Open Letter: Millennials, Flint Needs Your Help!
Dear Millennials of Mid-Michigan we need your help. Upon returning to Michigan after 15 years living in various cities around the country (Tulsa, Toledo and Tampa Bay) I've noticed many things have changed for the better. People around every city in Genesee County are making an effort to start new small businesses, establish themselves by living & working in the communities they want to see thrive.
I see those investments as an ultimate sacrifice -- their individual or family finances/savings, well being, long hours, economic flux and heart & soul poured into their vision. All with one goal in mind: Invest in our community and provide for their own family. (I'm paraphrasing -- there's a lot more that could be said.)
Stay with me here. Over the summer (before moving back September 1st) I stayed at the new Hilton Garden Inn on Saginaw Street in Downtown Flint. When I learned a HILTON GARDEN INN opened in Downtown Flint, I said to my best friend (with me on the trip) "You know something great is happening in this community if a new 100+ room hotel is open with a great restaurant, "Sauce," and even a rooftop lounge?!" He agreed. Think about those investments -- renovating an old bank building and preserving so much character isn't cheap + everything I mentioned above. It takes partnership, risk and vision! BUT -- guess what my aunt said when I told her where I was staying? "OMG, Why would you stay in Downtown Flint, it's so bad there... homeless and crime. I really hope you'll be safe." Not kidding. I explained how much has changed, but she was still skeptical. Many people in the Flint suburbs think Downtown Flint is still the same as it was in the 1990's through 2009ish. The older generations (our parents & family & friends) are not explorers. They've been here all their lives and don't see or refuse to see any sign of progress. They don't have a VISION to build up and make-better our community.
And that "vision" is where my "ask" comes in for Millennials around Mid-Michigan (full disclosure: I'm an X-ennial) We (you and me) have seen the evolution of our hometowns & community go from decent (in much of the 1980s through early 90s) to absolute devastation after plant closures and the great recession of 2008-09. In many ways, Michigan was in a great recession for a decade or more before 2008. Now, look around!? Is it perfect, no. Perfection does NOT exist (that's Utopia and that's not real). There IS PROGRESS!
Friends, I'm asking you to take a field trip with your family & friends that are Debbie Downers about everything. Take them to Downtown Flint. Have lunch, brunch or dinner. Find a spot that looks great and go! Show them what became of the Genesee Towers property (a park & performance area). Show them the new Farmers Market. Show them ALL of the investment made by University of Michigan -- the old Durant Hotel has been completely restored and in use again (have they seen it in person??). Try the culinary experience in areas they "wouldn't dare" visit. Show them the Capitol and its renovations. Think about all the Mott Foundation has funded/granted invested in?! You get the idea.
Having lived in other cities for 15 years does give me a different perspective. During that time, I came back to visit my family & friends in Davison, Otisville, Flushing, Grand Blanc, Midland, Millington, Traverse City, etc. Only a couple of them had "vision." Only a couple of them bothered to notice the efforts people are making around our hometown(s).
You know what the most common thing people have said everywhere I lived? "I can't wait to get out of here... I hate this place." Think about that? As a newcomer to Toledo, Tampa Bay and Tulsa...I always looked at those communities, my temporary homes with fresh eyes. Toledo is a rust-belt city... it's economy and economic re-investment was diverse in culture and the businesses its council wanted to attract & sustain. Tulsa, in many ways was the same as Downtown Flint in its worst days. They've rehabbed numerous areas of the community, reinvested, diversified the businesses they attract (Big Oil, while still there, pulled out and went to Houston -- that's like our GM experience). Now it's like a mini-Nashville or mini-Austin. Then, there's Tampa Bay... I like it there (too hot most of the time lol). It's literally a place that people vacationed... snow birds, spring break, beaches, etc. And their locals, the Tampa Bay natives still said how much they couldn't wait to leave. They wanted to be anywhere else?!
So, Millennials and like-minded X-ennials, Gen-Zers (I don't like any of those terms btw haha) please, let's start getting our "Boomers" out of their comfort zone. Open their eyes to see things have changed and more can be done to make the place we call home, better.
I moved back to Michigan to be closer to my family. I missed them dearly (especially after two years of not traveling for the pandemic). I'm looking at my home (again) with fresh eyes and perspective. Flint & Genesee County's best days are ahead of it. For those that think I'm full of BS, fine. I don't care. If you have time to be a keyboard complainer on social media -- you've got time to step up and get involved! If you don't want to be productive... get out of our way & keep your mouth shut while the rest of us make life better for all (including you) with vision.
You can show your family & friends these galleries of the Capitol -- it's amazing!