Young Smart Global Lansing
When I moved here from Colorado four years ago, residents pitied me for moving here, making me feel defective for wanting to make Michigan my home.
At first I brushed it off. But after a while, I questioned my own decision. Was I really an idiot? Would it be best to pack my bags and leave?
No matter how much the region’s leaders talk about attracting the creative class and capitalizing on the New Economy, it won't happen if the people who live here don’t make the change themselves.
This year, a group of talented young Capital region residents formed Young Smart Global (YSG) Lansing
and set out to do just that.
YSG Lansing is an apolitical movement designed to attract other young, enterprising individuals to Michigan by developing a culture that empowers and embraces enterprising people and ideas. It’s action-based, and so far has contributed to launching the entrepreneurial incubators The Hatch
, the Innovators and Entrepreneurs (I & E) Club
, Ignite Lansing
and Eve of Ignition
70-80 people are involved in YSG Lansing. Many moved here from out-of-state. Members start their own projects, like increasing entrepreneurship, connecting students to entrepreneurs, embracing international students, creating a vibrant urban core and encouraging cultural change. And then they get the projects done.
YSG satellites are forming in other areas of the state and around the rustbelt, including Grand Rapids and Wisconsin. The YSG movement will go live to the world at TEDxDetroit
, an event that showcases the Great Lakes region’s leaders and thinkers.
So who is YSG Lansing? To answer that, we thought we'd let a few YSGers tell you their stories, in their own words.Jeff GrabillProfessor of rhetoric and professional writing, MSU College of Arts and Letters
I came here from Atlanta, which is a much more dynamic, risk-tolerant place to be, even for a college professor. It was crystal clear to me after being here two-to-three years that Michigan is in desperate need of cultural change.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve been listening and learning from other people who are driving cultural change and it seems to me that this group of young professional people who are distributed across industries and institutions, are the only people in the Lansing area that can lead that change.
In their day jobs, they’re people who get things done. And they do them fast. They even fail fast, which is even more interesting to me.
As a teacher, I’m really interested in preparing my students most effectively for the economy as it’s going to exist in the next 10 to 15 years. What I’m learning from the people who are part of YSG Lansing is what the structure of that work is going to look like, the intellectual toolbox students will need to have, and how the university might structure itself to be more supportive of community and cultural changes like this.Kelly SteffenMSU student and co-director of Spotlight Michigan
One role of Spotlight Michigan is to let people know that, if they have a good idea, they can make it happen. Second, Michigan—specifically the greater Lansing region—has a slew of resources.YSG is very integral in that it provides the Hatch, Skunkworks and other resources, making sure people are connecting and using these resources.
Arguably, the most important and valuable asset that Michigan has is its students, especially in the greater Lansing area, and making sure those student are getting connected with all of those resources—seeing the great stuff in this area and figuring out a way to get value out of them.
YSG has forward-thinking individuals that are doing these things on their own. Most of them are entrepreneurs who have started their own businesses and bring a whole new aspect to how to get things done.
In YSG, I've met a lot of super-talented people that choose to stay here because they liked the region so much and could do so many great things here. From a student perspective, I think that's one of the most important ways YSG is changing the region—they are showing young, talented students that it's cool to stay here.Matt DugenerCOO, Enliven Software
YSG is a movement. It’s an attempt at really creating a thriving community of innovative, enterprising individuals.
These folks have had a hard time fitting into the rustbelt. They are entrepreneurs, innovators. They are disrupters—folks that don’t do things that fit the status quo or the established structure. Ultimately, what they’re trying to do is generate a new economic wind.
The core activities of YSG are engaging the enterprise class of a community and having that community provide an objective and critical assessment of the community. Then, engage in an education and messaging component, action component and a leadership component designed to engage entrepreneurs and innovators in all facets of life.
I’ve lived in Lansing for the last 10 years, and we wanted to create a forum, network and environment where people like me fit in—a place where truly enterprising people could get engaged and feel welcome. It’s really surprising to see how many of these folks want to call Lansing home.
Urban policy specialist, Michigan Environmental Council
This is about creating a momentum and space for people to share their ideas, collaborate and work together to reshape the future of this region and, ultimately, the whole state.
What I really appreciate about the whole YSG thing is the ability to bring people together from the nonprofit and private sectors. Typically, we assume environmentalists and the business community don't share common values and therefore can't work together. In reality, we share the same goals.
One microcosm of that reality is the Michigan Avenue corridor
. It has the potential to be a walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly corridor—a regional gateway that's not just more sustainable, but which would be great for the bottom line of businesses along the corridor and the attractiveness of this region.
The same thing goes for Pat Gillespie's river tours
. Improving our connection with the Grand and Red Cedar rivers can mean both a better appreciation for our natural resources and economic development.
And that's at the core of YSG—rethinking 20th Century assumptions, and in turn, finding new ways to collaborate and capitalize on our assets. YSG provides the people and the space where that can happen.To receive Capital Gains free every week, click here.
Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains and is involved with YSG Lansing.
Grabill, Steffen, and Dugener photos courtesy of Luke Anthony Photography
Neuner photo by Trumpie Photography