Cool cities in Michigan

Michigan gets a hat tip for its Cool Cities program. They apparently not only read Richard Florida's Rise of the Creative Class, but also decided not to just keep doing the same old thing and expecting different results (a typical economic development response).

The Cool City principles are worth reading. Written like a vision statement, they identify key ideas and concepts that the effort intends to pursue.

It is too early to tell how all this will work out. The Cool Cities Web site, while "cool," is annoying because on the two browsers I tried, anyway, I'm forced to read everything in a tiny little window. This is a bad sign; it suggests that the first thing they did was hire some "cool" Web designers who don't understand the first thing about usability. It is NOT cool to put coolness ahead of common sense, like "we want a page that is easy to read."

The second thing that concerns me is that there is much talk about marketing Michigan cities as "cool." I'm a big fan of marketing, but marketing should be driven by results, not marketing for marketing's sake. Coolness should be defined by the services, amenities, and people that communities have, not by a pre-determined set of marketing slogans.

But Michigan is trying something new. There will be some missteps, but if they are determined to learn from them, it will be an interesting experiment to watch. How about your region? Are your leaders and economic developers thinking outside the box, coming up with completely new approaches to economic development?

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