Researcher sees some signs of hope in Michigan's economy

Dec 8, 2010

Researchers at the Kalamazoo-based Upjohn Institute predict Michigan’s economy is stabilizing, but caution it will be a long road to a full recovery.

“We have to realize that what Michigan is coming out of is not a transformed economy, although all of us would like to think that’s true. We’re coming out a leaner economy, a little bit meaner and little bit more advanced but in fact just kind of a smaller version of what we were before, in my opinion.”

Senior Regional Analyst George Erickcek says full recovery will depend on the state’ ability to meet the demand for trained workers in growing industries. In a presentation to leaders in Grand Rapids Wednesday, Erickcek said 25 to 34 year-olds are not achieving the same education levels as the generation before them. That’s the case in Michigan and the nation.

Erickcek says a recovery also depends on Michigan’s ability to shake things up and invest in new industries. “I think it’s time for us to really think about the assets we have in trying to change from what we do – and we do this so well in west Michigan – change what we know how to do to what the world needs,” Erickcek said.

The good news is researchers don’t expect a double dip recession in the state. The bad news, they say, is that it could take 5 years or more to return the job levels seen just a few years ago.

The Grand Rapids’ area is making headway. The region is creating completely new jobs at a faster pace than Detroit…and growing cities like Minneapolis, Pittsburg, and St. Louis.

Birgit Klohs directs The Right Place, an economic development group in west Michigan. “It shows why really the region has survived some of this horrific downturn in a reasonable way – I’m not being a Pollyanna here, I’m a realist. But we have done pretty decent through the last two years,” Klohs said.

Erickcek predicts the economy in the greater Grand Rapids area will grow close to one percent next year.