In late February, Business Leaders for Michigan released an urban strategy for Michigan, prepared by Public Sector Consultants and the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. The first three steps of our Michigan Turnaround Plan were focused on fixing the basics —adopting good management practices, structurally balancing the budget along with improving the delivery of state services and providing a competitive business environment. Our goals for prioritizing state investments came after those three steps because if you don’t have a sound foundation, your investments won’t have as good a return and your economy won’t grow as much as it should.
Step 5 of the Michigan Turnaround Plan focuses on our cities and metro areas because we believe that healthy urban areas are essential to our state’s long-term well-being. The report begins with a review of current economic conditions and focuses on how to grow the economies of our metro areas with a strong emphasis on innovation and exports as drivers of the next economy. The strategy is based on facts and on the existing strengths and assets of our metro areas and it includes several recommendations our state, cities and metro areas can implement to help strengthen and grow their economies. To read the report, click here.
The report also highlights the strength of our metros compared to their peers across the nation and some of the statistics may surprise you. For example:
- Of the 20 largest U.S. metro areas, Detroit is first in terms of export intensity (the share of its output that is exported)
- Grand Rapids ranks 10th among the 100 largest U.S. metro areas in terms of export intensity, and 10 of Michigan’s 14 metro areas are more export-oriented than the U.S. average
Clearly, exports are a very important piece of the economic picture. As other countries continue to develop and grow, the ability to sell our products to them is a critical component of strengthening and growing our economies. And as the report shows, we are well positioned to build upon our current successes.
The report also reflects the importance of manufacturing—which is good news for Michigan. Everyone knows Michigan has a strong history of manufacturing, but what they may not realize is the connection between innovation and manufacturing. You need a strong manufacturing base in order to grow innovation jobs. And, the data shows that 11 of Michigan’s metro areas have a higher share of manufacturing jobs than the national average or the U.S. metro average.
Talent is another critical piece of the pie. The dynamics of a changing workforce and ensuring workers have the skills required for new jobs heighten the need for strong workforce development systems. Immigrants, older workers and workers with higher education levels and skill sets are all part of the solution.
The last section of the report—but perhaps the most important in sustaining long term growth in our cities and metro regions—is called “building the basics.” Just as we believe our state had to get its fiscal house in order before it could move to making investments, the same is true for our cities and regions.
The basics are the foundation upon which all of the strategies in the urban report are built. As citizens, it’s what we should expect and at the same time we should support elected leaders who are focusing on these as their top priorities. It’s critical that our cities and urban areas have:
- sound fiscal management and ethics standards
- effective public safety
- results-oriented redevelopment strategies
- cost-effective and reliable basic services, and
- support for regional solutions
The recommendations in this report are good ones and they offer some solid steps that can be taken to help our cities grow. BUT, if our communities cannot provide basic services and do them well, then the other actions won’t achieve the same results.
There is no silver bullet. There wasn’t a silver bullet to fix our state and there isn’t one to fix our cities. It will require hard work, the courage to make difficult decisions and implement policies and programs that will bear fruit years down the road, the ability to know who and what we are and are not, and the vision and leadership to stay the course. The state has begun that path as have some of our cities and metro areas; now it’s time to help all of them on the same path. What is clear in the report is that we have a solid footing from which to grow—and that’s the best news of all.