions).

Lansing's Grand River Plant Celebrates One Millionth Car

Michigan may be building bike paths and mass transit systems, but it still builds cars. The Lansing State Journal reports Lansing's Grand River plant is going to build its one-millionth Cadillac today after opening just twelve years ago. The plant is an example of Michigan's ability to survive tough times, particularly GM's bankruptcy in 2009. Even though the workforce was reduced, the plant's workers kept building cars and weathered the bankruptcy storm. Now, the plant is rolling out a newly remodeled Cadillac CTS and soon will begin building the Chevrolet Camaro sports car.

Detroit's Delicious Deals

Mark your calendars. From October 10 through 16, thirteen Detroit bars and restaurants will be offering some of their finest food and drinks at excellent prices. Dine Drink Detroit is a cheaper alternative to Detroit's Restaurant Week (although that sounds wonderful too and runs from September 20-29).

No reservations are necessary at the establishments participating in Dine Drink Detroit. The event's website breaks down the restaurants into different categories so wine lovers, meat eaters and sports fans will know where to go to fill their needs.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Top 25 Male Athletes From Michigan

Who are the best athletes of all-time who grew up in Michigan? That is a tough question with many possible answers. This list takes into consideration an athlete's stats, election to halls of fame, MVP awards, championships, all-star teams selections, winning percentages, success in multiple sports, etc.

This list does not include professional or college athletes that grew up somewhere else but then became famous in Michigan (Sorry, Tom Harmon, Ty Cobb, Gordie Howe and many others). Being born in Michigan was not enough to make the list either if an athlete spent his formative years somewhere else (Sorry, Sugar Ray Robinson). However, being born in another state did not disqualify an athlete if he grew up or went to high school in the Great Lakes State.

Limiting this list to 25 athletes was a challenge. I never like to snub a fellow Michigander, so to those greats that missed the cut, I apologize.

25. CHET "THE JET" WALKER (Benton Harbor)

There have been some great basketball players from Michigan, and Mr. Walker deserves to have his name mentioned with them. Walker grew up in Benton Harbor and led Benton Harbor High School to the 1958 Michigan High School Basketball Championship Game where his Tigers lost to future Hall of Famer Dave DeBusschere’s Detroit Austin Catholic team by 3 points despite Walker’s 25 points.

Chet “the Jet” went on to Bradley University where he led the team to the 1960 NIT championship and was a two-time first team All American. He left Bradley as the school’s all-time leading scorer. 

He played 13 seasons in the NBA, making 7 All Star teams. Walker, along with Wilt Chamberlain, led the Philadelphia 76ers to the 1967 NBA championship. During his NBA career, Walker averaged 18.2 points per game and finished with 18,831 career points. In 2012, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. 

24. HARRY KIPKE (Lansing)

File:Harry Kipke from 1948 Michiganensian.jpg

In an era when many of the best college football players ignored pro football to pursue better careers, Harry Kipke hung up his football cleats after graduating from the University of Michigan and began coaching. In fact, Harry Kipke is the only man to serve as head football coach of both Michigan State and Michigan.

Before he became a head coach, Kipke was an amazing multi-sport athlete at Michigan, earning a total of nine varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball. He excelled in football as a halfback and punter and was an All-American in his senior season. During his senior campaign, he served as team captain and led his team to an undefeated season and national championship.

He later coached Michigan to two more national championships and became a regent of the university. 

23. RICK LEACH (Flint)

Rick Leach was an All-State athlete in basketball, baseball and football at Flint Southwestern High in the 1970s. Leach then went to Ann Arbor to play for Bo Schembechler and was talented enough to convince stubborn and traditionalist Bo to start him at quarterback as a freshman. Leach started all four years at Michigan, finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1978, and earned All-American honors.

Leach also convinced Bo to let him play baseball for the Wolverines. As a baseball player, he also earned All-American and All-Big Ten honors and won the Big Ten batting championship in 1978.

