You may have heard that I am retiring at the end of the year. During the nearly thirty years I have lived in Michigan, I’ve been privileged to found and lead two organizations – the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Business Leaders for Michigan – that have given me a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities the state faces.
Some of our challenges have been largely overcome during the past few decades, like improving the state’s fiscal health and becoming more business-friendly. Some still remain – fixing our infrastructure, making higher education more affordable, and developing a student-centered education agenda.
We have become less regionally divisive, but still unable to maintain a consistent approach to policy that provides certainty to job providers and residents. We have done a better job meeting the needs of the industries we have, but have not mobilized and maintained the support needed to grow the industries of the future. We have come to understand the importance of developing talent, but not as much the role economic development plays in creating the jobs top talent wants.
Business Leaders for Michigan set a goal a decade ago to become a Top Ten state. We have made great progress toward achieving that goal rising from 50th to above average on most metrics. But the work gets harder the higher we go as we compete against the most successful states. The work that remains cannot be accomplished in a year or even two. It will require cohesive and sustained effort, something that is more difficult in these divisive times.
That is why I am thankful to turn over the reins to Jeff Donofrio. Jeff has the background, mindset, and collaborative style to help Michigan achieve the goal of becoming Top Ten and the role Business Leaders for Michigan can play in that work.
I have had a lot of help over the years from many of you reading this note. Jeff will need your help too and I hope you will extend it to him. I have also had a great staff that I know will help Jeff make a successful transition.
My wife and I never expected when we moved to Michigan three decades ago that we would spend the bulk of our careers here. But we moved and stayed here for two reasons – the people and the beauty of the state. They are the same reasons why I retire with optimism for this great state’s future. Thank you and best wishes!