The Road to Stronger Communities

August 27, 2020
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Today, more than ever, Michiganders understand the importance of strong communities. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s about the importance of coming together to address a challenge in a way that’s meaningful, resilient and productive.

That resilience has been earned the hard way. We’ve fought together through tough times, most recently through the Great Recession of a decade ago.

The lessons we learned during those times—and the lessons we’re still learning today—show us the value of collaboration, shared leadership and thoughtful planning. We need to rely on those lessons now as we map a strong way forward with the ongoing presence of COVID-19 as our new reality.

Fortunately, we have a plan to guide our actions. Michigan’s Road to Top Ten plan, developed by Business Leaders for Michigan, is grounded in data and evidence, thoroughly vetted by expert analysts, and ready to provide a pathway to prosperity for our state and all of its communities.

The plan focuses on some of the toughest policy issues we face. It’s no secret our transportation infrastructure, water supply, and broadband networks all require significant improvements to keep state residents safe and connected. It’s time we made the tough choices to invest in the assets we need to move forward effectively.

Michigan’s roads and bridges rank poorly compared to those in other states (39th and 43rd, respectively). But we don’t need these data points to understand the problem—we feel it every time we hit a pothole or bend a rim. And our business leaders appreciate the scope of the issue most of all, as they work to bring their products and services to market over rutted, pitted surfaces that strike at their bottom lines.

And that’s not all. The longer we wait to fix our transportation infrastructure, the more it will cost to do so. While a 2015 road funding package will generate $1.2 billion when fully implemented, decades of deferred maintenance and deteriorating conditions will keep a sizeable funding gap in place unless further action is taken. State experts have projected a revenue shortfall of at least $2 billion per year—and that number continues to grow as too few roads are being repaired in a timely manner.

The fact is, the cost of fixing Michigan’s roads will accelerate as normal degradation continues and maintenance funding continues to lag. Indeed, there is a point of degradation that, once reached, causes repair costs to increase drastically. According to the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission, every dollar spent on road preservation eliminates or delays the need to spend six to 14 dollars on repair and reconstruction. This means that as more roads in Michigan decline below a rating of “fair,” the cost to the state in meeting its road quality goals increases significantly.

To resolve this issue most effectively, Michigan’s Road to Top Ten plan recommends strategies that make essential investments to improve our infrastructure conditions—from roads and bridges to broadband expansion and electrical grid reliability. The plan also supports sustainable protections for the Great Lakes and looks to boost regional assets by eliminating the requirement for state approvals of local referendums for transit systems, parks and cultural amenities.

These choices won’t be easy ones to make, particularly in light of the economic hardships that are coming due to COVID-19. However, as we continue to look at what makes other states and regions successful, it is clear those that prioritize critical investments are the ones that continue to make greatest gains toward economic growth and prosperity.

Now is not the time to move our state backward—it’s time to become serious about moving Michigan to a level of competitiveness we haven’t seen in the past several decades.

Fortunately, we do have many of the key assets in place. Our state’s residents—and many policy leaders—share a strong desire to fix our state’s infrastructure.

During the second half of 2020, it will be easy to get distracted from our plan to grow our infrastructure to Top Ten U.S. levels. The economic disruption we’re experiencing will force our state’s leaders into uncomfortable choices, and keeping long-term investment in Michigan’s communities at the forefront of those decisions will take decisive leadership and an iron will.

All Michiganders must be prepared to come together as communities and encourage our leaders to follow the Road to Top Ten plan, so we can return to prosperity not just quickly, but sustainably over the long term.

To view Michigan’s Road to Top Ten, visit https://businessleadersformichigan.com.