Metro areas may lead turnaround, report says

Posted on February 24, 2012

Michigan should adopt a turnaround plan centered on metropolitan regions and advanced manufacturing — assets it already enjoys and can capitalize on, a report suggested Thursday.

The report from the Brookings Institution and Public Sector Consultants noted that metro Detroit already is a leading exporter to the world. The region sends 15% of its overall economic production outside the U.S. compared with 11% for the nation as a whole.

And the state’s metro areas could lead the way. Michigan’s largest metro areas comprise 82% of the state’s population, 81% of its employment base and 85% of the state’s total economic output.

“This state is a metro state,” Bruce Katz, Brookings vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program, told the Free Press editorial board Thursday after speaking earlier to the Detroit Economic Club.

“Michigan had the second-strongest recovery in the nation, largely thanks to the power of its metropolitan areas in innovation, manufacturing and exports.”

The report was done for Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s corporate leadership roundtable. Combined with BLM’s Michigan Turnaround Plan, the new report lays out a strategy for revitalizing the state’s economy.

“Michigan’s metro regions benchmark competitively to national peers on economic performance and assets,” said Doug Rothwell, BLM president and CEO. “The report outlines steps the state and local communities can take to go from competitive to best in class in economic growth.”

Among the steps recommended: Tighten the link between manufacturing and innovation through research and education as well as selected government support.

The report also calls for improving the skills of Michigan’s workforce and for attracting more highly educated immigrants. And the report stresses the importance of asset-rich urban districts like Detroit’s Midtown area, home to more than 20,000 residents and more than 40,000 workers.

“These are powerhouses,” Katz said, referring to urban innovation centers like Midtown.

Katz and Rothwell emphasized the importance of hanging on to Michigan’s industrial might. “The prerecession economy was an Arizona economy,” Katz said, referring to an economy built on real estate, services and borrowed money. “The post-recession economy could be a Michigan economy.”

John Galagher, Detroit Free Press