Economic Experts: ‘No Time to Waste’ on Improving Region’s Educated Workforce

To accelerate the Detroit region’s growing economy, attract global firms, and bolster job creation in an age of rapid technological innovation, creative and collaborative solutions to improve Michigan’s education system must be a top priority. That was a key message a panel of economic and business experts reinforced repeatedly during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s fourth annual State of the Region on Wednesday, Nov. 1.

“We’ve laid the groundwork (for regional growth) and we can’t be complacent about this issue. The time is now. We have to make sure we remain competitive in all sectors,” said Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, interim associate director of social science and policy at the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute, in response to a question on the State of the Region’s findings on education attainment.

While the 2017-2018 report was largely positive in areas like median home value growth and a lower unemployment rate matching the national average for the first time in more than a decade, the report also revealed that Detroit ranks just below the national average in the percentage of the adult population with an associate degree or higher.

Hughes-Cromwick was joined on the panel by Joseph Anderson Jr., chairman and CEO of TAG Holdings LLC; Daniel Howes, columnist and associate business editor for The Detroit News; and Paul Traub, senior business economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Detroit Branch. The panel was moderated by Devin Scillian, anchor for WDIV-TV 4.

Additional takeaways from the panel include:

  • In the bid for Amazon’s HQ2, Detroit can play to its strengths, including a vibrant educational base, access to the automotive industry, and proximity to Canada.
  • Regional collaboration is critical to attracting global firms to the region.
  • Regional leaders must leverage all resources to prevent place-based development and ensure equitable, inclusive growth.
  • Closing the talent gap in Southeast Michigan requires more investment at the state level in apprenticeship programs.
  • The modern realities of technology-fueled innovation and a growing talent gap present a significant challenge for companies in Southeast Michigan.
  • The timeline for mass adoption of automated vehicles on roadways is much longer than many believe and is driven by consumer demand and the testing, regulation and adoption of innovative technology, which can be a lengthy process.
  • Just like crisis was a precursor of change for the automotive industry and the city of Detroit, it will take a crisis to fix Michigan’s education system.

Maven’s Julia Steyn: Technology is ‘Enabler’ for Michigan’s Mobility Future

Closing out programming for this year’s Automobili-D exhibit at the North American International Show, Daniel Howes, columnist for The Detroit News, sat down with Julia Steyn, General Motors’ vice president of urban mobility and Maven, to discuss car-sharing and the future of mobility in Michigan.

“(Mobility) technology keeps moving forward, so you can either look at it as a disruptor or enabler,” said Steyn about the forthcoming challenges facing the automotive industry with the increase of autonomous technology and mobility-sharing platforms. “I prefer to see it as an enabler while continuing to innovate.”

Steyn also spoke on GM’s leadership in car-sharing and mobility as a service during panel discussions earlier in the week. Read the Detroiter’s in-depth interview with Steyn about Detroit and GM’s long-term mobility vision here.

Jeb Bush Talks Education, Immigration Reform During Opening Conference Keynote

In addressing an issue that often trascends traditional partisan divides, Governor Jeb Bush suggested the American education system is the biggest challenge the country and its workforce face. Bush, president of Jeb Bush and Associates and former Governor of Florida (1999-2007), also highlighted some of the lessons to be learned from Detroit’s revitalization during the first keynote address of the 2013 Conference following and introduction by Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah.

Gov. Bush talked about the American dream, the opportunities for success and what he calls “the right to rise.” He went on to say that those opportunities and that ability to rise is dependent on access to a quality education, and said the U.S. is not rising to the challenge. He said America is failing to confront one of the greatest social issues of our time.

“We can’t accept failure for a wide swath of kids under the guise of compassion,” Gov. Bush said. “…Education done right is the only government program I’m aware of that is a cure for poverty.”

Gov. Bush stressed the importance of educational standards, teacher compensation and the disservice of advancing students based on social rather than academic motivations. He said one of the country’s greatest mistakes is its underestimation of the capacity of its children to learn and by doing so, rob them of their right to rise.

Gov. Bush also discussed the importance of narrowing family-based immigration law and highlighted the vital role immigrants play in the U.S. economy. He went on to say that much of Michigan’s success is due to quality leadership and indicated that Detroit will succeed as Michigan has by applying the same strategies the Governor has put in place.

Following his remarks, Bush was joined on stage by Daniel Howes, business columnist and associate business editor for The Detroit News, for a question-and-answer session. This session was sponsored by Meijer.