The Need For A New Michigan

Our vision and strategy for growing the Michigan economy is laid out in our New Agenda for A New Michigan report. As I talk to audiences across the state I am constantly reminded that if you don’t understand the need for a new Michigan, the new agenda is irrelevant.

Its clear to me that many – probably most – Michiganians have not accepted that a new Michigan is required. That what made us prosperous in the past, won’t in the future.

Michigan enjoyed high per capita income for most of the last century. As recent as 2000 we were sixteenth in per capita income. Now we are consistently below the national average in both upturns and downturns. In 2007 we were thirty third – 11 percent below the national average. This is the lowest Michigan has been since the federal government started collecting data in 1929.

Why? What made us prosperous for nearly a century – an extraordinarily long run – was good paying, lower skills jobs primarily in manufacturing. The hard truth is those jobs are gone forever.

The new reality is that manufacturing (work done in factories) is no longer a sustainable source of high paid jobs. Nor is it a source of future job growth. Manufacturing makes up about 10 percent of the American workforce today and is declining. Its average wage nationally is about $35,000. Michigan factory work in the future will pay around the national average. So whether it’s traditional Michigan industries like autos and furniture or new industries like alternative energy, factory jobs will not be a source of new high paid jobs for Michiganians.

Until we understand and embrace that new reality we are not going to work on what really matters to rebuilding a high prosperity Michigan. As long as most Michiganians what political and civic leaders to get their old job back for them – something they can’t do – we are going to continue to decline!

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Lou Glazer

Lou Glazer is President and co-founder of Michigan Future, Inc., a non-partisan, non-profit organization. Michigan Future’s mission is to be a source of new ideas on how Michigan can succeed as a world class community in a knowledge-driven economy. Its work is funded by Michigan foundations.