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Gov. Snyder’s 21st Century Commission Chairs: Talent, Infrastructure Investment is Zero Sum Game to Grow Michigan’s Economy

With a critical eye on Michigan’s future, the chairs of Gov. Rick Snyder’s 21st Century Commissions doubled down on an urgent call for state leaders to consciously invest in education, infrastructure and the economy. Joining the Governor on Michigan’s Center Stage, Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah (economy), Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas (education), and Edw. C. Levy Vice President S. Evan Weiner (infrastructure) said the state can no longer afford to kick its problems down the road if Michigan is to compete for business, talent and investment.

“These are nonpartisan, data-based reports that set out a clear framework for legislators who can then take this information when crafting legislation and ask themselves, ‘Does this legislation advance the recommendations that the infrastructure, economy and education reports require? If not, why are we spending time and taxpayer dollars on it?” Baruah said.

“The data shows what is needed to create a prosperous economy, healthy communities and successful people for those communities. It is not open to political debate. If our leaders ask themselves that question, we will succeed,” Baruah added.

Panelists highlighted key recommendations from their reports in a session moderated by “MiWeek” anchor Christy McDonald.

Key takeaways:

  • Government, business and community leaders must adopt a different ethos on infrastructure investment for the next generation.
  • The current state of Michigan’s infrastructure is unacceptable. Thurty-nine percent of roads are in poor condition and 27 percent of bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
  • Safe, reliable and sustainable infrastructure is up to all of us.
  • Michigan residents are willing to pay for infrastructure improvements if it is clear their hard-earned money will improve lives.
  • Michigan has launched a pilot integrated asset management plan to map the state’s infrastructure assets to better inform government and community leaders for the next 50 years.
  • Talent is the No. 1 issue facing Michigan. If we don’t get it right, it is “game over.”
  • Michigan ranks 34th in educational attainment and 33rd in per capita income. The state must increase access to education and invest in programs that improve four-year degree attainment.
  • Michigan has begun putting tools in place to increase access to early childhood education and improve third grade reading scores.
  • More work is needed in promoting STEM education programs in Michigan and the United States.
  • Michigan is doing a good job attracting businesses but could do better and a large component of that is talent.

The discussion followed the release of the 21st Century Economy Commission report at the Conference on Wednesday. Read the full report and the infrastructure and education reports here.