Despite his gridiron success, he chose baseball when it came time to pursue a professional career. His baseball career never took off, but he did manage to stay in the majors for ten years and even batted .309 in 110 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1986.

Despite not having a hall of fame professional career, he did best the legendary Joe Montana and Notre Dame in 1978:

22. HAZEN "KIKI" CUYLER (Harrisville)

Kiki Cuyler was one of the great hitters of 1920s and 1930s. He only played in one All Star game, but he probably would have played in many more if the All Star game existed during the first thirteen years of his career. He played an important role in his only World Series Championship with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1925. He batted .357 that year and led the league with 144 runs.

He batted above .300 ten times in his career and over .350 four times. Cuyler led the league in stolen bases four times. His career batting average of .321 is the 49th best career average in Major League history. Cuyler was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968. 

21. RON KRAMER (East Detroit)

Ron Kramer was born in Kansas, but his family moved to Michigan when he was five. He ended up at the University of Michigan where he earned a total of nine varsity letters, three each in track, basketball and football. He was a high jumper for the track team and the captain and career scoring leader for the basketball team, but football was his true talent. As an end for the football team, he was a consensus All-American in 1955 and 1956.

The Green Bay Packers drafted him fourth overall in 1957. Kramer played ten seasons with Green Bay and the Detroit Lions. He was the member of two NFL champion teams with the Packers, and scored two touchdowns in the 1961 NFL championship game. He also was first team All Pro in 1962.

Kramer is a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame. 


Offensive lineman is the least glamorous but perhaps most important position on offense. Quarterbacks, running backs and receivers get all the acclaim, but they would not be able to do anything without the time and space that offensive linemen create for them. Joe DeLamielleure created plenty of time and space at Michigan State and in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns.

At Michigan State he was a two-time first team All-Big Ten lineman and was an All-American his senior season. With the Bills, DeLamielleure paved the way for O.J. Simpson's 2000 yard season in 1973, and was named to the Pro Bowl six times (only two other guards have made more Pro Bowls since 1970). In 1975, the NFL Players Association named him offensive lineman of the year.

DeLamielleure was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and was named to the Hall's All-Decade Team for the 1970s. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Summers in the U.P. Part II: Same state, but a different world

My first pike. Just kidding. I'm not that old (Photo by Wystan)
There was one television in our cabin with a built-in antenna that picked up a lot of static but very few stations. Other than a radio that could receive local stations and Ernie Harwell calling Tigers games on WJR from Detroit, we were cut off from the outside world. No handheld video games. No internet. No smartphones.

When we needed civilization, we might take a quick car ride to the bakery in Hessel for some amazing donuts or to the Red Owl grocery store. My dad also would load all of us into our rented boat and take us to the Bon Air shop in Cedarville where we would eat ice cream and I would supply myself with comic books and candy. 

Other than these brief flirtations with civilization, my siblings and I were forced to entertain ourselves by fishing, swimming, water skiing, catching crayfish near the dock, taking a rowboat out into the marshes, running through the woods and playing hide and seek while swimming under the docks. At night we would eat the fish we caught during the day, pop some Jiffy Pop on the stove, and play card games, or we would have a bonfire and roast marshmallows and hotdogs.

Before I was old enough to waterski or fish for pike, the most thrilling moment was when my dad would steer our boat through a channel that he called Danger Pass. As we approached Danger Pass, sometimes he would let me steer. I never understood why it was dangerous, but the name alone caused me to grasp the wheel with such force that my knuckles turned white. I do not know if my dad drove slowly because of wake restrictions or to make the ride more dramatic, but I always was on the lookout for crocodiles, swamp monsters, pirates and unknown threats that I was too afraid to imagine. Even when I was too old to be scared of Danger Pass, I would still ask my dad to let me slowly pilot the boat to safety, knowing that he enjoyed these moments as much as, if not more than, I did.

I never have loved fishing as much as I did in the U.P. My earliest memories of fishing were at private dock we called Doc Diamond's. I still am not sure if we had permission to use this property, but my dad would take us across the bay and tie our boat to Doc Diamond’s dock. 

