Monday, July 16, 2007

Trouble in Paradise

This weekend we went up to Houghton Lake (right hand -- locate spot on upper palm right under middle finger) to go to a large arts-and-crafts store there, and just to sightsee) -- in many ways the experience was similar to our trip to downtown Detroit. There were dozens and dozens of boarded-up, out-of-businesses stores; countless "For Sale" signs in residential areas. Several of the still-extant stores were holding going-out-of-business sales. Once popular, if kitschy, "up north" recreational venues -- putt-putt golf courses, miniature midways, go-cart tracks and such -- were either closed or devoid of customers.

Houghton Lake was always a popular blue-collar resort area. If you lived in southeastern Michigan and worked for the Big Three, you could afford a weekend cottage there; with any luck you could one day retire there.

I fear that those days are gone forever.

I'm really not sure that people from other states understand how badly our state is hurting. And evidently neither do our legislators, many of whom seem to spend most of their time shilling for social-morality legislation safeguarding "traditional marriage" and Ten Commandments statuary while our economy continues to swirl the drain, and our residents continue to flee. A recent poll showed that most new college graduates intend to leave Michigan.

It's a sad state of affairs.

9 comments:

Jody said...

Northern Minnesota looks, informally, to have survived better. Even some of the very old-style worn-down tourism activities are hanging on, although they're being replaced by indoor water parks (??) and other more modern "amenities."

To my mind, this is unquestionably because of the far greater economic health of its major metropolitan feeder area. I can't imagine any of the northern tourism areas continuing to thrive if, for some reason, the Twin Cities lost its economic base as the Detroit metro area has lost its own.

I'm sorry Michigan is having such a hard time of it. For the life of me, I don't know how we expect our national economy to survive if all manufacturing and blue-collar work leaves the country.

P.S. an after-thought said...

I didn't realize that there would be such a difference in the two states, yours and mine. There has been an upswing in this state of higher end vacation properties, in fact, an overbuilding of condos in some areas, so now there are lots of for sale signs. There has been a downturn in some manufacturing. A Ford truck plant just closed.

Speaking as an "up north" resident, I've thought that the upscale building and upscale summer residents are an unwelcome trend because they don't seem to contribute to the "community" as much as the regular people who used to make this their summer home. Plus that up, up, up trend causes the property taxes for all of us to rise.

But the school census of all the surrounding school districts has dropped drastically, so we do wonder about the future health of the whole area.

toujoursdan said...

I am also sad to see Michigan going the way it has. Living in Ontario, right next door, we just don't have that kind of blight.

It's hard to believe that the American car industry will ever come back to the prominence it used to have. Are there any signs that Detroit can reinvent itself or is it too far gone?

David said...

Dan is right, the only way for the Detroit area, and the rest of Michigan to revive its self is to re-invent. The big 3 need to face the fact that global economy means global competition in the auto market. Until that happens, there will continue to be for sale signs and closed signs abounding.

Sad to see that happen to my home state.

Tom in Ontario said...

It's a sad state of affairs.

And Dan has a point. You can't wish or hope that "the Big Three" and other manufacturers are suddenly going to be employing oodles of people the way they once were.

We just weren't forward-thinking enough to forsee this. Some are going to have to go through a big mind change, as Dan puts it a "reinvention" to change things.

I'm a sometime golfer and ofttime golf magazine reader and know that north-central Michigan is something of a three-season golf mecca. It's a small thing but people might just have to come around to a different way of doing things. The way they've always done things isn't working anymore.

LutheranChik said...

The city of Detroit seems to want to put its economic eggs in the gaming basket -- there are, like, three new casinos in town and a new one being built. But to go to a casino you have to have...um...money. And that's not even getting into the social consequences of having that much gaming activity going on in a city.

We're a state with so many resources...when I see the artisan food companies and wineries up in the Grand Traverse/Leelanau area, for instance, it excites me -- we could do so much more with this.

But both business and government here seem absolutely clueless. I heard, for instance, that our state tourism board spends most of its money in-state. How stupid is this? And our vineyards are prohibited, by law, from opening their own restaurants and serving their own wine in the restaurants...it's some ridiculous old law on the books that our legislators -- who are right on top of any kind of legislation "protecting marriage" or promoting public displays of the Ten Commandments -- can't seem to get around to changing. There's a controversy about letting our wineries engage in mail-order sales because some state legislators are afraid that underage drinkers might order cases of wine. Yeah...that'll happen...some college frat boy looking for a sprightly semi-dry Riesling for the next house toga party. I mean, that's the mentality. We have a legislator who's in a marriage arranged by his fundamentalist pastor.

When I was in junior high we took a trip to our Capitol. I remember being all excited by this peek into the halls of power...when we got there, during discussion of some bill or other, the chambers were half empty, and one representative was actually sleeping, snorking there with her head on her desk. My cynicism in our state government was, I think, born that day. I don't think it's gotten any better.

toujoursdan said...

The problem with gaming is that it doesn't produce anything nor does it create many middle class jobs. Even in Vegas, the casino jobs tend to be lower middle class or working class positions with high turnover. Vegas' middle class is employed in other industries and even then, the wage scale is lower than other similar sunbelt cities like Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta or Houston. Vegas' used to be a destination city for people who couldn't afford California but they have been priced out of the market by retirees from the east. Putting Detroit's eggs in that basket is a bad move IMHO.

LutheranChik said...

Tom, I'm just learning -- JUST learning how to hold the club, putt, etc. -- golf; I will try to do my best to be a part of our state's renaissance!

LutheranChik said...

One cheery bit of news today: There are plans -- and I think this is a for-sure -- to turn the old Total oil refinery in Alma, whose passing created some real economic hardship in that part of the state, into an alternative energy research park. That's some needed good news. That and Dow building a big new plant in the Saginaw Valley area. But the upper half of the state needs economic development badly; and like I say, no one seems to know how to do it. The lack of initiative, by both business and government, in promoting Michigan to out-of-state and international tourists is breathtakingly stupid. In my humble opinion, of course.