Virg Bernero – Democrat for Governor

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As we approach the November elections, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Virg Bernero has three promises to make to Michigan residents. First, Bernero vows to make Michigan a more attractive place to do business. “We’re going to lay out the red carpet instead of the red tape for business,” says Bernero, adding, “We’re going to put Michigan back to work.”

Bernero points to his experience as Lansing Mayor as evidence that he knows what it takes to create jobs. He says, “My city has the second-lowest unemployment rate in the state by region. We’re getting results here. We’ve got half a-billion dollars in new investment, 6,000 new jobs. We’ve reduced bureaucracy by twenty percent. You know, I’ve had to cut my budgets. I’ve had to make tough decisions here in Lansing.”

As to how he’ll be able to expand his ideas from the city to the state level, Bernero says he’ll apply much of what he’s learned as mayor to his job as governor. He explains, “We’re going to have to do more with less in state government. We’re going to have to be very creative, very inventive in terms of economic development at the state level.”

Bernero also stresses the importance of transparency in government, saying, “We have to measure everything we’re doing. In Lansing, I’ve implemented a program called Lansing Stat. For the state I’ll call it MI Stat, where we’re going to put everything online. We’re going to have complete transparency. We’re going to measure outcomes for what state government does so that we get more bang for the buck.”

Mr. Bernero’s second promise to Michigan is that he will build, grow, and buy Michigan. “In Lansing,” says Bernero, “we have this policy that we buy Lansing first. If we can get the product or service in Lansing then that’s what we do. And so we’re going to do that in the state of Michigan.” Bernero says that the state will only look to hire contractors from outside the state if none can be found in Michigan.

“We need to invest in ourselves,” says Bernero, adding, “We’ve got a billion dollars invested in J.P. Morgan Chase that’s not doing a thing for us. That’s taxpayer dollars. It’s sitting there.” Bernero plans to take that billion dollars and place it in Michigan community banks and credit unions in order to provide small businesses with access to capital.

Bernero’s third promise to Michigan is to focus on education. He says, “Education is economic development,” adding, “The next big thing is sitting in the mind of child in a classroom somewhere in Michigan.” In order for that next big thing to become a reality in Michigan, Bernero says, “We need to make sure that every child has a great, quality public education no matter where they are in Michigan.”

Regarding why he chose to make the promises he did, Bernero credits his wife, a long-time educator, with helping him understand the importance of education. As to the economic promises, Bernero says, “I’ve learned the hard way: as a mayor on the front lines.”

Bernero says, “Investing in yourself, buying Michigan, investing Michigan, growing the economy, and then investing in education – I think those all go together. And if we do those three things and do them well, then I believe that Michigan will be on the path to health and prosperity. I really do.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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Bill Schuette – Republican for Attorney General

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Mr. Schuette begins by promising to strengthen public safety in Michigan. While he acknowledges that the Attorney General has influence over many aspects of society, Schuette says there is no responsibility of the Attorney General more crucial than ensuring public safety. Therefore, Mr. Schuette is promising the residents of Michigan that he will stop the early-release of prisoners from Michigan prisons, halt the closing of prisons in the state, and put an end to cuts in law enforcement. “When you cut cops, when you close prisons, and release dangerous criminals early, you endanger the safety of Michigan families,” says Schuette.

As to how he plans on ending these cost-saving budget cuts while Michigan is facing such tight budget constraints, Schuette says the answer is efficiency. In addition to trying to find more competitive bids for prison construction and management, Schuette wants to learn from other states. He says, “We ought to look at what other states do to keep their costs down. Ohio spends 26,000 dollars per-year on prisoners. We spend 38,000 dollars per-year per-prisoner. We need to get it right, and that means a new team and new leadership to make the tough choices.”

Bill Schuette’s second promise to the state of Michigan is to defend the Constitution of the United States. “The entire government needs to go on a diet,” says Schuette, adding, “Part of that is we need to fight the national healthcare legislation, this Obamacare legislation.”

