The Southern Growth Policies Board, established in 1971 and still going strong, is dedicated to "strengthening the South's economy and creating the highest possible quality of life" in the region. That means not only attracting employers, but boosting education and attacking poverty. The Step Up Savannah program, described in our editorial that begins on the front of today's "On Point" section, is the kind of success you can get as an outgrowth of this kind of thinking.
The private, nonprofit board includes representatives of the Carolinas, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia and West Virginia, plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Membership support comes from business, nonprofit and educational institutions throughout the region.
This sort of alliance was among the ideas being advanced last week during an unprecedented gathering of business leaders from throughout the Great Lakes region at The Henry Ford in Dearborn. Part of the concept was for the participants to take regional thinking back to their political people with an eye on convincing election candidates to endorse economic polices that will benefit the region.
That's all well and good, but why not start a little self-help effort in the meantime?
I suggest that the "little self-help effort" is already in play thanks to the Great Lakes Urban Exchange (GLUE). Not to sell short the creative energies of Sarah Szurpicki and Abby Wilson, but the support from high-profile organizations such as Brookings is generating palpable interest in building a mega-regional network and joining the cause:
Late last year, [the GLUE co-founders] got a temporary Web site up and running and have drawn funding and help from some heavy hitters. One, the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution of Washington, D.C., is in the midst of a years-long effort to promote state and federal policy changes to cure the ills of the Great Lakes region.
Michigan organizations quickly saw the possibilities of a network of people in their 20s and 30s, urban innovators working together and sharing ideas. Our state's financial supporters include the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, The Ford Motor Co. Fund, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, DTE Energy and others.
Do you see that, Tri-Cities? Flint and its Mott Foundation have joined the Great Lakes Urban Exchange. So has Detroit. And Lansing.
Let's join them.
The above editorial also mentions the Rust Belt Bloggers Network, so our humble project is also receiving some notice. Occasionally, the right people come together at the right time and do something special. Already, a number of promising initiatives are on the table. We need to start moving on at least a few of them and create a few avenues of action for the people who get involved.