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Sunday, 25 January 2015 20:17

BLM focuses efforts on transportation, talent, leveraging assets in 2015

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The Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM) has long advocated to make Michigan a top 10 state for jobs, personal income and a healthy economy.

But a new report by the group shows that its lofty goal could be difficult to achieve given current trends.

“Interestingly, there’s no forecast that we’ve seen that Michigan ever gets to be top 10, which is concerning,” said Doug Rothwell, BLM’s president and CEO.

The Detroit-based business roundtable group comprised of leading Michigan CEOs and university presidents has been releasing an annual Turnaround Plan since 2009.

For the past several years, that report has been focused on more basic issues intended at righting the state’s direction and marketing Michigan as a business-friendly state. Now that the state is on a growth trajectory, Rothwell said it’s time to focus on a few very specific issues — transportation funding, growing talent and leveraging existing assets — to get the state to the next level.

“Clearly, Michigan was at a pivot point back in 2009, but we kind of think it’s at another one right now,” Rothwell said. “The work that the state has done the last four or five years has been really important. But we don’t think it’s enough to get us to where we’d really like to be.”

Indeed, despite some positive upward trends, statistics included in BLM’s 2015 report do not paint a particularly rosy picture.

Nationally, Michigan ranks 37th in per capita gross state product, 41st in terms of statewide unemployment and 35th in the nation for personal income.

Of Business Leaders for Michigan’s top three priorities, infrastructure and road funding remains perhaps the greatest challenge, Rothwell said. In the lame duck session last December, the state Legislature passed a bill package that would fund road and infrastructure improvements by raising the state sales tax to 7 percent. The issue requires voter approval in a ballot initiative in May.

“I think it’s going to be a tough slide but it’s definitely doable,” Rothwell said of the chances of the proposal passing. “The last polling we saw is that the public is fairly split. With a little more of a concerted campaign, we are hoping we could get this passed. I think it’s the reason the legislature punted — because it wasn’t real clear which side the public was on.”

That’s understandable because voters believe that the roads need to be fixed in the state, Rothwell said. However, raising taxes to do it is a harder sell, he said.

While Rothwell acknowledges that the state has seen good progress in recent years, there remain several unknowns such as road funding that are leading to uncertainty.

“For next year and the year beyond, I think we know what the issues are,” Rothwell said. “I think we’re a little less clear on what’s the best way to solve them. We can keep doing what we have been doing, which is kind of incremental progress. … We are trying to come up with some ‘pass down the field’ options.”


Read 2679 times Last modified on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 14:38

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