Calling the new healthcare legislation a “massive government intrusion of big spending,” Schuette argues that the healthcare law violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

For his final promise to Michigan, Bill Schuette vows that he would protect families as Attorney General. Specifically, Schuette focuses on the task of collecting delinquent child-support payments for struggling single-parent families. Promising to continue the practices of current Attorney General, Mike Cox, Schuette says he will work hard to collect child support from delinquent parents. “There’s nothing more fundamental than helping a family and kids who have maybe no other paychecks coming to their home,” says Schuette.

As to the overall importance of his promises to Michigan citizens, Schuette stresses the need for public safety, saying, “You can never have complete economic recovery in our state if we don’t have security in our streets and neighborhoods and schools.”

Regarding his desire to fight against the new healthcare legislation, Schuette adds, “I think people have had it and are fed up with big-spending, big-government programs.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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David Leyton – Democrat for Attorney General

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Democratic candidate for Attorney General, David Leyton, puts reform at the top of his list of promises to the citizens of Michigan. Leyton has a five-point reform plan aimed at rebuilding trust between ordinary citizens and the state government.

Mr. Leyton’s five points of reform include creating a public corruption division, giving up ten percent of his paycheck, stopping the lifetime healthcare benefits received by legislators, stopping the revolving door between legislating and lobbying, and increasing government transparency.

Of his proposed public corruption division, Leyton says, “I’m a prosecutor now. I’ve done public corruption cases. I’m the only prosecutor seeking the office and public corruption will not be tolerated under my administration.”

In terms of ending the lifetime healthcare benefits received by legislators and other elected officials, Leyton says, “This is a real important one… Taxpayers are funding that, it’s a large cost, and it’s wrong.”

By cracking down on the ease with which many legislators become lobbyists, Leyton hopes to make Michigan the strictest state in the nation when it comes to the ability of elected officials to become lobbyists when they leave office. “So many legislators serve a few years and walk out that revolving door and five minutes later they’re back lobbying the very same colleagues they just left,” says Leyton. Specifically, Leyton is proposing a ban that would force former legislators to wait two years before they were able to become lobbyists.

Leyton also wants all elected officials to make their income taxes and their assets public every year. Leyton says it’s vital that citizens “know who we’re really working for. Are we working for them? Or are we working for special interest?”

Mr. Leyton’s second promise to citizens is to improve public safety. “I’m the only prosecutor in the race,” says Leyton, adding, “I’ve handled 20,000 criminal cases in the last five and a-half years as the Genesee County Prosecuting Attorney… My opponent has never been a prosecutor, never tried a case.”

David Leyton’s final promise to Michigan is that, as Attorney General, he will be the lawyer for the people of the state. Rather than defending corporations or big banks, Leyton vows, “I think the special interests have enough lawyers and lobbyists. The people need a lawyer, and that’s me.”

Mr. Leyton explains why he chose to make the promises he did by saying, “Clearly Lansing doesn’t work and the government needs to be reformed. I’ve heard that all over the state… I come down as an independent, but tough and fair, prosecutor who’s independent enough and tough enough to make the changes that are needed.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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Ruth Johnson – Republican for Secretary of State

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Ruth Johnson, the Republican candidate for Michigan’s Secretary of State, wants Michigan residents to know three things she will do if elected. First, Ms. Johnson vows to cut government spending while still providing the best services possible.

Johnson points to government waste and fraud as places where the state could save money through reform. Referring to her cost-cutting experience while Oakland County Clerk, Johnson says, “We have cut twenty percent of our staff and over a million dollars.” Johnson also supports the idea of having multi-year budgets to avoid last-minute budget shortages.

In addition, Ms. Johnson hopes to save money and provide more services by utilizing the potential of both the public and private sectors. Also, by making more services available online, Johnson says, “We can really reduce the number of people that need to go to the Secretary of State’s office.” Using her time in Oakland County as evidence, she says, “We’ve tripled our online services,” adding, “That makes it easier, more convenient, and drives down the costs.”

