Print Friendly and PDF

Not a Time to Rest

Business Looking To Restore Michigan’s Economic Leadership

By John Gallagher

Having weathered the two-year pandemic, Michigan’s business and policy leaders are looking to the task ahead: Enhancing Michigan’s position of economic leadership in a newly competitive world.

Among those are Tina Freese Decker, president & chief executive officer of BHSH System, the $13-billion integrated health system formed by the joining together of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health in 2022, and Awenate Cobbina, chief executive officer of Bedrock Manufacturing Company, the parent of Shinola and Filson.

Both see that Michigan can build on its long-term advantages – but both also see the need for greater innovation across many fields.

“It may be tempting to ease back to ‘normal,’ as we all want a rest from this pandemic,” Decker said. “But now is not the time to rest.”

Innovation is Job One

During the pandemic, Michigan businesses innovated to stay ahead of the challenges, from automakers launching new electric vehicles to health care firms forming new partnerships.

To cite one such example, BHSH recently partnered with Grand Valley State University to create an opportunity for nearly 500 additional students to pursue a career in nursing. Both the hospital system and the university had to think in new ways, Decker said, and “both of us moved to the middle to find a workable solution that offers each of us, and our community, an opportunity for sustained successful outcomes.”

Now, she added, “Michigan’s businesses, leaders, and residents must continue to build on this spirit of innovation and partnership to excel. Innovation not only applies to health care but to every field and industry.”

Intelligent Manufacturing

For Cobbina, who also serves as chairman of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Executive Committee, Michigan must continue to do what it’s been doing well in recent decades, i.e., remain committed to intelligent manufacturing.

“I think that Michigan has a real opportunity right now given the history here but also given what the future holds,” he said. “The history involves essentially people making things, and for a long time that was automobiles. Just because some of the brain power has shifted west and some of the manpower has shifted south, doesn’t mean things won’t still be made here. So how do we make sure we’re capitalizing on the strengths of the area? The history of Michigan making quality products is one of those areas.”

Michigan’s To-do List

Asked for a to-do list for Michigan, Decker and Cobbina cite several “musts”:

  • Investments in world-class education for children and lifelong learners, preparing them for good jobs and generating economic wealth;
  • Innovation, or transforming existing businesses for the digital economy;
  • Welcoming and growing entrepreneurs in Michigan and diversifying to create more of a sense of belonging; and
  • Being nimble, responsive and innovative with potential business opportunities while simultaneously advocating for the incredible benefits of living, working, learning, and vacationing in Michigan.

Yes, It’s Personal!

For many Michigan business leaders speaking at Mackinac this year, the task of building Michigan’s position of leadership is deeply personal.

“I just had a child a month ago,” Cobbina says. “I wouldn’t be here prepared to raise a child in Michigan if I wasn’t optimistic about its future. I’m choosing to do it here because I want to be part of the next generation of great Michiganders that sets us on the right path for the next century. All of the seeds to have a great state are here.”

John Gallagher is a freelance writer and author in Detroit, and formerly of the Detroit Free Press.


“Michigan’s businesses, leaders, and residents must continue to build on this spirit of innovation and partnership to excel. Innovation not only applies to health care but to every field and industry.”
-Tina Freese Decker, President and Chief Executive Officer, BHSH System