Phil Power and The Center for Michigan

Late last week I had the good fortune to have lunch with Phil Power at the Economic Club of Traverse City monthly luncheon. Power was the guest speaker and was there to discuss The Center for Michigan, an organization he calls a “think and do tank” that he founded to help chart a path for Michigan as it works its way through this economic upheaval.

Power is a businessman who built a chain of 65 newspapers before selling them in 2005. Shortly thereafter, as he heard one dire prediction after another about Michigan’s economic future, he decided he couldn’t just stand by and watch the state he loved slide any further. And by the way, Power insists he isn’t running for any office.

Power has an energetic, straight-talking style and gravely voice that made me think of how I might have imagined Teddy Roosevelt delivering a similar message.

What appealed to me most about Power’s message was his insistence that to regain our footing we must put our respective political ideologies aside and focus on pragmatic solutions. He envisions his group as having a strong center, not one that, as he said, “is an arithmetic mean of the various opinions” but one strong enough to select the best solution regardless of who or which camp is proposing it.

Another aspect of Power’s talk that I enjoyed is that he feels the solutions at this point must come from the people who are living with the problems, the people who are closest to the issues. So the Center for Michigan has been convening community discussions and will be convening several more over the course of the next year to get ideas flowing about how Michigan needs to change it’s governance and even its view of work and its culture of work if it hopes to succeed.

Keep an eye out for The Center for Michigan discussion groups coming to a venue near you and sign up for their email notifications to keep abreast of the action.

Jeff Smith is editor of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine and

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