Nobody particularly likes it when someone comes into their life, only to tell them all the stuff they're doing wrong. Even if they finish it with, "But you have a great personality!"

It stings. Let's face it, most of us think we're doing pretty OK. But when someone points out that things aren't as great as we think, well, there's nothing fun about that.

This week, Michigan City got a big ol' dose of "What the heck is going on around here?" What's interesting, though, is that the critical person was an invited guest.

The dynamic Roger Brooks — whose company, Roger Brooks International, was hired by the city to assist with the branding initiative called for by the Lake Michigan Gateway Implementation Strategy — gave a couple talks this week to a room filled with community leaders, stakeholders and citizens.

In the first session, he discussed the art of branding and why it's something we need to be doing. In the second, he proceeded to tell everyone about all the problems and challenges Michigan City has, and there were more than a few.

As difficult as it might have been, it was exactly what everyone needed to hear.

Sure, there was plenty of positive. The well-traveled Brooks — who says he's worked in more than 1,200 communities between the U.S., Canada and Western Europe — said our beach is as good as any beach he's ever been on in the world, including oceanside beaches.

The good stuff is easy to hear, but we know about the good stuff already. We know we have a killer beach. We know we have top-notch attractions in Blue Chip Casino and Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets.

What this week afforded us, though, was a unique opportunity to have an industry expert come into our community as a blank slate, and tell us what he saw.

Brooks called the web of one-way streets downtown a "nightmare." As citizens who have spent huge chunks — if not all — of our lives here, we've mostly figured out how to get around, so we don't think about that too much. But, when a first-timer comes in — and that's exactly what we're trying to attract here — and says it's messed up, well, we need to listen.

Luckily, that was one of many issues Brooks addressed that the City is already working to correct. Each time that happened — Brooks brings up an issue, but isn't aware it's already being fixed — had to be a tremendous affirmation for the city's leaders that we're at least on the right track here.

But there were other items that I'd never considered, such as the numerous rules postings at the entrance to Washington Park. Brooks thought it was unwelcoming. When you're trying to welcome new people to town, well, being welcoming is pretty important.

The presentation was no holds barred, as Brooks advertised the day before. Overall, though, he said the city was right on the tipping point of something great.

Hearing about your weaknesses isn't easy, but is necessary for progress. Speaking only for myself, attending these two sessions energized me even more about the future of Michigan City.

Contact Managing Editor Adam Parkhouse at aparkhouse@thenewsdispatch.com or 1-219-214-4170.

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