May 26, 2014 at 1:00 am


Why I miss the Mitten (hint: beer)

Michigan's craft beer market makes some wish they'd never left. (John L. Russell / Special to the Detroit News)

My husband and I left Michigan in 2011 as part of the “brain drain.” We moved east for jobs on Capitol Hill. Our plan was to move back to Michigan one day, maybe when kids came along, or maybe when we were ready to buy a house, that vague “one day” talk Millennials are so fond of when discussing life goals.

Three years later, we still live in metro D.C. We have a child, we don’t own a home, and our plans for Michigan are still on the agenda, but “one day” hasn’t come yet. Interestingly, what may draw us back to Michigan aren’t purely personal desires to be near family, adopt a second dog, and ditch the front license plate that Virginia requires. What draws us back home, in a word, is beer.

For many years Michigan suffered a surplus of outdated regulation that crushed small businesses and drove young, energetic residents elsewhere.

But now Michigan is eliminating debt, balancing its budget and increasing government transparency.

With the state’s financial picture brightening, Michigan residents—and those who wish to be again, one day—are better positioned to enjoy life.

All because of beer.

By relaxing regulations, Michigan’s craft beer market has exploded, illustrating what is possible when government steps back and allows people to create and build businesses – businesses which then provide a larger tax base for a state’s economy.

States get their money from taxes levied on residents.

As someone who lives now in the Land of Tax and Regulation—other people call it Virginia—I’d give anything to pay Michigan taxes because it looks from here like Michigan taxes are getting results.

Mark Sellers of HopCat fame is the prime example of this.

His newest bar will open in Detroit’s Midtown, and create 100 new jobs. Sellers has two other locations in Michigan, which bring in about $9 million annually, and he plans to expand throughout the Midwest, bringing a taste of Michigan with him.

He’s not the only example of this kind of growth. Michigan’s Bell’s Brewery and Founders Brewing Company are nationally-renowned.

With recent passage of two House bills that increase the barrel threshold for breweries and allow them to have interest in additional breweries, that kind of growth will be available to more entrepreneurs.

When breweries can easily expand, everyone wins. More tax revenue, more investment into communities that need investment without the state getting directly involved, and, of course, more beer.

This industry also lends itself nicely to the urban renewal Michigan needs. More small businesses, even breweries, enhance our economy organically.

And beer knows no class.

Yes, people who drink Founders exclusively may cast a disdaining eye at the 12 pack of PBR that just walked out of the store.

But it is all beer.

Breweries are good for neighborhoods and good for the state’s coffers, and it is in everyone’s best interest they succeed.

Breweries don’t care which way you vote, who you live with, or what your view on Detroit’s bankruptcy is. To proclaim those things as your banner and levy outrage against the state when its legislation impinges on them is short-sighted.

What young people need to focus on is beer.

Not because we love beer, but because beer loves us. The economic freedom it creates for and around us is proof.

Having this economic base and new arena of opportunity in place allows for the pursuit of happiness, however one defines that.

If you seek a pleasant peninsula, you can still find that in Michigan.

Come for the beer, stay for the beer, it means more than you think it does.

We can’t wait to get back to Michigan, and we look forward to supporting our local breweries when we do.

Amanda Whitcomb Leamer, a former communications officer in the Michigan House of Representatives, and now lives in Alexandria, Virginia.