Dug Song’s letter to the Ann Arbor News endorsing Kirk Westphal, annotated

Dug Song wrote a letter to the editor of the Ann Arbor News which was published on Sunday, 27 October 2013. It is annotated here with the hyperlinks to a variety of sources for further reading. The letter includes a political endorsement.

While I deeply appreciate city council’s dedication to a balanced budget and basic services, we cannot simply save our way to success. Post-Pfizer, Ann Arbor must increase its tax base by supporting a strong and diversified economy of high-growth, high tech companies.

In January 2007, Pfizer announced that the Ann Arbor facilities — primarily a large campus on Plymouth Road — would be closing by the end of 2008. The University of Michigan purchased the Pfizer campus, turning it into the North Campus Research Complex.

Software is eating the world, and franchises from Borders to Blockbuster have been obsoleted by innovative companies advancing new technologies we all quickly take for granted. Such companies have significant impact not just globally, but also drive the growth of the communities that host them. Pick up a copy of “The New Geography of Jobs” from Literati Bookstore to understand the multiplier effect high tech jobs have on local business, and why place matters.

“Why Software is eating the world” is a 2011 essay by Marc Andreessen in the Wall Street Journal.

Borders was an Ann Arbor based bookstore that grew from a single store into a worldwide bookselling leader. It closed its doors in 2011 after 40 years in business. This CNN story gives a good history of its rise and fall. Literati Bookstore is an independent bookstore that opened in Ann Arbor in 2013, inheriting several former Borders employees and a number of its bookshelves.

As CEO of a fast-growing high tech company, and mentor and advisor to many other innovative, venture-backed startups here, I can personally testify to the challenges of building a company downtown. All of my prior companies have been split between Ann Arbor and elsewhere, with most of their economic impact (hundreds of millions of dollars in jobs, services, investment, and spin-offs) outside of Michigan.

One of Dug’s prior companies was Arbor Networks, which split itself between Ann Arbor and the Boston area. Arbor was acquired in 2010 by Tektronix Communications, a division of Danaher. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

I’d like to see us reverse that trend. We have had far too many world-changing technology companies start in Ann Arbor, but leave to grow their people and fortunes elsewhere. It’s often for the most mundane of reasons that 20- and 30-somethings here understand all too well.

We need a city council that demonstrates fiscal responsibility, open governance, and good kindergarten skills, but also promotes a vision of positive growth for our community. In today’s economy, if we aren’t busy growing, we’re just slowly dying, and I’ve been terrified by the Tea Party-like obstructionism I’ve seen from council members on issues of development.

The “Tea Party” label has been applied to opponents on City Council before, most notably via the anonymous weblog “Middle of the Left” which uses the term Teapublicans.

For this reason, I support Kirk Westphal, Democratic candidate in Ward 2 for Ann Arbor city council. His vision of a vital, walkable downtown supporting diversity, density, and dynamism is a recipe for placemaking, and a natural engine for economic growth. We need downtown Ann Arbor to be a real place again and not just a hollowed-out franchise of Traverse City minus the bay.

The reference to “franchise of Traverse City” alludes to several TC based businesses that have set up shop in Ann Arbor, including Cherry Republic and the restaurants Blue Tractor and Jolly Pumpkin.

A vote for Kirk is a vote for progress!

Election day is Tuesday, November 5, 2013.

Dug Song

Ann Arbor

CEO, Duo Security

Founder, Tech Brewery & Ann Arbor New Tech Meetup

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