The Detroit Economic Club luncheon today was the scene for the public unveiling of a strategy document by Business Leaders for Michigan that focuses on building the economic strength of Michigan cities and metropolitan areas.
Formulated in partnership with The Brookings Institute, the plan highlights several assets the state has including the fact that six metropolitan areas beat the national average for number of patents issued per 1,000 workers. In fact, Detroit leads the nation’s 20 largest metropolitan areas in export intensity measured as a percentage of the regions output that is exported.
Doug Rothwell, President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan noted that there are no silver bullets for fixing Michigan’s cities and he hopes this strategy is used by elected officials as a blueprint.
The three overarching goals outlined by the strategy are,
1. Michigan supports strategies to strengthen the link between innovation and manufacturing to increase regional exports and attract global investments.
2. Michigan supports strong regional systems to train existing workers and welcome new ones to fuel economic growth.
3. Michigan makes targeted investments that leverage distinct assets in urban and metropolitan areas to transform regional economies.
When asked where the dollars for implementing this program will come from, Rothwell noted that instead of spreading Federal and State dollars across a number of different programs, many of the strategies outlined could be implemented by properly targeting those dollars. For example, the 21st Century Jobs Fund the Michigan Economic Development Corporation currently administers could repurpose funding to focus on the specific economic strength of each metropolitan area.
Bruce Katz, Vice President and Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program for The Brookings Institute noted that he can envision a 21st Century Places Fund down the road, similar to the 21st Century Jobs Fund. Katz also noted that as other states begin to dust themselves off from the latest recession, they are looking at letting funding flow more toward cities, recognizing cities tend to be the economic drivers of each state economy. Of particular interest for Detroit, were the findings around identifying and leveraging key assets for accelerating the growth of urban economies. He said these include anchor institutions, waterfront, cultural institutions and distinctive architecture and stated that Detroit’s Downtown and Midtown lead the country in both.