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Energizing Michigan

ITC President and CEO leads Conference focused on global competitiveness

Pages 10-11

Joseph L. Welch is chairman, president and CEO of Novi-based ITC Holdings, Corp. – the nation’s largest independent electricity transmission company. At the helm of ITC, Welch is a leading voice in the energy policy discussion toward modernizing the nation’s power grid.

As chair of the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference, Welch worked with the Detroit Regional Chamber’s CEO Advisory Committee to establish the Conference vision. This year’s Conference is focused on creating a more globally competitive, ­ financially attractive business environment in Michigan by focusing on education, cultural change and Michigan in the 21st century global market.

What do you hope people take away from the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference?

I hope we can do two things in support of our pillars of cultural change, education and the 21st century global market. First, let’s focus on speci­fic changes necessary to meet the pillars, and second, create an action plan that produces more tangible results than we’ve seen in the past years. We’ve made strides in previous Conferences, but we can go further. A comprehensive dialogue and action plan on ­ fixing K-12 education in this state is paramount to me.

 

As Conference chair and previous attendee, what excites you most about the Conference?

I’m pleased to see the excitement that has returned to the business community and the Conference itself, driven by the better economy in Southeast Michigan. I’m seeing more enthusiasm now among those involved in the Conference. We had a few years of gloom and doom there.

What do we need to do to create a more globally competitive, ­ financially attractive business environment in Michigan?

First, we need to be honest with ourselves, in a fundamental way, about what it will take to advance this state’s competitiveness. We need to benchmark against the states competing with us, set realistic goals for improvement, and work passionately to achieve those goals. Michigan has been one of the states most affected by globalization, yet it has been one of the last to embrace it and change.

What changes would you like to see in Michigan to ensure we have the workforce to meet the needs of the 21st century global market?

ITC Holdings Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Joe Welch is the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference chair and helped drive an agenda designed to create a more globally competitive Michigan. This year’s Conference is focused on education, cultural change and the 21st century global market. Michigan ITC President and CEO leads Conference focused on global competitiveness

We need to change the way we think about education and its role in driving economic growth in Michigan. To meet the needs of the 21st century market, let’s start by asking ourselves: What is our goal, and what are the hurdles between us and the goal? For example, huge changes are needed in our K-12 educational system. We can’t have a society where so many people are not getting the education they need to participate in this modern economy. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is a critical piece of this. We have so much work to do, and we simply are out of time.

Why is attracting, developing and maintaining top-notch talent so critical to our future?

We talk about innovation and entrepreneurship as things that are teachable, but in fact it always starts with talented people seeking new solutions and different ways of doing things. Unless we provide structural support and an educational environment for talented people to succeed, we will continue to lose that talent to places where that environment exists.

What assets and resources position Michigan as a premier destination for business and investment?

Michigan has a wealth of natural resources and a skilled workforce. Our state’s history and culture is one that has supported innovation and entrepreneurship. This has been a huge driver in the manufacturing processes that we know so well today. We also have a vast network of some of the best universities in the world and a great health care system.

ITC celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year. What has been the key to ITC’s success?

Our success has been based on building a sound business model from the ground up, recognizing and staying laser focused on our core principles. That focus and our dedicated team have made ITC not one of the best, but the best electric transmission provider in the country.

With Americans becoming increasingly dependent on electricity, what must be done to ensure our state and nation have the modern infrastructure needed to compete in the global market?

Electricity truly is the most versatile form of energy we have. It makes manufacturing work, fosters innovation and enables our convenient lifestyles more than any other thing. So we need to build our nation’s electric infrastructure for the future, rather than continuing to patch up what we have today. Future innovation will require a modern power grid. Currently, the nation’s electric infrastructure is not positioned to facilitate our global competitiveness in this 21st century. We are at a point in history where “good enough” is no longer good enough.

Is there anything else you would like to discuss?

It has truly been an honor for me to participate in the Mackinac Policy Conference at this level, working with all the ­ fine people involved to bring it together. I have found it exciting and fun.