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Doug Rothwell: Michigan’s Economic Outlook As Businesses Shift to Restart

May 12, 2020

Getting Michigan’s economy back on its feet will involve businesses and government working in unison to ensure a safe and timely return to work. Business Leaders for Michigan President and CEO Doug Rothwell joined Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah today to discuss the state’s economic outlook moving into the recovery phase of the COVID-19 crisis.

It’s not just about getting back to work, we want to do so smartly, said Rothwell. What businesses need are detailed playbooks for each industry or sector, making sure public health is the number one priority and ensuring the safety of employees and customers.

“The better we do this now, the better our economy will be getting back on its feet”, said Rothwell.

Rothwell said he doesn’t expect the trajectory of the economy to be a “V” shape. Instead, a “U” shape or a “W” if the threat of the virus returns is more likely.

Looking ahead, Rothwell said he hopes Michigan comes out of the crisis as a more cohesive state. The state’s workforce and talent development is an area in need of improvement, he noted. With school closings, the state risks students falling even further behind.

Investing in workforce and talent will be especially difficult with the states tightening budget, with universities at risk for tuition hikes. Still, Michigan has a key strength in its engineering talent base.

The state’s depth in its engineering and logistics talent pool are the very things that the U.S. is going to be looking for as we look to rethink supply chains, said Rothwell. It’s an advantage for the state and a potential game-changer as much comes back onshore.

While Michigan may fall behind some states like Texas in reopening businesses, things are still moving more rapidly here than states like Massachusetts that are still shut down. Other states are currently looking to Michigan’s response to model theirs, said Rothwell. This is because the state has used data and science to determine its actions, he added. Since there’s not a set of best practices or playbook, everyone’s still learning from each other.