For her second promise to Michigan citizens, Ms. Johnson keeps her focus on getting rid of government waste and fraud. In particular, Johnson promises to consolidate elections and crack down on election fraud. On the potential savings to be found in election consolidation, Johnson says, “Here in Oakland County we were able to get twenty-three school districts to piggyback on other races, and that alone has saved tax-payers 600,000 dollars.”

As an example of the type of election fraud Ms. Johnson will look to punish more harshly, she says, “Right now we have the fake Tea Party that was trying to go in place for no other reason than to deceive voters. That kind of stuff just can’t be tolerated… I’d start an election crimes unit to make sure that we don’t have any of these things happen.”

Ms. Johnson sticks to the importance of reform for her third promise, vowing to use her small-business background to cut spending. As to her experience as a reformer while working as Oakland County Clerk, Johnson says, “We’ve done that through innovation, cost-cutting, and we’ve received national awards for customer service, transparency, and voter integrity.”

Regarding the overall importance of her three promises to Michigan, Ms. Johnson says she wants to be a part of Michigan’s comeback. “We have to have integrity in our elections so that we do have democracy,” says Johnson, adding, “It’s so important to Michigan’s future.”

As a life-long, fourth-generation resident of Michigan, Ruth Johnson hopes to help create an atmosphere that will keep future generations in the state. On the importance of making it easier and more convenient to do business with the Secretary of State, Johnson says, “That helps not only job-providers, but also struggling families in the state… I think it will resurrect Michigan.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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Jocelyn Benson – Democrat for Secretary of State

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The Democratic candidate for Michigan’s Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, has three promises she wants to make to Michigan residents. Benson, a law professor at Wayne State University, begins by promising that, if elected, she will work on the side of the citizens and not on the side of special interests or corporations. Regarding the ability of corporations to fund political ads and campaigns, Benson promises that she will “require that they disclose any money that they spend to influence our elections so that we report that to our citizens and they can see who’s supporting who.”

On the larger issue of transparency, Benson says, “Transparency and disclosure in the government is key to making sure citizens maintain control of the purse strings and see how their money’s being spent and how money is influencing the votes of their elected officials.”

Ms. Benson’s second promise to the residents of Michigan is to fight deception and fraud in the voting process. Citing her experience both practicing and teaching election and campaign finance law, Benson promises that she is “committed to ensuring that I stand in the way of anyone who is trying to deceive a voter about their right to vote.”

In terms of how she will prevent fraud and deception if elected, Benson points to her efforts in 2008 to dispel rumors that those with a house in foreclosure would be barred from voting in Macomb and Oakland Counties. Benson adds, “I will also investigate any allegations of fraud or deception in the initiative process or in the voting process because the right to vote is fundamental and we must protect it at all costs.”

For her third promise to Michigan, Jocelyn Benson vows to improve the customer service provided by the Secretary of State. In addition to saving money by cutting costs at the Secretary of State, Benson wants to save time for Michigan residents. “Secretary of State branch offices sometimes require a long wait time. We’re going to create an appointments process so that you can literally plan ahead, make an appointment, and skip waiting in line,” says Benson.

Benson also promises that the Secretary of State would offer multi-year license plates in order to both save time for citizens and save on administrative costs. “It’s just reforming how we administer the agency,” adds Benson.

Regarding why she thinks her three promises are important for Michigan, Benson cites recent problems with state elections as well as national worries over campaign finance given the newly granted right of corporations to fund political advertising. On the importance of transparency, Benson says, “As an attorney and someone who’s worked on policy-making on the national level and on the state level, I want to ensure that we have a campaign finance system that is updated to reflect this new era of campaign finance law.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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Heather Mooney

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Today we continue our Three Things series with guest Heather Mooney, a foreclosure prevention officer in Washtenaw County. To start, Ms. Mooney urges residents to find out what’s available in their community in terms of financial and psychological assistance. “All of us have experienced ups and downs,” says Mooney, adding that it’s important to be open to resources that are available to help citizens through difficult times.

