Your Story: A Small Business Owner Thinking About Leaving the State


Gary Stock on his land near the Paw Paw River. Preserving his land is what keeps him, sometimes reluctantly, in Michigan.


Gary Stock calls himself a member of the “creative class.”He is a longtime resident of Kalamazoo, Mich.

But he has an almost a love-hate relationship with his home state. He’s a successful small-business owner and involved in his community, the type of person Gov. Rick Synder has said he wants to keep in Michigan by cutting business taxes or through other economic incentives. Stock said he values the ease of running a business in the state, but not because of taxes. He runs an internet company called Nexcerpt and said working in a town without a lot of start-ups has its advantages.

“The value of being here was we didn’t have the exorbitant costs they would have in San Francisco or Boston,” Stock said.

Continue reading “Your Story: A Small Business Owner Thinking About Leaving the State”

Your Story: Detroit and its “Wise People”

Changing Gears is wrapping up its first week as part of the Public Insight Network. Through PIN, everyone can sign up to become a source for our coverage. It’s kind of like a citizen news wire.

To put your personal experiences in the spotlight, we’re introducing a new daily feature called Your Story. We’re letting you tell how Midwest’s economic transformation is changing your life.

There’s no better place to start than in Detroit. It is touted as either the poster child of urban decay or a case study of Midwestern promise. This week, we wanted to hear from people about Detroit’s image, drawbacks, and value.

Mohammed Fahad is 19 and has lived in Detroit most of his life. Here are his answers to our questions.

Q: Describe the Detroit of today in one sentence.
A: A book that has a battered cover, but pages full of great words.

Q: Now describe the Detroit of 2020 in one sentence.
A: Newly revised educational system without debts and financial managers.

Q: What’s the coolest thing about Detroit?
A: Great people. People who have lived through a lot and are wise. Those people understand the outside world and the words being said but they do not let it affect them or the type of Detroit citizen that they are or have been. They are people who have heard it all and are not afraid to speak up about their city.

Q: What’s the worst thing about Detroit?
A: The empty lots and vacant areas. These only add to the names that outsiders give to the city.

Q: Tell us about anything that’s happened in the last year to change your impression of Detroit.
A: Working in Downtown Detroit. I got to see new places and am working with great people!

Bing Campaigns to Brighten Detroit’s Image

-Howard Duffy

About 50 reporters arrived in Detroit on Monday for a three day conference Mayor Dave Bing is calling “Transform Detroit.” Bing said this morning, via Twitter, that Transform Detroit “is a media briefing that connects reporters with community leaders and positive happenings throughout the city.”

He also tweeted that he hoped he would get some reporters to tell “GOOD stories” after the conference.
The city is trying to put its best foot forward.

Reporters are touring areas where there has been substantial investment, like the central Woodward Avenue Corridor, seeing some of the city’s famed architecture, and also are being introduced to business owners and community leaders from throughout the city.

Changing Gears has been asking people all over the country if they think Detroit’s image has rebounded. Or, if they think the city’s problems are just too big for any makeover to take hold.

You can answer the question here. And, you can send us photos, like reader Howard Duffy did, above. Then, come back later today and read a sample of our first responses.

Become a Source for Changing Gears


Sarah Alvarez is the Changing Gears Public Insight Journalist

Changing Gears is becoming part of the Public Insight Network. The Public Insight Network gives our community a microphone so that the people affected by our economic transformation can participate in Changing Gears and share their stories. Sign up here.

Changing Gears reports on jobs, the economy, industry, and how the Midwest is changing and reinventing itself.

We want to include your voice in the conversation. Share your experience and you can help us cover these stories. Our stories will be better, because they’ll include more voices.

You’ll tell us a little about yourself. We’ll send you questions every now and then on topics you have something to say about. We’ll then get your permission to include you in our coverage.

I’m Sarah Alvarez and I’m the Public Insight Journalist. I know everyone has a story. So tell me how life in the Midwest is changing for you. And help Changing Gears cover it.

My Job is to Hear Your Story

I first came to Michigan when I was 13, moving from New Mexico to Laingsburg, a small agricultural community between Lansing and Flint. When I went to high school there, Future Farmers of America was the biggest club in the school. Our chemistry lab was used more for preparing the club’s chickens for sale than chemistry class. It’s changed since then. Farming is a hard business, and Laingsburg is close enough to the Lansing and Flint areas to attract people looking for a great place to live close to work, but out of the city.

I went to the University of Michigan for college and left the state to go to law school at Columbia University in New York City. I lived and worked in New York for about seven years. I do love New York, but we didn’t want to stay there because it’s hard and really expensive to raise a family.

We found our way back to Michigan in 2010 after three more years in Oakland, California. Most people in the Bay Area think it is Heaven on earth, but I wanted to get back to Michigan. When I would come home, my husband and I would talk about being able to feel the energy people were putting into starting something new and just figuring out how to make it work.

I decided I wanted to start over too. I was determined to use my legal background to help me do something I actually like. We used our savings and I became an unpaid intern in the Michigan Radio newsroom. I worried about day care and bills but we were able to do it.

There are so many of us making leaps we never thought we would. These stories of personal and regional reinvention have infinite variations. All of them are better when there are more voices in the conversation.

I can’t wait to hear from you. email me at, or find me on twitter @SarahAlvarezMI.