Opinion: Time for Action

February 9, 2024
| Share On

As published in Crain’s Detroit Business
January 26, 2024

Time for Action

By Jeff Donofrio

Now more than ever, business and community leaders, legislators, and policymakers must come together to ensure Michigan can compete and win no matter the obstacles we face. It’s time for action.

More action, less politics

The results from our recent CEO survey indicate a more cautious economic outlook for the state compared to the broader U.S. Three primary concerns emerged as potential threats to a thriving Michigan economy: rising costs and wages, ripple effects from recent labor strikes, and the impacts of state policy.

While the Federal Reserve works to curb inflation, and as the impact of the strikes continue to unfold, there is an immediate opportunity to address the third threat: shaping public policy to strengthen Michigan.

Sitting before the state legislature right now are economic development proposals that can increase business investment, create high-wage jobs, diversify our economy, and spur innovation. Michigan lags other states in income growth and knowledge economy jobs. In her State of the State address, Governor Gretchen Whitmer rightly pushed for action that would incentivize research and development, start-and-scale up new businesses, and boost high-wage jobs. While these tools aren’t a replacement for long-term economic development strategy, they put Michigan on a more even playing field with other states.

Today, Michigan is one of only eight states without a payroll incentive for new job creation and one of only 13 states – and the only one in the Midwest – without a tool to support research and development activities.  This puts Michigan at a clear disadvantage for attracting and retaining businesses, especially those in the knowledge economy.  Neighboring states like Ohio are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in supporting entrepreneurs. We urge lawmakers to expand our economic development toolbox by passing these bills expeditiously.

Meaningful work should be done now

There is a great deal of uncertainty in the world, ranging from global conflicts to the upcoming presidential election to industry disruptions. Despite this unpredictability, businesses continue to operate, households continue to function, and individuals and families persist in navigating daily life.

CEOs and entrepreneurs understand the complexity and inherent tension between decisions and actions we take today and how those impact and shape tomorrow. They know how to strike a balance between managing the present, creating the future, and challenging the past.

Much has been said about the 54-54 split in the Michigan House of Representatives. Political control is a Lansing concern. Michiganders are focused on their families, their jobs, and the bottom line for their businesses. This is a unique opportunity to collaborate and build consensus around solutions that matter most for our future.

We need to shift the focus away from winning the next election or news cycle to doing what it takes to make Michigan more competitive. Lansing has a short window of time to get meaningful work done before attention turns to state and national elections. This includes immediate passage of sound economic development proposals with bipartisan support, and a genuine start to the heavy lifting on long-term initiatives like systemic education reform. Michiganders need and deserve action.


Jeff Donofrio is President and Chief Executive Officer of Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable, which is dedicated to making Michigan a Top 10 state for jobs, education, widely shared prosperity and a healthy economy.