Your Story: Highlighting the Midwest So People Will Stay

Andy Case is the founder of the "Midwestern Gentleman" blog.

Andy Case thinks the Midwest has an image problem. Even worse, he says, is that Midwesterners buy into the characterization of the Midwest as “flyover country,” or not as interesting as the East or West coasts.

Case, a native of Plymouth, Mich., says this mentality causes people to leave the region in search of economic opportunity. He decided to do something to try to change that way of thinking — and that led to his blog, Midwestern Gentleman.

“I didn’t see anything that said ‘I’m proud to be from the Midwest and here’s why,’ And, I think my blog is highlighting things that make the Midwest great, and why it’s great,” said Case.

“Hopefully, (people) identify with that and choose to stay in the region, and follow their professional careers here instead of somewhere else.”

Case started  Midwestern Gentleman while a student at Michigan State University. When he graduated in May of 2009, it took him months to find a job .He eventually landed one in advertising and works in Detroit.

Despite the long search, Case was a little frustrated with those in his graduating class who left the state.

“Everything I need is here in Michigan. Growing up on Lake Michigan was a part of me. I felt a deep loyalty to the state for making me the person who I am,” said Case.

Not everyone feels the same. Earlier this month, we heard from  New Yorker Jeffrey Jablansky. His  Midwest migration failed after half a year, even after he landed his dream job. Jablansky returned to New York in part, he said, because the Midwest couldn’t offer the culture of opportunity he associated with Manhattan.

State governments and tourism boards have used social marketing strategies to attract buzz for decades, but the impact of these efforts is hard to quantify. Case of Midwestern Gentleman thinks Michigan’s most recent effort in this vein, the” Pure Michigan” ad campaign, is a little boring.

Case wants to build a stronger and younger culture identity for the Midwest. His blog focuses, in a relentlessly positive way, about all that is cool about the region — for men.

His site offers everything from tips on picking cheeses, camping etiquette, fashion, music, and knot tying. There is also a surprisingly helpful and detailed beer map pinpointing where Midwestern microbrews are available.

So, who is the ultimate Midwestern gentleman?

Case says it’s his late grandfather Vernon Sorenson, a farmer of Norwegian immigrants. He built his cottage by hand, served in World War II,  worked his way through school and then taught at Michigan State University. Eventually, he advised President Jimmy Carter on agricultural issues.

“A Midwestern gentleman embraces integrity, modesty and moderation, but also enjoys a little bit of Bob Seger,” Case said.


12 Replies to “Your Story: Highlighting the Midwest So People Will Stay”

  1. As a product of the Midwest, I can truly identify with Mr. Case.  After reading this story and his embedded blog I can see that the Midwest has a truly “unique” style, that carries with it a deep heritage.  I’m happy to call myself a “Midwestern gentleman” and would argue that this region is alive and well. 

  2. I left Michigan six years ago after I graduated from college and despite a vigorous job search have been unable to return. I’m afraid the issue is much more systemic than a simple “image problem”. Michigan is beautiful and full of potential and generous, hard-working people but it’s also hampered by what seems like a lack of forward-thinking dynamism. There are lots of organizations doing great things there, but they seem to quietly work at the periphery while the rest of the state holds onto the glory days of an automotive industry that died long ago.

    Look at a manufacturing heavyweight like Germany that’s leading the world in clean energy production. Surely Michigan could learn from Germany’s example by taking advantage of its strong manufacturing base and getting on top of the economy of the future. Support at the federal level would also be needed, of course, in the form of tax incentives. Some progress has been made here but much more is needed.

    My sister is attending a community college in MI this fall and I flipped through the course guide looking for mentions of “sustainability” in the architecture division (for example) and as usual, such classes make up a small portion of what’s taught. This kind of thing will be an absolute no-brainer in the future and yet little attention is paid to it. Michigan has a real chance to shine in these areas and I only hope more leaders recognize this great potential and start supporting sustainability and clean energy in all sectors. Maybe then we’ll stop being a “flyover state”.

  3. How to pair cheese with beer, Toro lawn mowers and historical baseball references. I’m sold.

  4. Thanks for the comment Erica. Sounds like you might have an answer to the most recent question CG is throwing out-

  5. I went today and it was highlighting Culver’s. it made me want to bite into a Butter Burger and relish in my Midwestern ways. I think this is a really interesting approach to life in the Midwest, they have southern gentlemen why not midwestern gentlemen?

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