It is always a privilege to be published in some great publications back in Michigan. This week, the Holland Sentinel published my article about my reflections on my trip back to Michigan last week.
I have always believed that this crazy journey to China would lead me back to Michigan someday…and do not believe that I’m alone.
You can read the full text of the article in the Holland Sentinel by clicking here, or read below:
A Global Journey Back to Pure Michigan
Last week, my family and I gathered in beautiful South Haven to celebrate the 60th wedding anniversary of my grandparents, Neil and Phyllis Redford. It truly was a once in a lifetime occasion. As families get older, and kids grow up and move away, these special moments become more profound and important.
Soon after graduating from Michigan State University, I moved to Beijing, China. I often proudly remark to my colleagues here that I am from the most beautiful state in America. During my time in South Haven, I was reminded by just how true that really is. The life of a 25 year old doing international business in one of the world’s most dynamic cities is certainly exciting, but there is no comparison to the comfort and joy I felt walking the streets of South Haven and swimming in the pure waters of Lake Michigan. After living two years in disgusting, polluted Beijing, it was overwhelmingly refreshing to daily breath in the fresh air.
Even more inspiring than the climate were the people. The beaches were lined with parents and kids taking in the sunshine, making sand castles and doing all the “good stuff” that young families do. In town, the streets were filled with dad’s carrying their daughters on their backs, and little boys trying to eat ice cream cones bigger than their heads.
These are the moments and the memories I carry with me back to China. Pure Michigan is a dream that I am working towards; a dream to live out my life raising a family in a beautiful place with fantastic people, just like my grandparents.
Since leaving Michigan, I’ve come to understand that this dream is indeed a monumental challenge, not just for me, but also for the state of Michigan. There is a lot of darkness behind all of the sunshine I’ve just described. With many high profile problems, such as the recent Detroit bankruptcy, we know that despite all of the beauty, many people across our state are hurting.
In the midst of all of this, young people like me are leaving the state in droves. In March, one of the hot discussion topics of Governor Snyder’s Economic Summit was how to reverse the brain drain of many Michigan college grads that ship out to places like Chicago and New York every year.
Amy Cell, who serves as Vice President of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for Talent Enhancement, has been doing a great job building programs to aid young people to build their careers within the state of Michigan. These efforts will ultimately be successful, and may be even more effective than the numbers suggest. Michigan is an attractive place for many young people – just maybe not right now. We live in a globally interconnected economy. Many of us are just on a journey to figure out what is out there. During this journey, we are building global networks and accessing global resources that eventually we will bring right back to where we were headed all along – Pure Michigan. All we need is a few years to spread our wings.
I could not have asked for a more vivid example of how this works than one evening I had at a restaurant in Sawgutuck. As three generations of my family gathered for dinner with grandma and grandpa, I noticed that sitting behind us was a table with some Chinese guests. I went over to talk with them, and it turned out that they were from Guangzhou and were meeting with their Holland-based partner, AlSentis, to discuss a business deal. We exchanged cards and I plan on meeting them the next time I go to Guangzhou.
I believe that Michigan’s best days are still ahead. With beautiful, friendly cities like South Haven and Sawgutuck, it will continue to be a place that offers a quality life that young Michiganders gravitate to and will eventually return to after our exploring. This is the formula for a purer, more global Michigan.