Thursday, April 11, 2013

What I'm Doing (Part I)

   That's really all I can write about.
   So, rather than write about what I'm doing around town for the next few days (that will be Part II), I would like to write a little about what I'm doing, right now.
   I'm writing about what I love.
   I love where I live. I love Michigan, and I love my particular current locale. I live in Clinton Township, just outside Mount Clemens and have no plans to leave the immediate area. I've moved several times in the past three decades (or so)... but never very far from where I'd been born and raised. In fact, I live less than twenty miles from that house.
   I've endured the plaintive cries about Michigan weather. So, I like variety... what can I say?
   However, I have had many a conversation with friends and former co-workers who wish they could leave the state, are planning on leaving the state, or have left the state... because of the local economy. "There's no jobs. There's no money." That's what they told me.
   So, about ten years ago, I started thinking about it. Where did the money go? Well, all I could do is take a look at where my money was going. It was really kind of obvious, but it didn't quite hit home until I heard my daughter tell a friend in a local store, "No... don't get those peanuts. Get this kind... this company is in Michigan."
   Amanda was reading the packaging for more than just nutrients and ingredients. Who knew?
   Of course, we had always bought stuff from cool local places and took pride sending gifts to out-of-state friends and family that were unique to Michigan... but, at that point, we started taking a very serious look at what was manufactured where and which businesses were based here.
   A short time later, my dayshift counterpart posted a "Buy Michigan Now" Grocery Guide in my work area. The cover proclaimed, "If every Michigan household spent just $10 more of their weekly food budget on Michigan products we would put nearly $40 million a week into our local economy! The Buy Michigan Now Grocery Guide is designed to make that easier by building awareness of Michigan brands and products."
   I didn't bother to check the math. We realized, as many of our family, friends, and co-workers did, that we could best help our state, our county, our town, community, and neighborhood by keeping as much of our spending as local as possible.
   For instance, I did almost all of my Christmas shopping in Downtown Mount Clemens, as well as a little in the immediate area. The first immediate savings was at the gasoline pump. The downtown shopping district is a mile-and-a-half from my home. That's about six round-trips per gallon in my Jeep.
   Other savings and benefits are more long term... but they are very real.
   The further I send my money out of the local area, the less of a bargain it is, in the long run. This is where I have to be a little unselfish, but for selfish reasons. The more I spend in local shops, which pay local taxes, which are run by local people, who live and spend in the local area, the more money there is to improve the community and the neighborhood.
   These people are not faceless corporations who have boards of directors who are trying to satisfy stockholders... these people are my neighbors. Their children go to schools in the area. They know me. The know what I like. Sure, I knew a couple of them before they owned businesses of their own... but I have become friends with many more of them.
   Now,  I would be a liar if I were to tell you that I shop exclusively at locally owned and operated businesses. I have to get gasoline and some groceries, too. I hit Costco once a month, and you will see me in Kroger, Meijer, Petco, and Staples. I get only what I need at these places, and try to buy products made in Michigan whenever I can.
   All of these things benefit me directly, one way or another, sooner or later.
   Sometimes, money is tight, though... and even when it isn't, I just can't eat at Seeburger's, Thai Orchid or Chantel's Jailhouse Deli, every meal of every day. I would love to buy something from Diane at Max & Ollie's once a week, or get a book and a record every time I visit Davey and Lisa at Weirdsville & Used-on-New, or buy some cool crystal from Gemini Moon, but I can't. I cannot eat chocolate every day, even though I love Champagne Chocolates and nearly every cool thing they produce. I can't buy a ticket to every show at The Box Theater.
   I love these places. I truly enjoy talking to the owners about their businesses, their families, their dreams, and just general day-to-day things. I want them to be there, whenever I can get down to see them and grab a couple of things, here and there... maybe get a bite to eat.
   So what can I do to help?
   All I can do is share their news and events on Twitter and on Facebook. I can tell people where I go and what I buy and what I eat and why I like it.
   That's why I write this blog. I hope other people, like you, will get curious about why I make the effort. Maybe you will check it out for yourself... take a friend with you... recommend it to a family member.
   Michelle Weiss once referred to me as a "cheerleader".
   My friend, Cindy, proclaimed me the "Ambassador to Mount Clemens".
   Another friend, Mike, observed that it sounds like I'm "bucking for City Councilman".
   Others have called me a "promoter".
   I'm none of those things. I don't own pom-poms, I don't have the temperament to be a diplomat, I've absolutely no political aspirations, and I don't think I could be an ad-man.
   I'm just a guy who writes about what he does.
   That's really all I can write about.