The dock had a boathouse attached with several windows that let sunbeams pierce the dark water inside. We would fish from the dock, but my favorite spot was inside the boathouse. The rock bass inside the boathouse were the easiest prey for a young fisherman. The sunbeams coming through the windows acted as spotlights on the schools of tiny rock bass swimming below the surface. My dad would hook a worm onto a line connected to an old bamboo fishing pole, and I would watch the fish swimming in the sunbeam until I found the one I desired. I then would drop the worm in front of the fish and watch it quickly latch onto the hook. In one swift motion, I would yank the poor fish up onto the dock, proudly displaying my catch to my parents and siblings.

When I was old enough, I was allowed to go on the early morning pike-fishing excursions with my parents. I thought trolling for pike in the cool early morning mist was boring, until the first pike hit my line and the struggle to reel in the fish began. The first time I caught a pike, I did not believe a fish could fight that hard. The rock bass at Doc Diamond's should have been ashamed by the ease in which they were caught. This pike was not going to surrender that quickly. I felt that for every inch I took, the pike took two. That first pike was testing my will, but after our game of tug-o-war was over, I proudly pulled the pike into the boat. Even though I have not done any serious fishing in years, I still treasure the one year that I had the honor of pulling in the biggest fish of our summer trip, a 38-inch pike. My parents and brothers caught bigger pike over the years, but that summer will always be mine.

It has been years since I have been to the U.P. I miss driving over the Mackinac Bridge, the cool waters of Lake Huron, and the tree-shrouded shorelines of the Les Cheneaux Islands. I hear the Bon Air is gone, and I’m sure most rental houses and cabins have cable or satellite television now, but the woods are still there. The water is still there. 

(Photo by abarndweller)
[To read part I of Summers in the U.P., click here]

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Best of the Net 9/2-9/8

Purely Awesome

The Pure Michigan ads always bring a smile to my face when they air in D.C. It's comforting to experience 30 seconds of Michigan while living 500 miles from home.

Besides the nostalgic effect, I have always enjoyed the writing and production quality of the ads as well, so it's no surprise that they have continued to earn recognition from the U.S. Travel Association and National Council of State Tourism Directors. The ads recently received two more Mercury Awards for Best State Tourism Television Advertising and Best State Tourism Radio Advertising.

Since the campaign's launch in 2006, it has garnered 17 Mercury Awards. Here's a recent one for Detroit:

The Pure Campaign also has launched a fall campaign to run statewide and regionally. The campaign will feature billboards and television and radio ads and will run through October 1.

All That Jazz In Motown

Detroit has always been a music town, and the Detroit Jazz Festival not only celebrates Detroit's love of music, but also a spirit of rebirth within the city.

This MLive report shows how the festival's success is a harbinger of greater things for Detroit. Writer Mike Stratton sums it up well:
And as this past Labor Day weekend illustrated, there are signs of renewal. A swanky stretch along Woodward, luxury condos over swishy storefronts and restaurants, young couples dotting the sidewalks. Stuff you didn’t see a couple of years ago. Not to mention the corporate backing for the festival.
Even the fountain in Hart Plaza, which had quit working due to vandalism and metal scrappers, was fixed in time for the festival. These things are more than just symbols...
Jazz is alive and well. Detroit is coming back. She may be bankrupt, but she isn’t broken. Her people are not broken. Her culture is not broken. Detroit’s spirit isn’t broken.
Although the 2013 Jazz Festival is over, I encourage anyone who loves music and a sense of hope to attend the 2014 festival...better yet, visit Detroit before then and do do some of the things on this list (except for #2 Complain about the Lions...they are 1-0 after all. Restore the Roar).

Grand News For Grand Rapids

Rockford Construction Company has chosen Grand Rapids for its headquarters and will be moving into its $4.7-million dollar building on Tuesday. They also used green construction techniques to keep the building environmentally friendly (and also will save the company money on heating and cooling).

