economic development

New immigrants are crucial to Michigan's future

Feb 26, 2015
Flickr/Icars

The Next Idea

Every American family has a genesis story about how they came to be in this country: escaping a cruel despot, searching for elusive riches, or enslaved by brutal overlords. Only the few that were made foreigners in their own lands can claim to be the original Americans. Somewhere along the way, you or your ancestors had to overcome the perils of the journey, the acquisition of the language, the challenges of employment, and the stigma of prejudice and intolerance. Regrettably, some are still struggling to this day.

The Next Idea

You may have never heard of Joseph Schumpeter, an eccentric Austrian economist who taught at Harvard in the 1930s and '40s. But to those of us who study the strategic and financial dynamics of innovation, he is far more influential than his peers John Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman. Schumpeter is the guy who made the entrepreneur the engine of growth for an economy, and several Nobel Laureates since have suggested that he was right on most counts.

The abandoned Packard Automobile Factory is emblematic of the financial stress of many minority Michigan communities.
Albert Duce / Wikimedia Commons

Which areas of Michigan are bouncing back from the Great Recession?

As our next guest has discovered, the economic "report card" for Michigan is, as they put it, "a grab bag of the promising and the troubling."

Ted Roelofs dug into those numbers for Bridge Magazine.

Listen to our conversation with Roelofs below.


Allyson Limon / Flickr

Oakland County is launching a new initiative to help grow tech companies. It’s part of the county’s larger effort to diversify its automotive-dominated economy.

Irene Spanos directs economic development for Oakland County. She says it's already home to nearly 2,000 IT and communication firms that employ more than 42,000 people.

“Oakland County goes on these trade missions around the world and we talk about some of the work that some of our tech companies are working on globally – they don’t think that it’s coming from Michigan,” Spanos said, “We need to change that.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a new effort underway to make smaller Michigan cities more attractive to young professionals.

After college, many up and coming young professionals are drawn to the big cities where the nightlife is livelier and there's more diversity. But several smaller Michigan cities are trying to change that perspective.

Jackson recently launched the Anchor Initiative.  More than a dozen of the city’s largest employers are joining forces to make Jackson’s downtown more attractive to young professionals looking for a place to live and work.

Tory.me / Creative Commons

You know Spartan Stores – Family Fair, D & W, VG’s – they’re known by different names.

This week the grocery store chain merged with Minneapolis-based grocery distributor Nash Finch. It’s a lot bigger than Spartan. It’s the largest food supplier to stores on military bases.

The new company, now known as SpartanNash, is worth more than $7 billion.

Birgit Klohs is President and CEO of The Right Place. The economic development group worked with the state to offer almost $2.75 million in grant money to keep the headquarters in Michigan.

A123 Systems Inc.'s battery manufacturing facility in Livonia, Michigan. The company filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.
A123 Systems Inc. / Facebook

Sometimes we all do it. We over-promise on what we can actually get done.

That is especially true for some people seeking money or investments. And it appears to be the case with some companies that received state money designed to create jobs in Michigan.

But some legislators in Michigan were left in the dark about that lack of performance, according to an audit by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General.

One of the goals of the Michigan Strategic Fund is to diversify the state's economy by giving out grants to companies, research groups, or start-ups. The goal is to support entities that can create jobs in the state. Job creation numbers can be part of the evaluation of a given grant's effectiveness.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 There are a number of multi-million dollar development projects happening in and around downtown Detroit these days.

But according to the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, black-owned businesses feel left out of the boom.

Black and other minority-owned businesses have effectively been locked out of the process of re-developing Detroit, says Chamber CEO Ken Harris.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

What’s being called an ‘Eds and Meds’ strategy is paying off for people trying to revitalize Flint’s downtown.

Many downtown buildings in Flint are empty. But local economic development leaders say they are making progress by attracting educational and medical investment.

The ‘Eds and Meds’ strategy is intended to not only bring in jobs, but also create activity and excitement, in a downtown in need of all three.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An insurance company’s planned $100 million expansion in Ingham County took an important step forward Monday night.

The Lansing City Council approved an agreement with a neighboring township which allows the city to collect taxes from the new Jackson National Life headquarters expansion. In exchange, the township would receive some city services.

“This puts us in a position where we can start construction in the fall,” says John Brown, the company’s vice president for government relations,  “And we are very excited about the continuation of the project.”

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

There seem to be two types of stories emerging from Detroit these days: one bleak and one optimistic.

Both can be spun wildly out of proportion, but the two – seemingly contradictory – narratives paint the same city in a very different light.

Detroit’s bankruptcy has garnered attention from around the world – from the U.K. to India. The bankruptcy, the underperforming school system, the lack of public services, the high crime, the dysfunctional local governments: they all contribute to the bleak narrative.

