Some call it resilience. I like the term "reboundability"--more than enduring or adapting to circumstances, it's about transforming them into a new, better reality.
Therein beats the heart of my home community of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
I was reminded of this recently while pondering the latest business merger buzz. One of the reports involves Pfizer Inc., which is courting UK-based AstraZeneca in a $100 billion deal. When M&A talk starts up, towns where the players have operations start worrying. Given Pfizer's large manufacturing presence in Kalamazoo, what do you suppose the reaction has been?
Not hand wringing. Not panicked speculation. Instead, there's a continued, steady focus on current strengths and a constant eye on future opportunities.
Like many communities, Kalamazoo has endured its share of changes, exits and downsizings by various businesses over the years. Admittedly, it hasn't always embraced a calm demeanor. Floral bouquets strewn like funeral arrangements outside company offices, bluster and finger-pointing among some community leaders, and many angry letters to the editor marked some of those early changes.
Still, usually there has been an underlying conviction amid the upheaval, a quiet confidence that the community would endure, that it would draw a new map for its future. This spirit has grown as change became a constant, as Kalamazoo learned to focus less on what had been done to it and more on what it could do.
When research scientists became unemployed, Kalamazoo built a life science incubator and began to nurture biotech startups. When graduation rates faltered, Kalamazoo unveiled the Promise--free college tuition to those who finish school. When health care demands grew locally and beyond, Kalamazoo and Western Michigan University established a medical school. When the global economy collapsed, Kalamazoo declared that it refused to participate in the recession.
Simply put, what distinguishes Kalamazoo today is how it squares its shoulders instead of throwing up its hands. That sets a powerful example for the region, the state and the nation.