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Taste of Muskegon

Taste of Muskegon
June 16th and 17th

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Dave Alexander Asks "How's Muskegon Doing?"

MUSKEGON -- 

So, just how is Muskegon doing?

A great indicator of our area’s condition can be seen in an Atlantic magazine story by American treasure James Fallows who, with his wife Deb, has traveled the United States over the past few years to see how America is doing. Their conclusion might surprise you -- that despite the negative rhetoric of the current political campaign season, when looked at from the perspective of communities like Muskegon, much of America is thriving. Read the report here

James Fallows Article













Fallows has come up with a check list of 11 characteristics that help identify successful, thriving communities. Check out the list here
11 Signs a City Will Succeed











How's Muskegon doing? A bit of a mixed bag, I would say, but overall there is plenty to be encouraged about. Here is my take on Muskegon as it relates to Fallows' community check list:












1. National politics are a distant concern.

Our local divisions don't seem to be defined by right vs. left, Blue vs. Red. And that's a good thing.
For me, this was driven home in a recent private conversation I shared with Democratic Muskegon County Board Chairman Terry Sabo and Republican County Commissioner Bob Scolnik. The talk of an important county-wide public policy was in the context not of partisan ideology, but of what was best for Muskegon County.

2. They have identifiable local "patriots."

We have plenty of patriots moving Muskegon forward. I'd begin by pointing to business leaders Larry Hines, Mike Olthoff and Chuck Johnson, but there are plenty more in elected office, the non-profit world and education.

3. They have public-private partnerships that are real.

Our best example of a public-private partnership is the new downtown Muskegon Farmers Market. And just watch what will be announced soon on the Sappi site as another great example.

4. People know the community civic story.

From fur trading, lumbering to our industrial history, Muskegon knows our past story boom to bust economic cycles. But it gets a bit fuzzy when talking about our current and future stories. The Muskegon story is still developing, which is one of the needs for the Watch Muskegon community image campaign. 



5. They have a downtown.

Yes, Muskegon has a downtown that is in transition, developing year-by-year from the old Muskegon Mall era that ended in the early 2000’s. Muskegon has irreplaceable assets such as the Muskegon Museum of Art, the Hackley and Hume homes, Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts and Hackley Library, among other historic and cultural icons. They create the foundation for a developing downtown that will include residences, restaurants, entertainment and eventually retail.

6. They are near a research university.

Well, we strike out on this one, but only Ann Arbor (University of Michigan), East Lansing (Michigan State University) and mid-town Detroit (Wayne State University) have such significant higher-educational institutions.

7. They have and care about a community college.

What is lacking in a major, research university, Muskegon has in spades with the power of Muskegon Community College. The recent voter-supported bond issue that has created a new science center, purchase of the Muskegon YMCA, current development of The Chronicle building as a downtown center and planned physical education and arts facilities on the Quarterline campus is testament to the importance and public support of MCC. 

8. They have unusual schools.
Successful communities have special, innovative schools that could be public, charter or private institutions. Outside of the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center, I think we lack in such educational showcases.

9. They make themselves open.

The seeds of opening Muskegon to diverse communities such as new immigrant groups are there, but plenty of attention and encouragement is needed. I am heartened by the quick and strong support -- and lack of opposition -- to a civil rights expansion policy at the city of Muskegon a few years back to include the LGBT community.

10. They have big plans.

We have plenty of immerging plans in Muskegon but not the overarching, county-wide plan that some might like. I would say keep an eye on the port development activities and the Muskegon Lake Vision 2020 plan as it develops. Muskegon Lake is central to our identity and future prosperity.










11. They have craft breweries.

Seriously, craft breweries and distilleries are a key, if not the most critical, indicator of a successful, thriving community, Fallows says. They show entrepreneurial spirit and a dynamic millennial population.
As for Muskegon, the success of Unruly, Pigeon Hill and Fetch breweries and the current construction of the 18th Amendment Distillery are great signs of our future success. 

So there are the 11 critical community characteristics. I would say we are weakest with our community story and educational innovation but super strong with our community college and craft beer.

What do you think, Muskegon? I'd love to hear your reactions.


4 comments:

  1. My wife Peg and I are proud graduates of Jackson Community College. She is now an adjunct at Muskegon Community College. We can't be any more supportive of local our community college and happy with its investments and expansions in Muskegon. So for me, No. 7 is so, so important!

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  2. This is all good but can we answer why, through recent years, we have lost Summer Celebration, all our Beer Tent Events and cook offs, Bike Time and many other traditional events? Why have we lost our manufacturing industry such as Sappi, Brunswick, Lift tech and many others. And why more Temp agencies are moving in to the point that no company is hiring people without the temp agencies getting a piece of a workers check? Why our LLGWalker Arena doesn't host Concerts any more? Muskegon needs Jobs then entertainment.

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  3. This is all good but can we answer why, through recent years, we have lost Summer Celebration, all our Beer Tent Events and cook offs, Bike Time and many other traditional events? Why have we lost our manufacturing industry such as Sappi, Brunswick, Lift tech and many others. And why more Temp agencies are moving in to the point that no company is hiring people without the temp agencies getting a piece of a workers check? Why our LLGWalker Arena doesn't host Concerts any more? Muskegon needs Jobs then entertainment.

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  4. Well Corey, for what it's worth, let me speak about Summer Celebration. It was a great thing while it lasted for sure, but the cost of the festival is what finally caved it, and many others like it around the country in. Band prices got too high, rental of porta johns, sound, lighting...it all adds up and you'll see that many festivals around couldn't keep it up either. Milwaukee has Summerfest, but they also have a much bigger population to draw from. Beer tents? Well, a DUI is $10k now....so.... Walker Arena is looking very hard at booking some live shows in there, they will be a welcome event and as for jobs....I agree and have been living it first hand. It's a tough job market and I think there will have to be a discussion about pay equality here in Muskegon soon. We need to attract younger, talented people and that's going to cost some. The days of the $10 an hour jobs are holding us back to a point, in more ways than one

    ReplyDelete