While Mooney says it’s important for people to feel comfortable seeking out and utilizing services and programs that are meant to help them, Mooney also has a suggestion for people who don’t currently need assistance. “For those individuals that may not have to use them so heavily, consider contributions back to those agencies,” says Mooney, “especially places of faith or places that support the intangibles that are critical for all of us as we move forward in these challenging times.”

For her second idea, Ms. Mooney wants to remind Michiganders to be patient. Working to prevent foreclosures, Mooney has learned the importance of having patience. “In order to do a loan modification, the banks move pretty slow,” says Mooney, “and it usually takes six to nine months, at a minimum, to get an answer when seeking assistance.”

In addition to the necessity of patience when it comes to dealing with banks and foreclosures, Ms. Mooney says patience helps in other ways, too. “Patience is also an antidote to anger,” says Mooney, “So I think as a community we really need to focus on that.” Mooney adds that the camaraderie and brotherhood we need in order to successfully emerge from the current economic recession will require that we be patient with one another.

Ms. Mooney’s final idea is to pay more attention to education in the state. Since a high school diploma is insufficient for most well-paying jobs today, Mooney says it’s more important than ever to get students successfully through high school and onto other forms of education. “The bachelor’s degree is often becoming the new high school diploma,” says Mooney, adding that we need to “strengthen our basic elementary school systems so that it is easily obtainable to get everyone to get their high school diplomas.”

Beyond high school, Mooney thinks it’s also important for students to have a wide array of opportunities to further their education. If we can get more students to graduate high school and move on to trade schools or four-year universities, Mooney says we will “really build our educational, intellectual, scholarly base to create innovation for jobs, combating the brain drain that we often see here.” She adds that making all education institutions more accessible “will be a huge key component in reconfiguring and adjusting to this new normal that we’re seeing today in Michigan.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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Molly MacDonald

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Our Three Things series continues this week with guest Molly MacDonald. Ms. MacDonald is the founder of the Pink Fund, a non-profit based in Beverly Hills, Michigan. The Pink Fund helps men and women with daily expenses in the difficult weeks and months following a breast cancer diagnosis. Ms. MacDonald is also a breast cancer survivor.

For her first idea, Ms. MacDonald urges Michiganders to have hope and stay focused on the present. Drawing from her experience of being unemployed following her cancer diagnosis, MacDonald says hope is important to keep you grounded in the present moment. “I feel like hopelessness lives in the future,” says MacDonald, “Next week, next month, next year, will I have a job? Will I have food? Will I have a place to live? These things seem to work themselves out, and I think if everybody can just stay in the present and have hope for that day, that they will find the next day will take care of itself.”

As to how hope can help Michigan, MacDonald says, “When people lose hope, they give up. And we have a great state here. We have so many resources and there are so many things that are beginning to happen that I see turning things around. And I think we just have to engage in a positive attitude. Having hope really delivers the future for people.”

For her second idea, Ms. MacDonald wants to encourage residents to seek out and utilize the resources that are available to them. “There are so many ways that people can have their needs met,” says MacDonald, “I strongly recommend that if people are having cash-flow issues that they utilize the local food banks. That helps them reserve their cash for other things.”

It’s not difficult to find these resources either, says MacDonald. Most can be found online. “For instance, with the Pink Fund, if you need financial aid for breast cancer, if you were to Google ‘financial aid breast cancer,’ we’re going to come up,” says MacDonald, adding, “If you don’t have a computer at home, go to a public library.”

For her final idea, Ms. MacDonald asks the residents of Michigan to save their money. She says, when you’re struggling financially, it’s important to determine what you need money for and what you can get for free. “We ended up at the food bank because we needed to conserve our cash,” says MacDonald, “I needed to drive to treatment. In Michigan we don’t have a great public transit system here so often people need cash for gas to get to work, to get to treatment.”

