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State Plans Economic Growth as Workforce Shortages Continue

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Michigan is open for business.

Open for businesses to come and grow in the state. 

Does Michigan have the workforce to support it?

That’s one of the biggest questions being discussed on Mackinac Island this week as the state’s business and political leaders convene for the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference.

Everyone has seen the headlines. The state announces a new plant or business coming to Michigan and bringing ‘x-number’ of jobs with it. It’s a great thing but before those jobs even get here, there are headlines of a worker shortage. The companies already in the state are unable to find enough workers. 

The state that put the world on wheels, that built the middle class, needed a change.

“We are open because Michigan has an incredibly diverse economy,” said Quentin Messer, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, “EV, mobility, semiconductors, agri-business you name it, we are open to all that.”

The state has open arms for the business, and the jobs and tax base they bring. But right now Michigan is struggling to fill the jobs it already needs.

“Workforce is on the front of mind for everyone,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer, “Everyone at this conference will tell you they are concerned with that.”

The warning signs of this “Great Resignation” were there and COVID-19 shoved them to the front.

“What the pandemic did was expedite the challenges we were facing on the workforce participation rate,” said Kerry Ebersole-Singh, Chief Talent Retention Officer for the MEDC.

It’s a simple numbers game, Michigan needs more people. More to come and more to stay. The population has been increasing but not at the rate of competing states.

“Holding on to our young people, luring talent to Michigan from around the globe but also around the country,” said Whitmer, “We have a great story to tell a high quality of life and low cost of living.”

“Upon graduation we want those graduates staying here to build their life here in the state of Michigan,” said Ebersole-Singh.

Bill Pink is the president of Grand Rapids Community College and the incoming president of Ferris State University. He sees first hand that businesses need graduates but graduates need to see the business.

“Making sure that we have industry and businesses alongside there because our students don’t care to finish at community college or go on to a four year university if they don’t see a good job on the other end,” said Pink, “We’re going to lose them and that’s what’s been happening.”

They have to happen in concert. More workers come when there is more business but more businesses will come where there’s a workforce. It’s a thin line to walk but the state is going to try.

“When we come together and compete as a team, united under Team Michigan, we are unstoppable on the global market,” said Messer.

Whitmer said there have been signs in growth. Two years ago, she announced her ‘60 by 30’ plan to have 60% of Michiganders with a post-secondary certificate or degree by 2030. At the time, 45% of Michiganders had the degree, now Michigan is right near 50%.