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Michigan needs to invest in infrastructure, grow its population


From left to right, Jill Haas of Hass Transformation Academy, John Bebow of The Center for Michigan, and Doug Rothwell of Business Leaders for Michigan, at the Feb. 9 Good Morning Livingston program.

“Where is Michigan on the Path to Reinvention?” brought together John Bebow, president and CEO of The Center for Michigan, and Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, at the Feb. 9 Good Morning Livingston program at Cleary University to talk about the challenges Michigan is facing on the road to recovery.

Much of the discussion, moderated by Jill Haas of Haas Transformation Academy, centered around challenges facing the state that shared a common solution: Investment in infrastructure and transportation.

“We don’t want to pay for anything,” Rothwell said. “(But) we need to address the infrastructure issues. We need to take a look at all of it. It has to be a much higher priority.”

Both speakers agreed that a larger investment must be made in the state’s roadways.

“The(recently passed)  road deal is just a Band-Aid,” Bebow said.

Rothwell agreed: “U.S. 23 is a perfect example. It needs expansion, but the road package just passed has no dollars for the expansion.”

Bebow said that Michigan should also work on a system of mass transit.

Other areas the two said needed attention included retaining and attracting young people, and redefining the state as more than just the auto industry.

“Michigan ranks in the top third of retaining graduates,” Rothwell said, “but we don’t do a good job of replacing the ones who leave. The auto industry for so long defined our state, but it’s changing, and we need to grow our population.”

Bebow said Michigan doesn’t have a lot of what young people are looking for: “mass transit, a vibrant economy, and things to do after work.”

Among Michigan’s successes has been the expansion of pre-K education, which Bebow called “visionary and heroic.” He said credit for the work that resulted in more than $400 million being invested in pre-school options goes “far and wide,” including the efforts of chamber President Pat Convery toward that goal.

“Right now Michigan is a below-average state,” Rothwell said. “We have to offer a good value, and to attract new people, we need industries that will bring out-of-state folks in.”

Toward moving the Legislature forward on issues of importance, Rothwell advised that while any communication is good, the best strategy is to call legislators on the phone.

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