Gov. Rick Snyder gave an upbeat assessment of his performance so far and his plans for the months ahead, and a panel of CEOs offered an optimistic view of Michigan’s future as the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference got under way Wednesday afternoon.
Snyder said his efforts have been directed toward the realization that “the role of government is not to create jobs, it’s to create an environment where jobs can flourish.”
Snyder said he hoped the most overused word this year will be “dashboard,” because “it is time we are held accountable and measure results, and be open and transparent about that. Without a metric, how do you know when to celebrate success?”
Snyder said that after “theme months” early in his term — economic development in January, budget and tax reform in February, government reform in March and education reform in April — there will be new focus in September on health, wellness and preventive care, in October on infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water, sewer and broadband, and in November on talent.
Snyder said the talent focus of his administration will take on a new aspect — the demand side, asking employers what their jobs of the future will be, “so our young people can build a career the right way.”
Snyder said there’s still a long way to go in education reform, and that it’s “a travesty” that only 16 percent of Michigan high school students are fully college ready.
And he sported a button emblazoned “BUILD THE BRIDGE” for the Detroit River International Crossing project.
In the CEO panel, Tim Bryan, CEO of New Jersey-based GalaxE Solutions, spoke of how he came to establish a health care IT consulting operation in downtown Detroit. “There’s tremendous opportunity in Detroit,” he said. “It’s going to grow as an IT hub. We selected Detroit because of the low cost of infrastructure, yet has all the amenities of a great American city.”
Bryan said he lived in New York City when Times Square was “one giant red light district,” not today’s tourist mecca. He said he saw New York transformed, and the same thing can happen in Detroit.
Bill Parfet, chairman and CEO of the Mattawan contract pharmaceutical research firm MPI Research, said he’s tried doing business in China, but “on an adjusted basis, it is cheaper to do drug development than it is in China. Land is cheaper in Michigan.”
Parfet and other panelists said work remains to be done to get America’s and Michigan’s economic incentives right, though.
“We’ve always subsidized consumption, which made sense when we were buying stuff made down the street,” Parfet said. “Now we’re subsidizing the consumption of stuff made overseas, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Now we have to change our incentives toward production, so we produce more here.”
Mark Murray, president of Meijer Inc., and Parfet both backed consolidation of local units of government as a means of improving the business climate in Michigan.
And while Parfet said Michigan’s teachers need to have a dialogue about accountability, the Chinese system isn’t the answer — it’s too rote. “Those kids are great and math, they’re great at science, but they don’t know how to think,” Parfet said.