In my last column, I mentioned two very significant achievements by Michigan State—selection by the U.S. Department of Energy as the site for its new $550 million Facility For Rare Isotope Beams and selection by IBM as the location for its new global delivery center, a first-of-its-kind venture. Both are excellent examples of how Michigan State, as the cover story proclaimed, “stands out as an engine of economic growth” and prosperity for the state.
Since then, we have seen yet another achievement with a positive economic impact on the state—the magnificent run by Tom Izzo and the men’s basketball team to reach the Final Four at Ford Field, Detroit. And Suzy Merchant and the women’s team also did their part by winning the first two rounds of NCAA competition, both hosted at MSU’s Breslin Center.
The success of the men’s basketball team captured the imagination of the entire state and helped stimulate hope, even as it stimulated the economy by bringing visitors and dollars to Detroit. It was an inspiring story that many in Michigan and beyond cited as providing a bright spot during a dark time in a region especially hard hit by the current economic downturn. MSU’s presence in the Final Four in its own home state drove interest in the games and increased the economic impact—estimated by the NCAA to be as high as $50 million. Two Final Four attendance records, each upwards of 72,000, were set.
Some might say it was fortuitous that MSU excelled just when the Final Four was in Detroit. But I would argue that it was no more lucky than MSU landing FRIB and the new IBM center. We prepared for these successes. We began with bold vision, and we worked hard to make it a reality. Just as Konrad Gelbke and his team at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory sweated the details in their quest to land the FRIB project, Tom Izzo and his staff were equally meticulous in their quest to reach Ford Field. Indeed, three or four years ago, that was the dream Izzo articulated to a couple of Detroit area recruits who became key players in helping us get there.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that the choice of Ford Field as a Final Four venue was aided by MSU’s very successful “BasketBowl” in 2003—a game against Kentucky that set a world basketball attendance record of 78,129. The people in our athletics department had a bold vision, then worked hard, with others, to showcase Ford Field as a possible venue for basketball events of such magnitude.
Ultimately the success of Michigan State is based on aligning our assets and our attitude. We are Team MSU, and we are defined by our hard-working, no-nonsense approach to making bold plays and achieving lofty goals. And when MSU wins, we all win—Michigan, the nation, the world—as we power and empower prosperity for the common good.
Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.
President, Michigan State University