If you are willing to take a hard look at your expenses, says MacDonald, there are simple ways to conserve. “We started cutting our own hair,” says MacDonald, “We groomed the dog. We got rid of a car. We held garage sales to be able to pay our utility bills. So, if you look around, you’re going to be able to see how you really can conserve some of your financial resources for things that you absolutely need cash to purchase.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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Clay Ebert and Patrick Schaller

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Today, we hear from Clay Ebert and Patrick Schaller, co-founders of the independent music label Fox On a Hill.

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Clay Ebert and Patrick Schaller, co-founders of the independent record label Fox On a Hill, offer their three ideas regarding ways to help the state of Michigan. Firstly, Schaller urges people to utilize and take advantage of local entertainment, art, and events. Schaller says, “Some people have said that the keys to a strong state are economic growth, commerce, and job creation, and this all starts locally.”

Mr. Schaller points to an increase in music and arts events planned and hosted by small-town coffee shops and galleries as examples of locally produced entertainment that foster a sense of community, culture, and the sharing of ideas. Speaking specifically about Freshwaters Studio in Boyne City, Michigan, Mr. Schaller explains, “It’s a small place. People perform. They always pack the place, have a great time, and then it causes people to spill over into the local restaurants and pubs.”

In addition to taking advantage of local attractions, the founders of Fox On a Hill suggest that Michiganders be aware of their personal environmental impact. From simple things such as recycling and not using harmful fertilizers to encouraging the use of environmentally-friendly CD packaging, Clay Ebert points to The Great Lakes as a reason for all Michigan residents to protect their own backyards from environmental damage.

As an example of Fox On a Hill’s commitment to helping protect Michigan’s environment, Mr. Ebert explains, “Fox On a Hill has worked with Earthwork Music on Yellow Dog, by Greg Brown, which is a benefit CD that protects the Yellow Dog River from Sulfide mining.” Mr. Schaller adds that there are many music festivals around the state that promote environmental awareness.

For their third suggestion for improving the state of Michigan, Ebert and Schaller call for equal rights for all Michigan residents. Speaking specifically about the gay and lesbian citizens of Michigan, Schaller states, “Right now, not all residents are equal.” Mr. Schaller points to statistics showing that gay and lesbians make up roughly thirty to forty percent of Michigan’s populous. He adds, “Gays and lesbians are everyone’s neighbors. They represent billions of dollars of spending. And many of them are living in hiding. I think, to support a strong state, you have to support all your people.”

Referring to the inability of gay and lesbian citizens to get married under state law, Schaller goes on to say, “Clay and I are actually a gay couple, and it’s really difficult when I can’t give equal rights to him.” He adds, “I’d say human rights is {sic} a huge issue in this state, but it’s unfortunately being ignored.”

Viewing the issue of gay marriage from an economic standpoint, Ebert argues, “With gay rights, it’s not just an issue of equality, it’s an issue of opening up marriage in the state of Michigan, which would increase billions in spending from Michigan residents and from tourists. That’s revenue that’s sorely needed in the state right now, and we’re missing out.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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Susan Beckett

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Every Monday morning, Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition host Christina Shockley asks people from across the state about their ideas for what we can all do to improve life in Michigan. Today, we hear from Susan Beckett, founder of Groundcover News.

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Based in Washtenaw County, Groundcover News is a community newspaper written and sold by the homeless. This week, founder of Groundcover News, Susan Beckett offers her three things that the people of Michigan can do to help the state. Beckett begins by urging Michigan residents to give serious consideration to the concerns of their fellow citizens. She explains, “We should listen to each others’ {sic} true concerns like we’d listen to those of our children, taking them seriously even if, at first blush, we think they’re silly or obviously wrong.”

Ms. Beckett goes on to give an example of dealing with her own son and working to understand his last-minute concerns regarding a Halloween costume. “My three-year-old son was bound and determined to trick-or-treat as a ballerina one year, after my sister had gone through the trouble of making him the cowboy costume he had asked for,” she says. After discussing the issue with her son, Beckett came to understand that all he really wanted was the ballerina’s wand. Beckett continues, “Well, that was an easy problem to solve. We put the wand in his holster. The costume was better than we could have ever originally envisioned it, and everyone was happy.”

