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May 22, 2013

Where’s Michigan’s Morale?

Snyder said Michiganders need to speak more positively about state — but is there anything good to say?

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

It was nearly a month ago that Gov. Rick Snyder said, in so many words, that some of our state’s biggest critics are Michiganders themselves.

“Quite often, when people come to visit people in Michigan, they would get pretty excited. They would first arrive and stay excited — until they talk to a bunch of us,” said Snyder while addressing the crowd at the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce 10th annual awards dinner in April in West Bloomfield Township.

The governor’s message that evening was that the best marketing for Michigan should come from the mouths of its residents. But it’s not always easy to speak great of the Great Lakes State when you’re shoveling snow or swerving your car to avoid potholes.

Heather Domeier, of Clarkston, admits that while she loves living in Michigan, she complains from time to time about the usual gripes, like the slow-to-rebound economy and the temperamental weather, among other things. But she said she, and so many others, have a right to rant.

“The economy sucks and we need to make a comeback eventually,” said Domeier, noting that she thinks it’s possible to improve some of the state’s issues with a little collaborative effort.

“Our communities really do know how to come together when needed — at least where I live. (At) sporting events, it doesn’t matter who you are, as long as you’re cheering for our home team, we’re all friends at that time,” she said. “I think we do complain, but for good reasons. Things need to change, but more people need to stand for change.”

Pontiac resident Lance Hillie agreed, saying that things really are only as bad as we make them seem, particularly the local economy and job market.

“I’ve lived here for 41 years and ever since I was old enough to get a job, there was one to get,” said Hillie. “For people who say there (are) no jobs, I’ve had two or more for over 10 years. You have to stop being so picky.”

Both Domeier and Hillie agree that there’s a lot to love about the Mitten State. While the weather can be finicky, both agree that it’s nice to have four different seasons to enjoy. And, Domeier added, the natural resources are arguably the best in the country for outdoor-lovers.

“Compared to Ohio, Michigan is awesome,” she said with a laugh. “I do love living within five miles of a lake.”

Celebrating what’s good about the home we share is what City Bird is all about. The Midtown Detroit retailer makes its bread and butter from selling products that promote the city of Detroit and the state, overall. From “Say Yes to Michigan!” T-shirts and pencils, to Michigan-shaped cookie-cutters, City Bird has everything you need to show off your love for the mitten.

Co-owner Emily Linn opened the shop with her brother, Andy, as a way to honor the city of Detroit, where the two were born and raised. Linn said that she’s proud she and her brother are in the business of boasting — and business is good.

“I think sometimes Michiganders feel down about the state. But we make a lot of products that celebrate Detroit and Great Lakes products, and people get excited about that,” said Linn. “I think maybe it’s a combination of two things. With younger people, there’s a lot of excitement about Rust Belt cities like Detroit. And, enthusiasm for the whole state — there’s an appreciation of all the amazing natural resources and a heightened awareness of how precious they are.”

While she knows there are plenty of naysayers, both in and outside of the state, Linn said it’s because of positive people like her customers that Michigan is poised for a major comeback.

“We have a broad range of people who buy from us. A lot of in-state people, and former Michiganders out of state who have a lot of nostalgia and want to connect to what’s going on in the city and the state currently.”

City Bird is located at 460 W. Canfield St. in Detroit. For more information, visit www.citybirddetroit.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.