May 24 • 08:32 PM

Diversity key for recovery

Granholm outlines steps on long path to state's economic health

Governor Jennifer Granholm says Michigan is headed in the right direction as she addresses Lapeer Economic Club on May 28. photo by Maria Brown.

June 02, 2010
LAPEER — Governor Jennifer Granholm will be leaving office in six months, but she's confident the groundwork for Michigan's economic recovery has been laid.

State government is smaller, industry is more diverse, tougher curriculum standards are in place and technology is fostering proficiency, Granholm believes.

"We're planting trees under whose shade (we'll) never sit," she said, putting a modern twist on a Chinese proverb.

Granholm addressed the Economic Club of Lapeer County on Friday morning at the Lapeer Country Club.

The governor described how she watched the state's economy take a nose dive, starting with the closure of the Electrolux refrigerator factory in Greenville—a city once considered the 'Refrigerator Capital of the World.' It was 2006, the same year she won a second term. More than 2,000 jobs were lost and the state's unemployment numbers start to balloon.

"We realized this was not just a cyclical thing but a structural change in Michigan's economy," she said.

Suggestions on how to fix the business climate were numerous and some were unconventional, but she said the 'if you can't beat' em, join 'em' mentality has proven successful.

"We needed to take advantage of globalization rather than be victimized by it," she said.

That mantra sent her on business-courting trips around the world to places like Japan. She boasts that as a result, 47 Japanese companies have since set up operations in Michigan.

Hearing the stories of unemployed Greenville workers spurred Granholm to create the No Worker Left Behind program which has helped close to 125,000 residents obtain job training in emerging sectors.

Partnerships between federal, state and local governments is the magic formula Michigan needs now to lure and keep business in the state, she said.

Putting an emphasis on education was another economic recovery goal, specifically doubling the number of college graduates. Instituting a new college-prep curriculum was the first step and although critics warned the drop-out rate would go up it's consistently shrunk. In 2009, the state's rate stood at 11 percent, better than the 15 percent in 2007.

Granholm also emphasized how much state government has changed in her eight years as governor.

"We're the smallest that we've been since the early 1970s," she said.

"State departments have been cut by 25 percent. We have 11,000 fewer state employees. We've cut more than any state in the nation."

Utilizing technology has been key to reigning in costs. Residents can do everything from paying their taxes to obtaining permits online.

A common vein running throughout her address was the decentralization of leadership. From giving potential entrepreneurs a boost to prodding homeowners to adopt green energy standards, Granholm said Michigan will flourish when individuals are empowered to take leadership roles.

"One leader can't do it alone," she said.

Granholm was first elected to the governor's seat in 2002. Previously, she served as Michigan's Attorney General. She'll be leaving office in January 2011 due to term limits.

Currently, five Republicans—Mike Bouchard, Mike Cox, Tom George, Pete Hoekstra and Rick Snyder—and two Democrats—Virg Bernero and Andy Dillon—are seeking the four-year governor's term.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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