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Motivating Michigan

I'm sure many people will agree Michigan could use a little motivation. So how's this for motivation: A college scholarship. An internship. Or a line on your resume that says you came up with the idea that turned this tugboat of a state around.

That's the idea behind Motivate Michigan, a competition among Michigan-based college students to discover the next great idea for the state's economic growth.

Here's how it works: Individual college students or teams submit their idea(s) on how to improve Michigan's economy. A committee will pick out the top ideas based on their potential impact, creativity and feasibility. Then, the public will have a chance to vote for the top five. A panel of judges will pick the final winner. Submissions must be in by March 12; voting starts April 12.

Sounds like American Idol – only the stakes here are much higher. Not only will some smart kids get a chunk of their college tuition covered, but Michigan (hopefully) gets some pretty awesome suggestions.

The winning student or team also gets another great prize – organizers will work with them to create a feasibility plan. They also will get to present their winning idea to whoever is most appropriate to fund and support it. While there is no promise that it will be implemented, chances are good that it will (after all, we're a state in a pretty desperate state right now).

So far, about 125 ideas have been submitted, said project organizer Armen Kabodian. He expects that number to jump as the March 12 submission deadline approaches. You know how college kids love to work under pressure.

Just think: What if the next "Big Thing" is in that pile of 125 ideas? Who knows...great oaks grow from small acorns, they say.

A little background: The idea for Motivate Michigan came out of a brainstorming meeting at CIBER Inc., a billion-dollar IT services company. Founded in Michigan, CIBER now has offices in Southfield (although its headquarters is in Colorado). Kabodian was part of a group was brainstorming ideas about Michigan projects.

Kabodian raised his hand and suggested the group take a larger look at the issues around the state. Michigan has some of the best universities in the nation. The state (and parents) invests time and money into these students only to see them leave (in droves).

The Motivate Michigan scholarship initiative tries to solve two problems. Kabodian said. First, it leverages Michigan's educational resources. Second, it gives students a reason to think about the state in ways they may not have before (and maybe they'll stick around long enough to see what happens next).

Motivate Michigan sponsors include Comerica Bank, mass merchant Meijer, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Presidents Council of State Universities of Michigan. (They're the ones putting up the scholarship funds). It's also gotten kudos from Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Detroit Economic Club, Automation Alley and more.

“We are committed to try to take this as far as possible,” Kabodian said.

Get thinking, Joe College. Submit ideas here. We need some help!

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