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CEO Summit Highlights Growth & Progress, Pushes for Aggressive Strategy that Leverages the State's Competitive Strengths

An audience of 400+ business, nonprofit and community leaders, and policymakers gathered today at the Westin Book Cadillac to take stock of Michigan’s economic transformation to date and rally around strategies for moving Michigan forward. Headlined by XPRIZE Chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis and McKinsey & Co. Director Jonathan Woetzel, the event emphasized the need for aggressive action to compete in today’s highly competitive economy.

“The pace of change in business has rapidly increased,” said Jeff Fettig, Chairman and CEO of the Whirlpool Corporation and Chair of Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM), which hosted today’s event. “You have to be first in the market or better than everyone else.  Industry leaders must constantly be reinventing themselves if they are to stay ahead of the curve and Michigan must too.”

Doug Rothwell, BLM President and CEO provided an overview of the organization’s 2014 Michigan’s Economic Competitiveness Benchmarking Report, “Productivity and personal income are up and unemployment is down. Our tax climate is significantly improved and our prospects for future growth are positive. However, the rapid growth we experienced during the past couple of years is stabilizing, just when we need to ramp up further.”

Rothwell encouraged the audience to push forward, “Now is the time for us to think bigger, become more competitive, and move Michigan ahead of others to win economically. If Michigan was performing like a “Top Ten” state today, we would have 150,000 more jobs and $12,000 more income per person.”

BLM’s Economic Competitiveness Benchmarking Report shows that Michigan is, in many cases, out-performing the nation.  The full report is available online, along with a dynamic website that allows users to interact with data, choosing the time periods, regions, and data they wish to view. Findings include:           

Michigan’s employment, personal income, and GDP continue to grow faster than most states, but are still below Top Ten levels.

  • Employment is up, but per capita income and per capita GDP levels remain below average.

Michigan’s overall business tax climate remains among the best nationally.

  • The overall tax climate is 14th best nationally
  • Changes to the Personal Property Tax are expected to improve the tax climate further.

Michigan needs both more skilled and educated workers.

  • Michigan’s production of credentialed and degreed talent is similar to “Top Ten” states, but the pool of available talent with a credential or degree is smaller.
  • Only 21% of Michigan high school students are career and college ready, which is 11 percentage points below that of “Top Ten” states.
  • Michigan ranks 26th in the number of workers with critical skills degrees and certificates
  • With only 37% of the working age population having an associate’s degree or above, Michigan is about 5 percentage points lower than “Top Ten” states.

Michigan remains a national leader in R & D, and continues to demonstrate strong innovation and manufacturing capabilities, but this has not translated into consistent attraction of venture capital or sustained entrepreneurial activity

  • University R&D is among the “Top Ten” in the nation and Michigan ranks 13th in patents awarded.
  • The value of Michigan exports at per $100,000 of GDP is nearly double that of the “Top Ten” states.

The report found that while Michigan ranks high in innovation, overall educational attainment needs to improve for Michigan to keep pace in the knowledge economy.  Michigan falls short of “Top Ten” states for individuals with an Associate’s degree or greater and other states are doing a better job of producing students that are ready to enter college or start a career.

Rothwell further remarked, “The good news is that Michigan has made measurable progress since 2009.  But getting back into the game is not the same as winning the game. We cannot create more good paying jobs without the workforce to fill them. We need to boost efforts to train workers and make college more affordable. We need to address the quality of our roads and bridges.  We want Michigan to grow, not just get by.  It’s time to invest in our infrastructure and leverage our distinctive assets to give Michigan a competitive advantage.”

“Michigan has tremendous assets on which it can capitalize,” Rothwell said.  “Michigan remains a national leader in terms of manufacturing, engineering, R&D and talent production. These strengths can give us a leg up in a world driven by innovation.”

Today’s discussion focused on how technology is changing the way people work, winning formulas businesses need to succeed, and strategic investment in key state assets. The conference featured presentations from Jeff Fettig, Chairman & CEO, Whirlpool Corporation; Doug Rothwell, President & CEO, Business Leaders for Michigan; Matthew Elliott, Michigan Market President, Market Executive,  Global Commercial Banking, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Blake Krueger, Chairman, President & CEO, Wolverine World Wide; Matt Clayson, Director, Detroit Creative Corridor Center; Miles Jones, Co-Chairman, Dawn Food Products, Inc.; Florine Mark, President & CEO, Weight Watchers Group; William Pickard, Chairman & CEO, Global Automotive Alliance, LLC; Jaeson Brown, Partner & Co-Founder, Root4Creative; Amy Proos, Chief Executive Officer, Proos Manufacturing; Brian Royster, Founder & CEO, AskSupportNow; Ryan Vaughn, Founder & CEO, Varsity News Network and Sam Valenti III, Chairman, TriMas Corporation.

Business Leaders for Michigan

Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable, is dedicated to making Michigan a “Top Ten” state for jobs, personal income and a healthy economy. The organization is composed exclusively of the chairpersons, chief executive officers, or most senior executives of Michigan’s largest companies and universities.  Our members drive over 25% of the state’s economy, provide over 325,000 direct and 820,000 indirect jobs in Michigan, generate over $1 Trillion in annual revenue and serve nearly one half of all Michigan public university students.

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