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Michigan: The Comeback State

Governor on continuing progress in Michigan

By Rick Snyder
Page 42-43

Michigan is the comeback state and enjoying its best economic position in a decade.  That’s a marked improvement from two years ago when I first attended the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference as your governor.

From our low point, nearly 200,000 new private sector jobs have been created in Michigan. Our unemployment rate, which once hit 14.2 percent, has been cut to 8.5 percent. That’s good progress, but not good enough. We need to work together to create more and better jobs and make a difference in the lives of Michiganders who are unemployed and struggling.

Creating more and better jobs is the number one priority in the reinvention of Michigan and the reinvention is working. Just look at some recent economic highlights: · Michigan ranks number three nationally for high-tech job growth. · Grand Rapids is number four on Forbes magazine’s list of top 10  cities to find a job.

  • Site Selection magazine rated Michigan the number four state in the nation in 2012 for major new corporate facilities and expansions.
  • Michigan home sales were up 10 percent in 2012.
  • Personal income in Michigan grew by 3.5 percent in 2012, a rate that matched the national average.

State government finances also are in much better shape than they were two years ago.  Working with my partners in the Legislature, we have eliminated a $1.5 billion structural deficit and put balanced budgets in place each year.  We’re also paying down longterm debts. We also have rebuilt the state’s “rainy day fund,” which essentially was at zero to more than $500 million today.

Wall Street has recognized Michigan’s comeback.  All three of the major ratings agencies have taken positive action.  Fitch recently upgraded its credit rating for the state for the first time since 2007.  Meanwhile, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s both increased their financial outlook for the state from stable to positive.

The Legislature and I also have been working hard to improve Michigan’s business climate and encourage the creation of more and better jobs.

A key part of that effort was replacing the Michigan Business Tax – the dumbest tax in the United States – with a simpler, fairer Corporate Income Tax.  This new tax structure has greatly improved our national corporate tax ranking. We shot up all the way to number 7 from number 49. Plus, Michigan now ranks third among the 12 largest states.

We aggressively pursued regulatory reform and already have eliminated more than 1,000 unnecessary and burdensome regulations.  This effort is still under way.  Our focus is on removing the regulatory hurdles that hold back businesses, while maintaining necessary regulatory protection and oversight.

Two years ago here at the Mackinac Policy Conference, we launched Pure Michigan Business Connect. This initiative is designed to encourage Michigan companies to do more business with each other and help each other grow and create jobs. The results have been impressive with nearly $2 billion in new business activity — and an estimated 10,000 jobs — created already through this economic gardening approach.

As Michigan businesses expand and other businesses locate here, creating more and better jobs, we’re seeing a disconnect in the job market. Despite the incredible talent and good jobs that exist in our state, some workers are finding it hard to find the right jobs for them.  Some job providers are finding it difficult to find qualified talent to fill job openings. Today, there are 56,000 jobs listed on MITalent.org, our jobs portal that helps bring together job seekers and job providers.  While we are making strides to better connect talent and opportunity, we must do better.

Government can and should work with the private sector and educational institutions to bridge the divide. Serving as a facilitator to work with these important sectors of the economy will help us achieve what I call the “Three Cs.”  Those are:  Collaborating with the private sector to identify where the good jobs are today and where they will be in the future; Creating talent by working with educators to offer programs that produce graduates who will be ready with the relevant skills for those jobs; and Connecting the available talent with the needs of job providers.

It is a simple concept, but no state has done a good job at it.  The state that masters this concept first will have a strategic advantage for at least 10 years, perhaps longer, through the collaboration,  creation and connecting of talent.  Michigan will lead the nation in matching supply and demand for talent.

We’ve already started the work needed to create that strategic advantage. In March, we hosted an economic summit in Detroit that attracted more than 700 people from across the state. Those attending the summit represented a wide variety of private industry and education and worked to explore the Three Cs from a business perspective. We followed that up with an education summit in East Lansing in April that attracted hundreds more to discuss the Three Cs from an educational perspective.

Our challenge is tough, but not insurmountable. Government, industry and the education sectors must work together to achieve our common goals by aligning the aptitudes and career passions of job  seekers with the current and evolving  needs of employers. The solution is to reinvent the way students are prepared for successful, fulfilling careers, reshape how people look for work, and redesign the way employers obtain the skills they need.

Lt. Gov. Calley and I ran on a platform to reinvent Michigan and to work every day to bring more and better jobs to our state. At the core of our work is the commitment to provide a bright future for our kids. We owe it to future generations. In order to make that vision a reality, we must work together to make sure they will have opportunities for a world-class education, a meaningful career, and a quality of life in our state that is second to none.

Yes, Michigan is the comeback state, but we’re not done. Michigan’s best days lie ahead of us.

Rick Snyder is the Governor of Michigan.