According to the Grand Rapids Business Journal, all of Rockford's 225 employees will be stationed in the building, and they expect to increase their workforce by five percent in the next two years.

Michigan Adds Another Wine Country

Michigan vineyards are producing award-winning wines and even draw out of state tourists who want an alternative to Napa or Sonoma. Despite the success of some northern vineyards, most people still do not think of Southeast Michigan as a wine destination.

A few entrepreneurs are trying to change that by bringing a wine trail to Macomb, Oakland, Sanilac, Huron, Saginaw St. Clair, and Lapeer counties. A total of sixteen wineries plan to be part of the trail. The trail will be broken into five loops so that wine enthusiasts will be able to visit wineries in close proximity to each other.

The Best Lakes State

Michigan is the only state that borders four of the five Great Lakes, and Michigan's 3,288 mile shoreline is the second longest shoreline in the country, after Alaska. We Michiganders take pride in our lakes.

This Huffington Post article highlights the beauty and wonder of the Great Lakes through some amazing photos. Although some of the pictures are from other states and Canada, that is okay. Just as Stephen in Braveheart claims that all of Ireland is his island, we Michiganders know that each of the Great Lakes, even Ontario, is our lake.

If you want to see these natural wonders in person, take a visit to Michigan, or bring your business to the Great Lakes State. After all, when on Michigan soil, you are never more than 85 miles from a Great Lake.

For more Michigan beauty, check out these Pure Michigan Fan Photos from August.

Creativity In Detroit

Hour Detroit profiled nine Detroit area artists, musicians and craftspeople who are rebuilding Detroit as a center of creativity at the same time many entrepreneurs are revitalizing Detroit's economy.

The artists include Shakespeare in Detroit, a furniture maker, and a former IT professional who makes handcrafted motorcycles.

How You Like Them Apples?

A lot of focus in the media is on urban renewal in Michigan cities. However, Michigan still is a great agriculture state that produces many excellent crops including cherries, corn and apples. In fact, Michigan is the third largest apple-producing state behind only Washington and New York.

2013 was a very good year for Michigan apple growers after a tough year in 2012 when a late freeze destroyed much of the crop. Michigan is expected to harvest 30 million bushels of apples this year, which would be a huge boost to Michigan's economy.

Michigan's apple harvest is in full swing. Take a trip to an orchard or your favorite cider mill and celebrate a good year for Michigan apple growers.

Pontiac: Growing Stronger

Detroit is not the only city in Southeast Michigan that is making strides to rebuild from urban blight. Pontiac, once the home to the Detroit Lions, is using its prime asset, Woodward Avenue, to bring people and business back to its downtown.

New restaurants are moving in, and small businesses are taking advantage of cheap rent. One of the more ambitious projects is a lawn tennis club with 24 grass courts.

The Motor City...This Is What We Do

The Detroit auto industry reported increased sales for the month of August. They are also doing well on the stock market.

Eminem might not be able to give a coherent interview during a football game, but I swear his Chrysler Imported from Detroit Super Bowl commercial from a couple years back has everything to do with the increased auto sales for the Big Three. That commercial is still the BEST COMMERCIAL EVER.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Summers in the U.P. Part I: Crossing the Mighty Mackinac Bridge

I grew up in Metro Detroit during the 1980s, and my childhood was very suburban. My parents would take me and my siblings into Detroit for a few Tigers games each year. The Red Wings were the Dead Wings until the late 80s, so I do not remember catching a game at the Joe until I was in my teens. We went to occasional Pistons and Lions games, but the Pistons were in Pontiac and then Auburn Hills, and the Lions had yet to move back to Detroit.

I loved my childhood in Metro Detroit. I had woods to play in and swimming pools and sports to keep me occupied, but I longed for adventure. Until I reached high school, my only opportunities for adventure were our trips to visit my grandma’s house in rural Pennsylvania and our annual summer trip to the Les Cheneaux Islands in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or U.P.

