Your Story: Highlighting the Midwest so people will stay

Jul 18, 2011

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.