At the same time, there have been a number of reports that have highlighted a more optimistic narrative in the city.

A recent boom in population and economic activity in Midtown and downtown has completely changed those areas of the city over the last several years.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A Lansing bio-pharmaceutical company has opened a ten million dollar expansion at its Lansing facility.

Emergent Biosolutions produces an anthrax vaccine at its facility in Lansing.

“The government is purchasing as much as we can produce,” says Daniel Abdun Nabi, the company’s president, “So one of the reasons we have expanded here on the Lansing campus is to address the nation’s requirement for a broader stockpile of BioThrax.”

The company hopes to triple its Lansing production of the anthrax vaccine by 2015.

Jackson National Life Insurance Company says it plans to spend $100 million on a new office complex in Lansing.

The life insurance and annuities company is headquartered in the capital city.

The expansion will add a thousand jobs of all types.

Mike Wells is Jackson National’s president. He says their growing business has outgrown the complex they built a decade ago.

“We now have twice the employees we had in Michigan,” says Wells, “we have outgrown our space.”

Kate Sumbler / Flickr

Who doesn't love that quintessential story of the underdog who battles and claws his or her way out of some apparently impossible challenge. David and Goliath,  Rocky Balboa, the 'Miracle on Ice' are all great underdog stories that never cease to captivate the minds of people.

Will Detroit be the next great underdog story to make the list?

Kate Sumbler / Flickr

The Detroit Future City plan, released by Detroit Mayor David Bing's Detroit Works Project, offers both short term action and long term plans to rebuild the city.

The report, created over a two year period, intends to improve the quality of life and business in Detroit and also sets goals for the future.

What could cities facing similar situations learn from Detroit? And what has been done in cities outside of Michigan?

June Manning Thomas and Margaret Dewar are professors of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan and are editors of the book "The City after Abandonment," a collection of essays from top urban planning experts.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Thomas and Dewar about the next steps outlined in the plan for Detroit and what its future will hold.

You can listen to the full Stateside interview above.

Commonwealth of Belle Isle: The world's next city-state?

Jan 16, 2013
commonwealthofbelleisle.com

Belle Isle inspires big dreams.

First there was the state’s attempt to photoshop Belle Isle into a "Pleasantville"-style utopia of dog walkers and picnics.

Now, a group of wealthy investors want to buy Detroit’s island park for $1 billion, secede from Michigan, and develop the 982 acres into the Commonwealth of Belle Isle, a Singapore-like city-state with its own laws, customs, and currency.

Recovery Park is a project hoping to revitalize the city of Detroit and get people working. 

Gary Wozniak is the President and CEO.  

He has big plans for Recovery Park involving everything from growing Tilapia, to processing foods, and establishing a 30-acre farm scattered throughout the city.

“So the models that we’re looking at are a combination of the community gardening that’s happening in Detroit, the indoor agriculture that’s being promoted by Michigan State University and then a lot of the larger indoor models in Europe, predominately in the Netherlands,” Wozniak says.

A new urban agriculture ordinance will certainly play a big in making this redevelopment project a reality.

The idea started with Self Help Addiction Rehabilitation or (SHAR), a Detroit based substance abuse treatment program. 

SHAR’s mission is to transform individuals with addiction and those recovering a chance at a new life.

Wozniak has a very personal mission as well.


Stateside: When body parts become commodities

Nov 28, 2012
Gray's Anatomy

For some, the idea of body parts functioning as units of exchange is unsettling.

But for Dr. Adam Lutzker, the concept is one worth investigating. Lutzker teaches at the University of Michigan- Flint, where he recently gave a lecture entitled “Human Body Parts as Commodities.”

Born from a teaching strategy used to spark his students’ attention, the lecture challenges what we view as viable commodities.

“A commodity is anything that is produced for profit and bought and sold. With a commodity, we tolerate the fact that not everyone will get them. This was the debate- should things be treated as commodities? Should they be treated as rights?” said Lutzker.

Gender-based income inequality by county.
screenshot / Slate/New America Foundation

Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment from the second presidential debate became an instant Internet meme, but it also brought attention to the issue of income inequality based on gender.

It’s an issue with particular relevance for Michigan.

The state ranks fourth in the country for the largest pay gap between men and women.

user andrea_44 / Flickr

Detroit has the third highest average annual income out of the 51 largest metropolitan areas in the country.

Shocked? Let me explain.

Forbes Magazine and the Praxis Strategy Group re-ranked the incomes in these 51 cities after adjusting for cost of living. Not surprisingly, it turns out a dollar goes a lot farther in Detroit than in, say, New York City or Boston.

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