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The growth in the auto industry has hardly moved the economic needle.

MICHIGAN FUTURE? Auto Boom Hasn't Reduced Low Prosperity, Report Says

Think Tank Again Cites Need to Add Knowledge Based Jobs

February 18, 2016       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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"The world has changed fundamentally. We either adjust to the changes or we will continue to be poor compared to the nation." --Ann Arbor Futurist Lou Glazer


We have heard this story before, but the exclamation point in this year's report by the Michigan Future, Inc. think tank is that the growth in the auto industry has hardly moved the economic needle; so it bears repeating with even more emphasis.

Despite a good stretch of job growth due mainly to an auto industry comeback, Michigan remains structurally one of the nation's low-prosperity states, according to a new report "Michigan Future" by a leading Ann Arbor think tank of that name headed by Futurist Lou Glazer.

'Whether the nation's economy has expanded or contracted since 2007 Michigan has been in the bottom third of states in per capita income and bottom quarter of states (not including include transfer payments i.e. Social Security, pensions, etc.)"

Reports drawing similar conclusions were issued by the same think tank in 2010 and in 2006 when County Executive Thomas L. Hickner sponsored a meeting of local leaders at which Glazer spoke on his organization's original findings.

To compete, Glazer told local leaders in 2006, Bay County needs a high percentage of adults with four-year college-university degrees, according to Mr. Glazer. The state average of 24 percent at that time put Michigan in 31st place nationally; Bay County's 12.8 percent was nearly as low as Detroit, with 11 percent, according to U.S. Census reports.

The Bay Area Community Foundation, under leadership of Eileen Curtis, has since launched a campaign, the Bay Commitment Scholarship program, to assist more local first generation students to achieve college degrees.

In 2014, 100 graduating seniors from Bay County high schools each received a $2,000 scholarship to attend Delta College or Saginaw Valley State University.

The latest U.S. Census figures show a dramatic improvement in college or university degree completion, now at 18.3 percent in Bay County for adults over age 25, up from 12.8 percent in 2008. However, the number of Bay County adults 18-24 without a high school diploma still lags state averages at 14.2 percent.

To apply for the Bay Commitment Scholarship, students must complete the Bay Area Community Foundation Scholarship Application. Applications for the 2016-2017 school year will be available until March 7, 2016.

A lack of regional leadership was mentioned by representatives of several groups at the 2006 meeting. Some also focused on improving the quality of K-12 education, including how to change a mindset among members of the public who don't value education.

As the data in this re-tooled report make clear, the new path to prosperity is the broad knowledge-based service industries. High prosperity is occurring chiefly in those places where knowledge-based enterprises across many sectors are concentrating. They are concentrating in areas with a high proportion of adults with a bachelor's degree or more.

Michigan's two biggest metropolitan areas are also low-prosperity regions. Metro Detroit is 38th in per capita income and metro Grand Rapids 49th of 52 metropolitan areas with populations of one million or more.

What stands out in the economic and education data analyzed is that in the fifth year (2014) of a national expansion -- and an even stronger domestic auto industry recovery -- Michigan, on nearly all the metrics, is a national laggard. Gone are the days when the auto industry -- still the prime engine of the Michigan economy -- could propel Michigan to being one of the most prosperous states as was true for most of the 20th Century.

Mr. Glazer expands:

"Our fundamental economic challenge is that we rank 33rd in the proportion of adults with a four-year degree. States without concentrations of talent will have great difficulty retaining or attracting knowledge-based enterprises, nor are they likely to be the place where new knowledge-based enterprises are created."

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
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