I remember the drive to the U.P. being boring, until we got close to Mackinaw City when my dad would offer a cash reward to the first person to spy the Mackinac Bridge's 552-foot-tall towers in the distance. My three older siblings and I always vied be the first to see the bridge, but I, being the youngest by several years, never won this contest until my older siblings lost interest in winning. However, win or lose, the majesty of those towers looming on the horizon always inspired awe within me.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Taste of Michigan on the East Coast

With the summer drawing to a close, I recently made sure to stock up on Bell's Oberon at a local supermarket in Virginia before it disappears until the spring. I love that I can experience my favorite summer beer while living 500 miles away from the Michigan state line. Every sip of Oberon reminds me of summers in Michigan, where the days are warm, the nights (usually) are not stifling hot like they are in Virginia, and the daylight lasts seemingly forever.

Oberon on the dock in St. Michaels, MD and Kilwin's in Annapolis

When I first moved to the East Coast fifteen years ago, I was saddened by the prospect of losing access to Bell's beer, Sanders candy, Detroit-style pizzas (yes, this is a real thing, although I just called it "pizza" growing up) and my favorite restaurants in Detroit and Ann Arbor. Yes, I make infrequent trips back to Michigan, but those trips only raise the unfortunate fact that, despite how hard I try, I cannot possibly eat and drink everything I desire during my visits home.

Although it is impossible to find real pączki before Lent or anything that comes close to approximating a Detroit Coney Dog in DC, the DC area luckily does recognize Michigan's great craft brewing scene. Within the last five years, both Bell's and Founders have established a strong presence on the East Coast. Their beers are sold at most local supermarkets and are on tap at many Northern Virginia and DC restaurants.

I go out of my way to purchase a six pack of Bells Oberon or Founders Breakfast Stout when they are in season, and love seeing Bell's Two Hearted on tap at many of my favorite restaurants. Sometimes, the hardest decision I have to make when dining out is which Michigan beer to order. Just this weekend, I tried Founders Red's Rye PA for the first time and my only disappointment was the realization that it took me too long to discover this beer.

Sadly, other than the beer and Kellogg's cereals, I do not have many other opportunities to sample Michigan's culinary delights in the DC area (if I am missing something, please let me know). When we take our occasional day trip to Annapolis, MD, we always choose the Kilwin's ice cream shop over its many competitors. We do not choose Kilwin's solely because it is a  Michigan-based company. It is also damn good and the smell of the waffle cones is intoxicating as you walk up Main Street.

I would love to see more Michigan made food and beverages sold on the east coast. There are enough Michigan transplants out here to support a few more "imports" from the Great Lakes State...I could really go for some Germack Pistachios or Better Made potato chips right now.

Until then, I will gladly pick up some Founders and Bell's. As the leaves begin to change color and fall to the ground and the Oberon disappears from the shelf and my fridge, I will take solace in the fact that Bell's Best Brown and Founders Breakfast Stout will soon appear in Oberon's place.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Best of the Net: 8/26-9/1

Hollywood, the Detroit of the West

Michigan got some good news this week when the producers of the "Batman vs. Superman" announced that they will be filming in Detroit. Before you complain about Ben Affleck playing Batman, watch "Argo" or "The Town." Affleck can act. Michigan should welcome Affleck and the cast and crew of the the "Man of Steel" sequel. Per the Detroit News:

“Detroit is a great example of a quintessential American city, and I know it will make the perfect backdrop for our movie,” director Zack Snyder said in a statement. “Detroit and the entire state of Michigan have been fantastic collaborators, and we are looking forward to working together on this film.”
More than 400 Michigan workers will be hired for the production. The cast and crew will shop in Michigan stores and eat at Michigan restaurants, and they might go on television and praise Detroit like Mark Wahlberg recently did.

Hatching a New Batch in Detroit

Hatch Detroit announced Batch Brewing Co. as the winner of its 2013 startup business contest. Batch will receive $50,000 to help with start up costs and will open in Corktown at 1444 Michigan Avenue in 2014.

Batch Brewing Co. will be Detroit's first nanobrewery. The brewery will have six to eight beers on tap and will have both a rooftop and an outdoor patio on Michigan Avenue.

