SOUTHFIELD — I love a road trip.
I always have. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have a car when I was a kid. And we never went anywhere on vacations except the same family cottage on a lake less than 100 miles from home. Not that that was awful, but I always heard friends talking about visiting far-off places, and I thought, someday. And despite a long career as an ink- (now electron-) stained wretch, I still threaten my wife that if this journalism thing doesn’t work out, I’m going to buy a big rig and tour the country hauling whatever someone wants to pay me to haul.
But whatever, I love a road trip. And I’m leaving on another one — the most fun part of my job — the GLITR Tech Tour.
We started these tech tours way back in the spring of 2003 on a simple theory: GLITR claims to be a statewide publication, telling the exciting story of tech-based economic development in all of Michigan. But the reality is, we’re based in Southfield, and I live in Dearborn, so as a practical matter, it’s hard for me to cover anything outside the Detroit area and still put out a daily newsletter.
The answer: Tech Tour. We made a bunch of appointments with a bunch of tech-based startups and economic development agencies and set off across the state, had a great time, told a lot of great stories. And I’ve been crisscrossing Michigan in late April or May of every year since. And I’ve talked to dozens of companies that have created thousands of new high-tech jobs.
A couple of years later, we added a fall tech tour, based on the reality that a lot of tech-based economic development in Michigan comes out of university laboratories. Two of the biggies, of course, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, are both half an hour from my office, and I can visit them anytime — and often do. But there are a bunch more universities farther out in Michigan that are doing fascinating scientific research that can translate into new companies and new jobs. (And occasionally, we stumble across stuff like the invisibility machine.)
So this weekend, hello, Michigan Tech, way up in the Upper Peninsula, about as far as you can go in Michigan without getting wet or switching time zones. And then, next week, hello Central Michigan University, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University and Western Michigan University in mid-Michigan and West Michigan. And we’ll wrap up with Michigan State University in our state’s capital region.
Over the next nine days, I’m going to be putting roughly 1,700 miles on this fall’s Tech Tour Mobile — a tricked-out Ford Taurus, with all the technological bells and whistles:
* MyFord Touch with Sync Services, a veritable computer in the car offering everything from maps to weather to traffic info
* Adaptive cruise control, an incredibly cool feature that adjusts your cruise control speed to the traffic ahead, and even warns of possible collisions
* Active Park Assist that makes parallel parking a breeze
* Reverse and blind-spot hazard sensing
* An EcoBoost engine four-cylinder engine that offers the power of a six-cylinder, yet gets 32 mpg on the highway — amazing in a big full-size car with a cavernous trunk.
And then of course there’s the Sony sound system that could make a dead man’s ears bleed. Yahoo! Turn it up to 11!
And I’ll be talking to brilliant university professors, researchers and services, about their work that will lead to the Next Michigan, to the amazing technological advances that Michigan will be famous four next.
You can read about my discoveries right here on this page, and listen to them on air on WWJ Newsradio 950 and online at CBSDetroit.com.