Where Big Ideas are Born

Michigan EDC
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Michigan is a hotbed for economic development and growth – and this is having a visible impact on social development and community vibrancy. At the forefront of these economic and social development initiatives are the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and its partners.
In the state of Michigan multiple state, regional, county and local community organizations are collaborating to market the many assets of and benefits to living in, working in, investing in and visiting the state.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) provides the tools, resources and incentives necessary to foster a pro-business environment in the state of Michigan. It proactively identifies and pursues growth opportunities which, when paired with the state’s competitive tax structure and government commitments to growth, has proven to be a recipe for success, creating jobs and encouraging additional investment.

Michigan ranks among the top states in the U.S. for per capita income, GDP growth, young adult population growth, business climate and low unemployment. Michigan is a place where urban and rural lifestyles meet, and as a result, it enjoys a diverse economic and social composition. The state maintains a strong local, national and global presence. It engages with businesses, organizations, communities and its residents to respond to economic challenges or social needs.

“Michigan has so much to offer from a quality of life perspective. That’s why, in an economic development sense, it is important to not only have business development activities. As we’re looking to create more and better jobs, as well as increase capital investment here in the state, it’s really important that we take a look at having vibrant communities,” explained Jennifer Nelson, Chief Business Development Officer with the MEDC.

“We know that, as companies are creating jobs, they are going to need talent to fill those jobs, and they need to live in places that are walkable, that are vibrant, that are exciting. So we have a dual focus here at the MEDC on both the business development front and on the community development side.”

As a means of promoting job creation and investment in Michigan that will have widespread and lasting implications, MEDC is emphasizing three of Michigan’s existing strengths. They are mobility, capacity and a clear vision for the future.

“We already have many successful companies and industries here in Michigan that we want to make sure can grow and thrive, but it’s also important for us to have an international and national attraction campaign. That is very targeted, and hopefully that will bring even more success into the state of Michigan.”

Undoubtedly, one of the hardest-hit states during the global downturn, Michigan’s resilience and ability to overcome challenging economic times has helped it to fight back to once again become a dominant economic force. Nelson credits a number of people and organizations, including the state government, for creating the conditions in which the state could once again flourish.

“The governor, the legislature, a handful of years ago made a number of reforms with our tax structure, with our regulatory reinvention, and having the automotive industry as our foundation has been very important. There are so many other businesses in the state that are able to utilize all that the auto industry has to offer here, especially in aerospace, the furniture industry, our medical device industry.”

“The automotive industry has provided a very nice platform for other industries to thrive. Our business development and community development pipelines are full of many great projects as we continue to be America’s comeback state.”

Logistically speaking, the state offers the advantages of strong interstate connectivity, deep water ports and marine shipping channels, as well as proximity to markets across the U.S. and north into Canada. Michigan, through the MEDC, is working hard to market these assets through initiatives like the Planet M mobility campaign.

“We know that the auto industry in Michigan is going to have to continue with our global automotive leadership, and as automobiles are transforming and transitioning into the connected and automated vehicle area, we want to make sure that Michigan is elevated as the hub for all of these mobility innovations which will lead to more business development and jobs in the state,” Nelson explained.

Michigan boasts an impressive advanced manufacturing sector with prominent research and development and engineering abilities and a substantial number of aerospace-related companies. “We have over six hundred aerospace companies here in the state, so it’s a very vibrant industry for Michigan,” Nelson acknowledged.

The state is home to over three hundred research and developments companies that are supported by the highest concentration of engineers anywhere in the country. It leads the future of technological advancement in many sectors and will remain competitive, staying relevant to industry trends and developing highly innovative technology.

Mobility relates directly to the automotive industry and the next generation of automobile. Michigan has invested significantly in Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) technology and contains what is known as the Smart Corridor. Michigan, with the help of the Planet M campaign, will be the future of transportation and mobility technologies.

Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) technology links vehicle and physical surroundings information in an effort to increase road safety and efficiency. The Smart Corridor will be equipped with cameras and other sensors that will gather information about network-connected vehicles. The data will then be analyzed by a central server that will transmit usable information back to the vehicles.

Why is this relevant? By 2040, it is anticipated that nearly eighty percent of the nation’s intersections will be V2I capable, with ninety percent of light vehicles being equipped with the technology. Michigan will be equipped to address these domestic needs. Not only will this have substantial economic implications, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation these developments are likely to address the vast majority of vehicle crashes each year.

Michigan’s strong agricultural foundation not only serves as an economic driver for many people in rural Michigan, but it is also a way of life and a special part of Michigan’s social and economic composition. To promote growth in this sector, MEDC is identifying opportunities for expanding food processing and supply chain activities.

The state’s agricultural production is diverse with over three hundred commodity crops produced. Agriculture has a $100 billion impact on the state’s economy annually, and Michigan ranks second to California for agricultural diversity. Innovation will be critical to growth, opportunity and prosperity in the agricultural sector.

The state has seen proactive workforce development initiatives and efforts to connect jobs with available skilled labor. “Economic development is very competitive among the states, so we have to make sure that we continue to innovate here in Michigan to remain competitive, and one of the areas that we can do that is from a talent perspective.”

“We have a very talented workforce. Our community college and university systems are among the best in the nation, and we have to make sure that we are investing in our talent system in order to be successful,” she added.

MEDC is creating pipelines for that to happen through its recently launched Going PRO campaign which places emphasis on skilled trades and the viability of a career as a skilled tradesperson.

“What we are hearing from companies is they have a need, and we have to make sure there is a pipeline of students to fill those jobs, and we have to work heavily on changing the perception that parents and students have about skilled trades’ opportunities,” Nelson explained.

“It’s very critical that we continue to work with small businesses, with start-ups, with individuals who have ideas in their garage,” described Nelson. “Maybe this isn’t something that MEDC directly invests money in, but we do support, financially and otherwise, many regional networks that are out there to assist individuals and small companies that are looking to grow.”

MEDC offers incentives such as its business development program, but perhaps the biggest incentive of all for those who choose to invest and reside in Michigan, is its exceptional quality of life, vibrant communities, unmatched natural settings and multitude of services and amenities.

“In addition to the tourism and the beautiful assets we have in the state from a natural perspective, coming to downtown Detroit or Grand Rapids, and the other areas throughout the state, even in some of our smaller communities, people are out and about and they are enjoying all that our downtowns have to offer,” Nelson noted.

That has led to the need for more housing developments in many areas of the state, and regardless of a community’s individual needs, MEDC makes every effort to be there to support growth. “However we can help, whatever the city’s unique characteristics are, it’s going to be difficult, but we can support each one as individual communities and help them,” Nelson explained.

An initiative has been introduced called Public Spaces Community Places. It is designed to initiate growth and improvements in Michigan communities. Public Spaces Community Places is a donation-based campaign, and MEDC has committed to matching funds raised for community improvement initiatives.

“If a community raises funds for a public space project, it could be a skate park; beautifying an alleyway; it could even be putting in a splash pad for a community; it could be a farmers’ market. Whatever it is, if a community raises money, we can come in and match it. That has taken off in all communities from the tip of the [upper peninsula] all the way to Detroit,” said Nelson.

The goal is to be America’s comeback state while continuing to rank amongst the nation’s top states as a great place to live, visit and do business.



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