Hatch Detroit is an annual contest that was created to help spur new business in Detroit.

Take a Drive Along M-22

Even if your knowledge of Michigan is limited to Pure Michigan ads, you will know that Michigan is home to some picturesque sights. With 3,126 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, it is no surprise that Michigan is home to one of the "Five Awesome American Roads to Drive in a Ragtop This Labor Day" according to Aol Autos.

Writer Pete Bigelow describes Michigan's M-22 along Lake Michigan:
Starting on the north end in Traverse City, the curvy route showcases quiet lakes, cozy vacation towns and the sand dunes, all while following Lake Michigan's shoreline south. Much like our first selection of U.S. 1 in the Florida Keys, this route in northern Michigan also traverses some classic Hemingway country.
Even if you missed out on M-22 this Labor Day, try to get up there sometime soon to check out this beautiful American road.

Not the Deadliest Catches, But the Best

Michigan's Official Travel and Tourism Blog released this wonderful infographic about fishing in the Great Lakes State. It lists many facts about the excellent fishing to be had in Michigan. For example, Michigan's 153 species of fish makes Michigan's lakes the home to the most diverse fishery in the United States.

Although the summer is over and winter will be here soon enough, plan a fishing trip in Michigan next summer. If you are brave enough, the graphic also gives information about ice fishing in Michigan.

Food meet Truck

MLive reports that eight food trucks received grants from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The winning trucks represent many areas of the state, Pontiac, Southfield, Traverse City, East Lansing, Kalamazoo, Flint and Marquette. Each truck will receive $10,000 in grants, except for the Dia Los Tacos from Marquette, which will receive $7,775.

Detroiters are Zoolanders 

The Detroit Zoo has topped one-million visitors for the eighth consecutive year, and they managed to do this before September.

The Zoo continues to improve its exhibits, and has the largest polar bear exhibit in North America. Take a visit to the Zoo this fall, maybe for the Zoo Boo events in October or the return of the Wild Lights display during the holidays. For more info, visit the Detroit Zoo website here.

Destination Michigan

Michigan's tourism industry is booming. The Detroit News reports that areas such as Traverse City, Mackinac Island and Southeast Michigan have all seen improved tourism numbers this year.

Just because the colder months are coming does not mean Michigan tourism will be dead for the remainder of the year. As the News article states, Michigan is a four-season destination and offers harvest festivals and beer gardens in the fall and winter sports throughout the colder months.

A Fair to Remember

Although the original State Fair folded a few years back, Fifth Third Bank is attempting a revival. This Labor Day Weekend the State Fair returned for its second year. The fair is staged in Novi, not on the original State Fairgrounds, but it does offer many of the old attractions that the original fair offered, plus a beer garden.

The original Michigan State Fair was the longest running state fair in the United States. Hopefully, this fair will return in 2014 and for many years after.

Bus Company Makes All the Right Turns

This Detroit News Story is just cool. Andy Didorosi of the Detroit Bus Company is trying to improve Detroit's transit woes one bus at a time, but he also is making time to help school kids find ways to after school programs that they normally would not be able to attend due to lack of transportation.
With spotty public transportation and parents who might not be able to drive them, "Some kids rode their bikes or walked in the dark, but the vast majority of kids just didn't attend the programs. They just didn't go."

To change that picture Didorosi threw out the rule book on traditional transport that had each program -- 90 of them -- providing its own buses or vans. DBC purged the redundancy and developed a website,, where program organizers and parents could give input on the routes and schedule they needed. Then DBC used the data to meet those needs.
This program started as a six-month pilot program but is slated to continue when school starts up this fall.

Michigan Art Museums Survive

There has been a lot of press involving the Detroit Institute of Arts and whether the city should auction of its works. However, this article from MLive points out that Michigan cities besides Detroit have art museums.

The article highlights the increased attendance at the DIA as well as the many programs available at art museums in Flint, Kalamazoo, Muskegon and East Lansing.