Clarkston grad fights to bring state jobs
September 07, 2011 - Derek Bush, a 2007 graduate of Clarkston High School, was always a helpful neighbor for Mel and Jo Vaara.
|Derek Bush, with fellow Northern Michigan University and Clarkston neightbor alumni Mel Vaara. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)|
With an economics degree from Mel's alma mater Northern Michigan University, he hopes to be just as helpful for the state of Michigan.
"We're very proud of him," Mel said. "He really blossomed at NMU."
"I would always see the NMU flag in Mel's yard, and I didn't know what it meant," Bush said. "It was an amazing opportunity. They know the value of asking questions. I'm happy to join the NMU alumni crowd."
NMU was an easy choice, he said.
"When I met with faculty and looked at the facilities, I knew that was the place I wanted to be," he said.
He earned the 2011 Celebration of Student Research, Creative Works and Academic Service Learning award for his project "A Snapshot of 21st Century Economic Development in Michigan's Upper Penisula (2005-2010)."
"That was a nice surprise," he said.
He worked as an assistant to Dr. Tawni Ferrarini for two years while earning a degree in economics with a minor in Spanish.
"She provided many opportunities and helped get the ball rolling," he said.
"Economic development is an interesting field."
He interned with Gov. Rick Snyder's Executive Office in Marquette this past summer. He helped host a Japanese delegation of investors and manufacturers on mining in the Upper Peninsula.
"It was a unique opportunity to work on development projects," he said. "It's all about jobs – how to attract businesses and people to live here and spend money."
He took Gov. Snyder on a tour of half a dozen UP communitites.
"It was a 30-40 minute car ride, talking about policies and projects," Bush said. "He's a very intelligent man – he has a tough job."
He is set to get to work as Regional Economic Development liaison at Lake Superior Community Partnership.
"It's my dream job," he said. "I'm excited about it – I'm ready to hit the ground running on Monday."
Economic conditions in the UP includes less manufacturing, more services, and aging population. His job is to help put it back on track.
"It's a big job," he said. "I've seen Michigan tank economically. That inspired me to get involved with economic development – if I can bring 1-2 companies, I would consider it a success."
At Clarkston High, he ran varsity cross country and track, and participated in the OSM Tech program.
"They helped prepare me for college," Bush said. "I learned a lot of valuable study habits, skills, and other things."
He plans to pursue higher education within five years, he said.
Bush, 22, grew up in Clarkston with his parents, Kerry and Carolyn Bush, his sister Darien, now a junior at Aquinas College, and brother Davis, Clarkston High School senior.
He is considering settling in Clarkston, but has a lot of work to do first.
"I've had great experiences here – it's a nice town," he said.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.