As hard as it is to believe, there is considerable optimism about the future of Michigan’s economy in some places, including some influential people who can actually do something about it. Some of them met at Crain’s Future of Michigan event last week in Troy. While acknowledging that times are tough now, they found that there is already some good news, and there are reasons to be optimistic.
One of the key points was made by Altair Engineering CEO Jim Scapa, who said that “there is opportunity out of crisis.” Having two of the Big 3 automakers file for bankruptcy in the past year, 15% unemployment and annual budget disasters certainly qualifies as a crisis. It is true that a crisis can be one of the best motivators for change (see: Emanuel, Rahm). There will be new ideas that are embraced and have a better shot at being implemented now than before.
The auto industry will continue to be a key player for years to come, but diversification of the economy is critical and new industries will be given attention. At the Future of Michigan meeting, participants touted Michigan’s ability to attract new investments in alternative energy (already thought to be the next bubble by some people) and life services. This could turn into a virtuous cycle: as new investments come into the state, it could cause optimism about the future which would create more spending and investment, and so forth.
At an event in October sponsored by Crain’s called the Business over Breakfast Chris Rizik of the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund, expressed optimism because the state’s push for alternative energy has sparked interest from venture capital firms for the first time. Turning Michigan into the Silicon Valley of alternative energy is a worthy goal and would take an enormous effort from the entire state. There is an opportunity in this current crisis and it could lead to prosperity quicker than many people expect.
Brad Templeman writes for Examiner on Detroit Law and Politics.