Economic Experts: Next-Generation Mobility, Innovation and Education Key Issues to Move Region Forward

With its world-class assets, the Detroit region has an unprecedented opportunity to drive next-generation mobility development. Remaining a leader in the space, however, is not a foregone conclusion. That was a key message Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist for General Motors Co., laid out during remarks at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s State of the Region luncheon on Jan. 25.

“When auto sales do well around the world, this region does exceptionally well,” Mohatarem said during remarks on national economic trends.

Global auto sales are at an all-time high and growing, including in the United States, Canada and Mexico, according to Mohatarem. However, he said Michigan cannot rest on its laurels.

“If we don’t do the right things, we may find ourselves like Pittsburgh and Youngstown with the steel (industry) — someone else will displace us,” he warned.

“What we need to do in our region to ensure the success of the auto industry is to preserve it. Not in the sense of trying to keep it the same because the industry may look very different in the next few years,” Mohatarem added.

Mohatarem also discussed other key economic indicators for the region, including rising interest rates and low oil prices. He ended his remarks with insight on President Trump’s administration, adding that the initial outlook has some positives, such as cutting corporate tax rates to help boost investments in the United States, and increasing infrastructure spending.

“These are exciting times, positive times – and everyone will not agree with me, but we will see a lot of change,” Mohatarem said.

Mohatarem then joined a panel of regional leaders to discuss the presented State of the Region data. Panelists included: Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation; John Roberts, budget director of the state of Michigan; and Marina Whitman, professor of business administration and public policy of the University of Michigan. The panel was moderated by Devin Scillian, anchor on WDIV-TV 4.

The panelists touched on many topics including trade and transportation. Panelists agreed that education must be a top priority to move the region forward.

“We’ve got to figure out some way to put the kids first and I frankly don’t know how to do that,” Rapson said. “We’ve got to take a moonshot here because we just can’t continue the kind of gradual, incremental stuff.”

View the 2017 State of the Region report here.