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Sunday, 25 November 2012 23:26

Leaders must step up to create good policy

Written by  Birgit Klohs | The Right Place Inc.
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This year’s election cycle was arguably one of the most discussed and battled contests in recent history, both in Michigan and nationally. After a number of intensely-debated state ballot proposals and heated candidate races at all levels of government, I believe it is safe to say that we are all pleased to see the 2012 election season come to a close.

However, after the yard signs come down, the “robo” calls stop, television endorsements end, and your friends are back to posting on Facebook about their kids, what comes next?

What comes next is the real work, the work of advancing Michigan and West Michigan’s economy, creating jobs and building wealth for our region’s citizens.

When you stop and think about it, “what’s next” today shouldn’t be any different than “what’s next” for any other day in West Michigan. It is up to us, the individuals and businesses in our region, to drive economic growth in 2013.

Don’t get me wrong, the election season, and particularly its outcome, has a tremendous impact on current and future business growth. Business, politics, and policy do not operate in separate vacuums; all are affected by changes in the other.

Take the six ballot proposals, for instance. All have (or could have had) an impact — even unintended — on West Michigan business to some extent. Local business, politics and policies ebb and flow based on the outcomes that were decided on Nov. 6, and so too does Michigan’s image in the global marketplace.

The ballot proposals brought before Michigan voters this year didn’t just catch the attention of Michiganders; it caught the attention of state, national and international businesses investing in Michigan. Even though these proposals did not pass, the fact that there was enough support and funding to get them on the ballot created national and international concern and uncertainty about doing business in Michigan.

Credit ratings giant Moody’s, after a recent meeting with State of Michigan representatives, noted in a memo a clear connection between the state proposals, their potential impact on credit rating, and the domino effect they would have on increased government and construction costs involving bonds or borrowing.

But the positive is being noticed, too.

Many have labeled Michigan as the “comeback state.” Our image as a good place to do business is improving. Let’s stay on the path of positive change and show them what we have.

What we have are successes such as tax reforms, the new international trade crossing, and investments in talent. What we have are positive rankings such as being the sixth-best state in the nation for “overall labor climate” and first for “availability of skilled labor.” We cannot jeopardize the momentum by adding uncertainty to Michigan’s business climate.

So, what’s next?

At The Right Place, we remain optimistic about Michigan and West Michigan’s future. Our regional economy is growing, our population is increasing, companies are investing and jobs are being created. West Michigan’s unemployment levels are at the lowest they have been in nearly three years.

Our state has experienced more economic growth in jobs and investment than nearly any other Midwest state since the recession. Unemployment is down, entrepreneurship is up, and West Michigan’s Gross Regional Product is the highest it has been in history.

Is our work as a region done?

The obvious answer is no. However, to continue moving forward, we must be open to change. It could be argued several of Michigan’s ballot proposals were a call to preserve the status quo. This is not how we move forward as a region and state.

Robert Kennedy once said, “Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator. And change has its enemies.” As difficult as it is, we must continue to progress socially and economically, and always with the understanding that our decisions have implications beyond Michigan.

Whether your particular candidate(s) and proposal(s) won or lost, our duty as business and community leaders is to now move forward and do what West Michigan does best: keep creating and innovating our way to economic growth. It is the hard work and dedication of those who woke up Nov. 7 and kept moving forward that are helping us with what’s next for our region.

Through investments in business, job creation, and sound political and public policy decisions, our state will continue to develop as a national and international destination for business growth and success.

So, I encourage you to get involved in local public policy and economic development initiatives. Don’t wait for what’s next. Take a leading role in creating it.

Read 1350 times Last modified on Sunday, 25 November 2012 16:49

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