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Lansing is the state capital, and East Lansing is home to Michigan State University. Together the two places form the second most-populated area in Michigan, but individually, they are quite different. Downtown Lansing is plain and generally uninteresting; mainly anchored by the state government. A large GM assembly plant just west of town was recently replaced by a more modern plant farther out.
Area employment has three distinct bases: government, the university, and GM. While government and the university create a stabilizing influence, GM the rest of the industrial mix and economy have been anything but. The effects of GM’s downsizing and recent buyout programs on the area economy and demographics are still unfolding, but recent unemployment is high and home sales are very slow.
There are some interesting museums and other facilities typical of a capital city. Entertainment is provided by the popular and aptly named Lansing Lugnuts, and for most other entertainment activities, residents look east. East Lansing, the more attractive of the two cities, contains the usual college-town amenities, restaurants, and nightlife, and has a stronger employment base.
Areas west along a major strip are generally unattractive, while pleasant suburbs and small suburban towns surround the area north, east and south; Okemos east of East Lansing is one of the largest and more upscale examples and has a small base of high tech employment. Small towns like Williamston southeast and Owosso northeast offer an attractive small town lifestyle with access to city employment. The cost of living is very attractive for a capital city and college town, but the economy and the dreary central Michigan climate are issues to contend with.
Terrain is generally a mix of farmland and deciduous forest. The climate alternates between continental and semi-marine, based on the force and direction of the wind and storms. When there is little wind, the weather becomes continental with pronounced fluctuations in temperature. A strong lake wind may temper winter cold and summer heat, albeit with heightened wind chill factors in winter. Precipitation is evenly distributed throughout the year. Snowfall is moderate. There are twice as many cloudy days as clear ones year-round. First freeze is end of September, last is mid-May.