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Monday, 12 March 2012 09:18

Metro-centered industries key to state’s recovery

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MICHIGAN – The state’s economic decline could very well give way to what Bruce Katz sees as a state that is a leader in innovation and global exports.

The Great Recession from which the U.S. is now recovering “was a wake-up call for this country” that requires America to “build a next economy and enable a different kind of growth in the next decade,” said Katz, director of the Brookings Institute Metropolitan Policy Program.

Michigan – with its manufacturing and innovation power that’s centered in metropolitan areas, and despite the deep economic pain of the last decade – is well-positioned for that coming economy, Katz believes.

“This could be a Michigan moment, if you seize it,” Katz said during a recent address to the Detroit Economic Club where Business Leaders for Michigan outlined a new urban strategy to accelerate economic growth in the state’s cities and 14 metropolitan regions.

“The U.S. economy is shifting in ways that play to the strengths of this state and your cities and your metropolitan areas,” Katz said. “You are a state with deep ties and links and relationships with both the maturing economies of the world and the growing economies of the world.”

The report from Business Leaders from Michigan, prepared by the Brookings Institute Metropolitan Policy Program and Public Sectors Consultants in Lansing, offers an array of ideas for public policymakers on both the state and local levels to consider. The report notes that Michigan’s metro areas are among national leaders in exports and innovation.

Grand Rapids, for instance, ranks eighth among the top 100 metro areas in the U.S. in export intensity, or the shared economic output exported, and 13 of 14 metro areas in Michigan are more export intense than the U.S. average, according to the report. Detroit ranks first among the nation’s top 20 metro areas in export intensity.

Grand Rapids rates second nationally in “green” consumer product specialization and Detroit is fourth in U.S. electric vehicle specialization, Katz said.

Six Michigan metro areas account for a higher number of patents than the U.S. average per 1,000 people in the population from 2001 to 2010.

Those and other dynamics point to a brighter economic future for Michigan, if it can take advantage of the existing strengths and assets of its core cities amid the economic sea changes occurring nationally, Katz said. He notes that much of what’s needed for the “next economy” is already clustered in the state’s metro areas.

“Michigan and its metros have real strengths in this next economy. You are a metro state,” Katz said.

The urban strategy builds on the two-year-old Michigan Turnaround Plan from Business Leaders for Michigan that offers a range of actions to restore prosperity in Michigan. Consisting of 80 top chief executives and university presidents, Business Leaders for Michigan seeks to make Michigan a top 10 state for economic, job and wage growth.

Among the policy recommendations in the Michigan’s Metropolitan and Urban Strategy report are:

Strengthening the links between innovation and manufacturing to increase exports and attract global investments.

Supporting strong regional systems to train workers and welcome new ones to fuel economic growth.

Making what Katz calls “transformative investments that leverage the distinct assets, particularly of your central cities, to transform regional economies.”

As with many aspects of the broader Turnaround Plan, which started with proposed structural and fiscal reforms for state government, making progress on the urban strategy requires a broad public- and private-sector support and action, Business Leaders for Michigan CEO Doug Rothwell said.

“We strongly believe a holistic approach is needed for growing our urban areas, just as we believe is the case for the state,” Rothwell said.

The recommendations in the 62-page report “offer solid steps that can be taken to help our cities and metro regions grow” and serve as a “guide for our state and for our cities as they try to help us grow our economy,” he said.

The recommendations play into Michigan’s manufacturing acumen and deep engineering talent base that’s needed to commercialize innovations Katz said. It also emphasizes exports and the “clean,” low-carbon economy.

“The U.S. must be at the vanguard of the clean economy, which is the next industrial revolution with profound implications for companies, cities and consumers,” Katz said.

Specifically, the report suggests that Michigan:

  • Shift the state’s 21st Century Jobs Fund to expanding research partnerships between large manufacturers, training “manufacturing-oriented” researchers and engineers, and helping small and medium-sized manufacturing firms “put at cutting-edge on product innovation,” Katz said.
  • Reform work force strategies that include helping skilled immigrants attain state credentials.
  • Create a network of advance manufacturing centers that helps companies “crack the code on technology boundaries,” Katz said, and produce new materials for lightweight sustainable products that are in demand by business and consumers and will cut energy costs.
  • Supporting innovation and industry growth clusters, such as the Medical Mile life sciences cluster in Grand Rapids.
  • Designate one to three “innovation districts” that leverage research institutes, such as the Van Andel Institute, and research universities and play off of cultural institutions in cities that can help to attract talent.

“You have a rich platform to build from,” Katz said of the idea for innovation districts. “This is the next generation of city-building and metro-building in the United States.”

Read 2954 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 11:32

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