Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroiter Magazine > From the President

From the President

April 12, 2022
To Build a Better Michigan, We Need to Build Michigan Better

Infrastructure. We’ve been talking about the issue at the national and state levels for over a decade. Everyone is unhappy with the state of our physical public infrastructure. Everyone wants someone else to pay for improving it. In the meantime, we all pay the price for inadequately addressing the issue in our pocketbooks.  

Where Michigan Stands Today  

  • The Michigan Department of Transportation grades Michigan’s public infrastructure a D+, the worst in the Great Lakes region and among the worst in the nation. 
  • Michigan ranks as having the fifth worst traffic congestion and comes in 34th in road infrastructure spending according to the Reason Foundation. 
  • Nationally, the percentage of our GDP we invest in infrastructure has declined 40% since the 1960s according to the Biden Administration. 

Why This Matters  

Next Generation Mobility. We are still in the early stages of a fundamental transformation of the mobility industry – from propulsion systems powered by fuels to those powered by electrons and from complete human control of vehicles to greater assists from computers and AI. In order for Michigan to continue to be the epicenter of mobility, our state must have the public infrastructure that supports these new technologies, such as connected roads and electric vehicle chargers. If we don’t, others that make these investments will attract the research, technical, engineering – and even manufacturing – jobs that have been ours for the last 100 years.  

Business Attraction. While the Chamber was pleased to help lead the coalition resulting in significant new state economic development tools in December that helped land major new investments in vehicle battery production in Michigan, no business-friendly state policy can trump inadequate infrastructure. If potential businesses see roads in such disrepair that their agricultural products are damaged enroute to processing, or potential development sites without basic utilities service or port capacity that limits their ability to ship to global markets, businesses will take their business elsewhere – resulting in fewer jobs and lost tax collection for us all.  

Direct Impact on Our Families. Michigan’s embarrassing road conditions are a hidden tax on our families – with an annual average of $2,544 per motorist according to nonprofit TRIP, a national transportation research entity. Additional costs that fall on households include power outages due to our aging utility infrastructure, loss of economic opportunity due to lack of high-speed internet access in many communities, and, of course, challenges with even getting access to clean drinking water due to aging underground pipes.  

What’s Next  

The passage of the President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is indeed good news. This is the largest federal infusion of taxpayer funds in physical infrastructure in decades and will result in over $10 billion in Michigan projects – but it’s not enough. Given our state’s chronic underinvestment in infrastructure, the combination of this landmark federal legislation plus Michigan’s existing infrastructure spend plan, we are likely to only increase our grade from D- to C or C+, far from class leading.  

While the debate of the moment is understandably focused on how to provide drivers some relief from current high fuel prices, the approaches suggested to-date actually take money away from infrastructure, which would only exacerbate our already challenging situation.  

We need a long-term and stable funding plan in Michigan that not only addresses our serious infrastructure deficits, but smartly invests in the technologies of tomorrow that will help our businesses and people thrive in the 21st Century