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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Buy Michigan Week Contribution

It’s Buy Michigan Week (July 28th through August 3rd), so I’m making my contribution. I’m a Michigan homeboy: I was born in Detroit, grew up in Hazel Park, went to college and law school in Detroit; spend summers in Eastport, hunt in West Branch and kayak any stretch of open water I can find without too many lake freighters. I’ve viewed Michigan as a state of opportunity, and a state where businesses large and small can thrive. Michiganders are survivors: we survive fierce winters, and fierce recessions.

In 2009, I viewed Michigan as an emerging market. We had two of the big three car companies emerging from bankruptcy, plus a plethora of other horrible news. Our unemployment was way over the national average; our real estate markets were devastated. I started tracking Michigan-based companies just by their market capitalization. And guess what? Michigan not only emerged from the ashes, they outperformed the S&P 500 from March 2009 through December 2013 by 25%.

At the end of 2013, I met with the faculty at Walsh College to discuss the finance lab I’m proud to support. Our discussion led to the concept of an emerging market in Michigan and we agreed it would be very cool for the students to have a portfolio of Michigan stocks. I suggested that real money is better than virtual money, so I put up $100,000 of my funds for the students to invest, and the Michigan Alpha Project (MAP) was born.

A student-run team won the request for proposal process to manage the funds. They created an investment policy statement for my account and I gave them access to invest it. How are they doing? Right now, kind of flat. They picked some nice winners, which were offset by some losers. I own a wide spectrum of stock in Michigan businesses, in everything from cars to furniture to high tech and biotech. But I think the students are winning as well, with real-life examples and real money. Hopefully, some of this talent will stay here in Michigan and help our state continue to grow.

So we can ‘Buy Michigan’ in a lot of ways. You can buy a La-Z-Boy chair or La-Z-Boy stock. You can buy a box of Corn Flakes or Kellogg stock (some of the stocks the MAP team picked in my portfolio). In any event, I celebrate our state. We have good companies, great people and bright students. Seems like a good combination.

Si quaeris peninsulam amoenam circumspice

Leon