West Mich. group leverages Facebook to lure clean energy jobs

We see a lot of movement in this new government 2.0 world. App contests, open data sets, and even government Twitter accounts are cited as evidence in our move toward a more transparent union. But we are often left to question the tangible effect of such activities outside of a few new bike maps. That’s where Eric Justian comes in.

Justian and a group of committed residents in Muskegon, Michigan utilized social media to bring money and jobs to their town despite an organized, moneyed opposition. And they plan to keep doing it in an effort to reinvigorate their town and the state. CivSource spoke with Justian about the project and how his group plans to move forward.

The national recession put a new spotlight on Michigan’s decade-old recession. Justian, who has lived through it, heard of a wind project in the Pentwater area that was facing steep opposition by local residents concerned about how the wind turbines would disturb their lakefront community and started a Facebook group to express his feelings about it. The group, “Muskegeon will take take the $3 billion wind project off your hands,” resonated with people in the area and quickly became popular.

As Justian watched the group grow he soon realized that calling the group to action might have an impact. Justian and a committed group of Muskegon residents including Michael and Elizabeth Council, Leslie and Mikael Naramore, Amanda Shunta, and Deborah Chase started reaching out to the group’s members and asking them to call the governor to voice support for bring the project to Muskegon.

The outreach worked.

Scandia Wind Offshore took a look at Muskegon and moved their entire plan to west Michigan in order to take advantage of the area’s deep water port.

Justian noted that while the group was successful, the battle drags on. Because wind power is one of the more polarizing clean energy initiatives, Justian and wind supporters face steep opposition from the surrounding vacation community that has so far spent several thousand dollars and hired a lobbyist to voice their opposition. Justian has heard nothing from the Governor on his support for either side.

For it’s part, the group plans to keep pressing forward. They’ve become the West Michigan Jobs Group, a non-profit organization, and are working to find more ways to bring jobs and economic activity to the area.

“We’re going to bring the jobs back come hell or high water,” Justian says of the group. Given their success with Scandia we think he’s probably going to do it.

To donate to the West Michigan Jobs Group, click here.

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