Susan Beckett suggests that we could apply this type of compassionate listening to larger concerns around the state. She explains, “If you put that kind of sincere engagement into the public sphere, it’ll help moderate some of the crippling situations like legislative gridlock, bullying, the not-in-my-backyard syndrome. So, the key is listening for our commonality rather than labeling differences.”

Ms. Beckett’s second suggestion for the state of Michigan is for all residents to recognize and encourage the individual strengths of those around them rather than focusing on their weaknesses. She offers an example of what she means, saying, “So, with this change in approach, when you’re standing in line, instead of seeing someone berate a cashier for being slow, you’d hear them appreciate how carefully the groceries are being arranged to avoid bruising the delicate items.”

For her third idea to help the state, Ms. Beckett calls for help for the economically disenfranchised. Beckett says that while many people are only temporarily out of work right now, others are not so fortunate. She goes on, “They’re no longer a carpenter or a sales manager. They’re now defined by what they lack, perhaps as homeless, or chronically jobless. They need some coaxing and some scaffolding to get back up and try again. And that was part of why we started Groundcover News.”

As to how her three ideas would help the state of Michigan, Susan Beckett points to the ineffectiveness of the Michigan State Government and the need for elected representatives to work together to help the citizens of Michigan. While she acknowledges the importance of Lansing in turning Michigan around, Ms. Beckett also calls on individuals to take action on their own. She explains, “The government can create an environment in which ideas can succeed. It’s up to individuals to actually take the initiative and make them happen. Sometimes you have to be the one to implement your good idea.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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Kevin Budelmann

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Michigan Radio host Christina Shockley talks with Kevin Budelmann, president of People Design in Grand Rapids, about his suggestions for what the people of Michigan can do to help the state.

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This week, President of People Design in Grand Rapids, Kevin Budelmann offers up his three ideas to help change Michigan. Each of Mr. Budelmann’s three things focuses on reframing specific problems or concepts in the state. First, he begins by suggesting that the people of Michigan should reframe the idea of change in their minds. While acknowledging that change can be uncomfortable or intimidating, Budelmann asserts that it is also essential for growth and evolution. He argues, “Adapting to change is really a kind of cultural currency. It’s really the new norm, and I believe that Michigan should be a change state.”

In regards to how reframing the idea of change can help Michigan on an individual level, Mr. Budelmann explains, “I think that everything from a national level all the way down to a local level and what happens in neighborhoods and community organizing has everything to with being able to adapt to new realities.”

Secondly, Budelmann calls for Michigan to reframe education and the way we think about what education means. He says, “I think that the idea of education should be something that is life-long.” He offers a holistic view of education, suggesting that we should be “removing some of the traditional boundaries, whether it’s school and work, right brain and left brain, science and art. If we believe in our future, Michigan should strive to be an education leader.”

In addition to reframing our ideas about change and education, Kevin Budelmann urges us to reframe our ideas about geography. He explains, “We could do better to reframe the way we think about the Midwest… A lot of people live in the Midwest, and we have a lot of unique characteristics about our geography and our landscape.”

In terms of how reframing our sense of the Midwest would benefit the region, Budelmann argues, “I think that we should, increasingly, in this globalized economy, think about the region as a single entity, in a sense.” Rather than competition amongst Midwestern industries, Budelmann suggests that Midwestern businesses compete in a more global market. He says it’s important for the Midwest to “see geography as an important brand characteristic, in a sense, and be able to see our values for what we really can contribute instead of whatever preconceptions may exist.”

- By Eliot Johnson

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About “Three Things”

Throughout 2010, Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley asked artists, politicians, business owners, teachers, and people from all walks of life to give us their three ideas for things each of us can do to revive our state.

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