Thursday, May 21, 2009

Keeping It Local

In April we held our first public event in our new home town of Copper City. We called it "Dumplings and Dragons in Copper City" and invited local small business people and artists to join us for an afternoon party complete with a brief lesson on Chinese culture and plentiful jiaozi (steamed dumplings). As a publisher, we were celebrating the release of our second book, Draw On Culture: Little Friends Around the World, but primarily, we wanted to let our neighbors know what we are creating in our little house on the corner of "top" street. ("Top Street," I recently found out, is the old nickname for the street we live on at the "top" of the town.) And we wanted to plant a few seeds of economic encouragement, if not outright economic development.

Michigan's unemployment rate is 12 percent as I write this: the Upper Peninsula of Michigan's unemployment rate is even higher than that. This area used to be famous for copper mining and timber; the nearby town of Calumet was almost the state capital. But like many similar economies it has been depressed for years and it is hard to imagine such bustling times when you drive through the scattered network of small towns today.

I'm sure many of our friends and colleagues in New York and New Jersey think we have lost our minds to transplant ourselves to such a remote location. And maybe we have. But people, for the most part, have been very welcoming and we find the laid back, live-and-let-live attitude here very refreshing. The natural beauty of the Keweenaw Peninsula--in places understated woodlands, in others dramatic shorelines--is what first captivated us. But the willingness of a small town to embrace urban refugees and help us through our first (really rough) U.P. winter is likely what will keep us here.

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