May 27 01:39 AM

Governor-elect Snyder; let's invest in the outdoors

Don't overlook the outdoor community when attempting to reinvent Michigan...

December 29, 2010
Governor-Elect Rick Snyder wants to reinvent Michigan. Like most in our state, he knows we can no longer count on the auto industry alone. So he's looking to be creative in producing new jobs.

Of course he is correct.

Snyder promises to bring a business approach to government, to hold our elected officials accountable and responsible for the direction our state will and should take.

"We can't fix it, we need to reinvent Michigan," Snyder has said.

Well, time will tell.

The Governor-elect has a 10-point plan of reform for challenges this state faces. The plan calls for creating jobs, reforming our tax system, fixing our broken government, creating an environment that will keep our youth in Michigan, restore cities and control urban growth, enhance our image, reform our educational system, reform health care, develop a positive culture and protect our environment.

All points well taken, all obvious and needed changes, yet it's hard not to be cautiously optimistic at best. Can we really turn it all around?

Our once powerful automobile industry, which provided our state with good paying jobs, will most likely never return. Or at least never be what it once was. Although the "Big Three" are recovering and that's promising and encouraging.

In the reinvention process of Michigan let's not overlook what already surrounds us. And simply put - it's water. Lots and lots of fresh water. We have an abundance of what every one else in this country and world wants....water!

According to experts they say we are on the cusp of a fresh water crisis. The Great Lakes accounts for 20% of the world's fresh water.

Water is everything! It provides a powerful base for energy, essential for food production, and just about every other source of basic need for all of mankind. Not to mention the recreational opportunities it provides. And people will and have paid to simply look at water, to be surrounded by it, to swim in, to fish and to boat on in the past. Michigan's fresh water value to the rest of the world just can't be calculated in dollars and cents.

I'm confident our state leaders know this, and it is listed in Governor-elect Snyder's 10-point plan. It states, "As a native Michigander, Rick knows that Michigan's awe inspiring lakes, landscapes and natural resources are some of its most valuable assets. Rick has served on the Nature Conservancy and believes that protecting the environment and growing the economy can be done simultaneously. Michigan needs to be a leader in the innovative movement towards alternative and cleaner energy."

Snyder went on to say, "I believe that the state must encourage and support tourism, create a culture of entrepreneurship, and protect and improve the quality of life for its citizens."

In the process of reinventing our state, let's be mindful of what we already have. And that's thousands of miles of pristine shoreline, 11,000 lakes, most teeming with fish, nearly 20 million acres of forest land, 36,000 miles of rivers, 6,100 miles of snowmobile trails, 3,000 miles of hiking or cross-country trails and 3,100 miles of ORV trails.

Michigan has 1.7 million sportspersons who enjoyed the hunting and fishing sports last year. Anglers spent $1.7 billion in total expenditures, hunters spent $1 billion. The average hunter and angler spends $1,200 per year on equipment and travel.

While it is so important to fix our government, have tax reform, improve education, it's also important to capitalize on something that is not broken, to improve it and use it to our advantage so we can protect and preserve our forests, lakes, and streams.

If we do it right, Michigan will become an even more important cog to the entire world and secure our position on a world stage for our children's future. If we are strong in fending off would-be water robbers and polluters Michigan will be the envy of the world.

We should not overlook the many businesses that depend on tourism, on fishing, hunting, hiking, snowmobiling and boating.

Right now they are struggling, the economy has hit them hard, especially hard. Those laid-off auto workers can't afford to travel north as they once did, toting ORV's, boats and snowmobiles. Those who are working can't afford to take time off, or can't afford to ask the boss for time off to hunt opening day of firearm season.

Entire regions of our tourist communities are near bankruptcy because of it.

Perhaps we should embrace the the opportunity to reinvest in the outdoors, a proven segment of our economy with a strong tradition in our state. To re-educate our citizens about hunting and fishing and camping and boating and snowmobiling.

The Pure Michigan campaign invites out-of-staters for the most part with some success. Maybe it's time to reintroduce the many outdoor opportunities to our citizens. Invest some money to get Michiganders off the couch, out their back doors and into the outdoors. In the process we could be re-building a sense of pride and appreciation in our state.

Instead, the Pure Michigan campaign has to fight for every dollar they get. We should willingly spread the word about Michigan, our lakes, rivers and forests to all Michigan residents.

We need to find new jobs, draw new business and factories to our state, but we also need to preserve and protect our northern communities too! Give them the opportunity to create new jobs.

Yes, we should invest in education, and in new technologies. But we should also have a campaign to invest in the people and businesses who cater to the outdoors.

If we encourage entrepreneurs to develop new forms of outdoor recreation in the process we will add jobs.

I've read the fastest growing outdoor activity is outdoor adventure sports. We're talking about week long guided canoe/camping excursions. Or perhaps a hiking/camping excursion, or horseback, or snowmobiling, or crosscountry skiing/camping trips, boating excursions or primitive hunting trips. Perhaps we could offer incentives for northern communities and businesses who become creative in developing these types of tourism plans and jobs.

Michigan is already a leader in outdoor related product manufacturing, bows, lures, outdoor clothing, treestands, boats and guns and many others. Perhaps incentives would help them launch a new product or help in growing the product line they already have.

So please Governor-elect Snyder, don't overlook what can be done to help an important part of our economy - the outdoors. You have a very big task in front of you, I know the outdoor community wants to and can help. We love our state, its splendid beauty, its bounty, and its traditions.

After all, it is the outdoorsmen who with their money protect and preserve another important part of this great state and that's our many species of wildlife. We are a wise investment too!

Please email me with your ideas on how to improve our outdoor segment of the economy, a new business or promotions to get people in the outdoors once more and I'll run them in future issues of the Tri-City Times. Send your

suggestions to:

Randy Jorgensen has been with the Tri-City Times since 1980, he lives in Imlay City and is active in many community organizations. Randy enjoys the outdoor sports and travel. His columns are generally of life experiences with a touch of humor.
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Milnes Ford
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