Monroe News Article on Focus On The Future Event

The Monroe News printed an article in today’s newspaper on some of the highlights our key note speaker, Doug Rothwell, presented at our annual event, “Focus On The Future,” last evening. Doug is the President & CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan.

Many thanks to those that were able to attend!

Reprinted from today’s Monroe News

“Focus on the Future” lecture probes state’s weaknesses

Michigan can become a Top 10 state, but it has work to do.

“ We need to celebrate the comeback we have made as a state, but our job is not done,” said Doug Rothwell. “ We have gone from being the worst state six to seven years ago to now being an average performing state. Average is just that. We have more work to do.”

Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, discussed ways the state can make gains to become one of the top in the country. Rothwell was the keynote speaker at “Focus On The Future,” the Monroe County Business Development Corporation’s annual stakeholders meeting. About 50 business leaders, elected officials and education leaders met Wednesday at Monroe County Community College’s La- Z- Boy Center for the event.

Michigan ranks 33rd in per capita income and 35th in gross domestic product, Rothwell explained. The state is losing population, dropping from the eighth most populated state to the 10th. All of that affects the state’s turnaround.

“We have improved the most on getting more competitive in terms of taxes and the cost of doing business,” he said. Education is a key component to propelling the state in to the future, Rothwell said.  “ We say we have a great educated workforce, but we have a way to go,” he said. “ We are below in educational attainment and below average in kids taking career and technical education.”

Poor road conditions and a crumbling infrastructure affect a business’s decision to locate in the state.

Rothwell outlined five priorities his organization is working on to bolster the state.

Those priorities include strengthening the state’s fiscal stability; attracting talent; investing in infrastructure; encouraging economic development and leveraging the state’s assets.

“We’ve made gains in fixing our finances and getting our fiscal house in order,” Rothwell said. “We don’t want to go back to the bad old days a decade ago when we couldn’t pass a budget.”

He said the state needs to address its unfunded liabilities relating to healthcare costs for retirees.

The state needs more skilled trade workers, but Rothwell said that is not the biggest problem.

“The biggest problem is encouraging and helping our kids understand the importance of being an electrician or plumber,” he said. “Can we expose our kids to the fact that these are good careers and have kids and parents keep open mind about these careers?” he added.

More money needs to be spent by the state and local municipalities on improving infrastructure, he said. The state also needs to have a consistent approach to economic development.

Michigan’s location is ideal for many businesses, Rothwell added.

“Michigan’s location is ideal for us to be a bigger player than we are,” he said. “We need a new freight terminal in Detroit. We need a new tunnel under the Detroit River. We need more industrial and logistics parks to accommodate the Amazons of the world that want to be here.”

Tim Lake, president of the BDC, echoed Rothwell. “We are trying to be more proactive and work toward a better economic situation for the county of Monroe,” he said.