Print Friendly and PDF

Making The State More Competitive Starts With a ‘One Team Michigan’ Mindset

By Crain’s Content Studio

Key Takeaways

  • There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for making Michigan more competitive. We need a strategy that involves both education and workforce development.
  • Investment in our children and education is key to developing talent.
  • Visiting and learning from other states and countries can help Michigan figure out areas where we can improve.
  • We need to do a better job of addressing mental health and wellness in the workplace, along with making sure workers feel a sense of belonging.

Michigan has no shortage of talent — but how do we keep people here and drive people to our state? That was the focus of the panel, Making Michigan More Competitive at the Mackinac Policy Conference on Thursday, June 2.

During the first segment of the conversation, moderator Paul W. Smith, host of WJR NewsTalk (760 AM), asked the panelists: “How do we keep talent here?”

“We have to look at investing and having the thought that we should always do better,” said Maureen Krauss, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Partnership.

Dug Song, chief strategy officer of Cisco Secure and co-founder of Duo Security, talked about how Michigan needs to become a bigger hub for technology and build that reputation: “We need to fight hard for the jobs we have but also for jobs in the future,” Song said, pointing to the development of EVs.

Investing in the education of our children was another common theme throughout the conversation.

“We have to invest in our children for the jobs of the future, and we have to have them graduate and give them a path for jobs that will be available,” said Sandy Pierce of Huntington Bank.

Awenate Cobbina, chief executive officer of Bedrock Manufacturing Company and chairman of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation Executive Committee brought an additional perspective as a recent transplant to Michigan, who came to the state for a job.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution,” he said. “People want a lot of the same things — they want to have a good life, a good job, mobility, leisure activities — and those are things we have parts of, but we need to create a vision of the life they could have that enables them to come join us.”

In the latter half of the conversation, Smith interviewed three additional experts on Michigan’s talent development: Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber; Tina Freese Decker, president and chief executive officer of BHSH System; Quentin Messer Jr., chief executive officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and president and chair of the Michigan Strategic Fund; and Howard Ungerleider, president and chief financial officer of Dow.

While the consensus among the panelists was that there’s room for improvement, there are numerous areas where Michigan has excelled.

“We are very good at being the critic; we must celebrate what we have here,” Messer Jr. said.

Ungerleider echoed that sentiment, emphasizing how “12 to 15 years ago, Michigan was a bottom 10 state across every dimension — we have caught up and we should be proud.”

Freese Decker shared BHSH System’s recent collaboration with Grand Valley State University to expand the job pipeline for nurses as a recent example, encouraging others to use that same concept of creating a pipeline for young people. She also emphasized the importance of prioritizing mental health in the workplace.

“We need a sense of urgency, we need action sooner than soon,” Baruah said. “Whatever we need to do, we need to do something robustly, and in a bipartisan way.”

This session was sponsored by Business Leaders for Michigan.