The Slice: Maybe one of ours has a better idea

Read an interesting piece on www.slate.com titled “How Did Detroit Become Motor City?”

It’s easy to take for granted that the Michigan metro is the center of the domestic auto industry. But once, there were several cities with a car-making foothold that had the same attributes — industrial base, proximity to natural resources, strategic location in the nation’s distribution network, etc. The article mentioned Toledo, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Buffalo.

In the end the presence of certain innovators and then a critical mass of key auto people made the difference. At least that was my take-away.

This got me thinking about Spokane. And about how our own Henry or Henrietta Fords might be attending local grade schools right now.

Maybe there’s a kid here (or one about to move here) who will change everything.

Not that everything about Spokane needs changing, certainly. But wouldn’t it be a trip if we made something here that everyone wanted?

Once our relative remoteness might have limited our chances on the national stage. But in an information economy, geography’s implications are changing and will continue to evolve in the future.

So how would we spot our Henry Ford? Well, it could be a good idea to keep in mind that he might be nuts.

Ford, a raging anti-Semite, held some abhorrent social views and had bizarre personality quirks.

Certainly, that does not sound like a whole-package role model for the 21st century. But maybe one lesson is that sometimes those with big ideas might seem a little odd.

So, with that in mind, what if we strove to make Spokane a place where it is OK to be different?

A case could be made that this is a conformity- loving city. So this would not be an easy sell.

Moreover, those in our midst who already stake a claim to harmless weirdness might begrudge the competition.

But I would hate to see us drive away the creative kid who might have the breakthrough idea just because he or she seems offbeat.

Today’s Slice question: How do you feel about resetting the clocks this coming weekend?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; email pault@spokesman.com. Bill Simer’s great 12-year-old dog, Dot, fetches the paper every morning and likes the smaller size.

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