Globalization, increasing world population and rising income levels in developing nations are all increasing the demand for natural resources – chiefly food, energy sources, precious materials, and water. This creates a massive opportunity not only for those providing these commodities, but also for those in a position to develop technologies and approaches that maximize the productivity of ever-scarcer resources. Michigan has all the pieces in place to seize this opportunity.
With global demand for food expected to rise by 70 percent between 2000 and 2050, Michigan is uniquely positioned to fill this need. For example, Michigan farms produce 50 percent more feed-grains than our state needs, leaving us well-situated to become a key provider of the world’s food supply. We can seize this opportunity by supporting policies and regulations designed to grow the industry, increasing agricultural engineering solutions, expanding the export transportation infrastructure and helping to expand overseas markets.
Michigan should continue to leverage its natural beauty to garner a larger percentage of the lucrative tourism market. Although tourism outlays nationwide have dropped off in general since the recession, Michigan’s tourism industry remains strong. In 2010, our state earned an estimated $17.2 billion in tourism revenue. The industry currently provides jobs for roughly 156,200 Michigan residents, and the growing trend towards niche markets plays to the state’s strengths. Michigan’s easy access to major population centers, its relatively low costs, and the intrinsic and varied attractiveness of its natural amenities make Michigan’s tourism industry ripe for future growth.
When it comes to meeting global demands for new manufacturing and energy sources, Michigan can’t be beat. We have the greatest supply of freshwater in the world, large wind corridors and an expertise in alternative energy technologies that give us a leg up on the competition. Diminishing natural resources in other parts of the nation, paired with Michigan’s plentiful fresh water, make our state an attractive place to locate a business. We should work to attract water-intensive industries to the state that adopt safe, sustainable practices to prevent the diversion of water outside of Michigan. It’s critical that Michigan remain mindful that protecting our water stocks and keeping them secure will leave the state with an incalculable advantage for decades to come. In addition, we can leverage our engineering and manufacturing assets to define future products and services for the water management value chain to meet the needs of water-scarce regions in the world. Michigan can continue to expand our specialized expertise in alternative energy technologies by educating new talent, researching investments and supporting engineering solutions that apply automotive principles across a variety of disciplines. We should also pursue the prudent utilization of natural shale, wind and precious minerals.
Regions of the world with abundant natural resources will be in a position to accelerate their economies if they find sustainable ways to utilize them. With the world’s greatest source of pure freshwater, a large supply of precious minerals, large deposits of shale oil and expertise in alternative energy solutions, Michigan can help feed and power the world.