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The Journey Ahead

I see and hear it as I travel across Michigan, from Detroit to Houghton-Hancock and from Imlay City to Ludington. We are, unquestionably, the comeback state.

I see it in the strength of our manufacturing as our industries are roaring back, creating more and better jobs. I see it in our farms, fields and food processing plants, helping to feed a nation and exporting our high-quality food and agricultural products to other countries.

I see it in the startups and innovators who are eagerly drawing up their new ideas and moving back or staying in our state.

And I see it in the faces of our young people, enthusiastically working with professionals to design and build robots, having fun while gaining practical skills they will continue to use far into the future.

This year’s Mackinac Policy Conference explores the foundation upon which we are building not just long-term economic growth, but an improved quality of life for our residents.

Significant and measurable economic progress has been possible through collaboration at all levels in the public and private sectors.

Working together, we have transformed the business climate in Michigan.

We replaced an antiquated, job-killing business tax with a fair assessment on businesses while attracting investment. Through programs like Pure Michigan Business Connect, we’ve discovered how we can help each other grow and thrive. We’ve eliminated more than 1,000 unneeded regulations while still ensuring consumer protections and enhancing governmental transparency. We’ve eliminated perpetual state budget deficits and created a structurally sound, stable foundation for growth and making strategic, targeted investments, and our state’s credit ratings and outlooks have been upgraded.

The results have been noteworthy, and the turnaround impact is undeniable. More than a quarter of a million private sector jobs have been created since the end of 2010, including ranking as the top state for new manufacturing jobs, which has increased for three consecutive years. New reports show the explosion of venture capital to fuel innovation and job growth, and our state has rocketed from No. 41 to a Top 10 state at No. 6 in our entrepreneurial climate.

In addition, our state’s automotive companies are leading a resurgence in global markets. Research-and-development centers in Michigan (with more than all other states combined) are redefining the technological possibilities of tomorrow’s industry of automated, lighter, safer and more environmentally friendly vehicles.

And we can and will do better.

Let us redouble our efforts to cultivate entrepreneurship, improve education and confront challenges with innovative policies and vision.

The Mackinac Policy Conference plays an invaluable role in helping draw the vital connection between the health of the state’s largest and most culturally and economically diverse metropolitan region and the economic fate of the state.

Indeed, entrepreneurship, education and innovative economic development policies are the keys to transforming the economy of Detroit and the surrounding region. At every turn, the state of Michigan and Michigan Economic Development Corporation are working to lend assistance to projects that build community and positive perceptions about the region, and endorse financially sound investments based on rigorous economic analysis and accountability.

From downtown’s Central Business District, to the city’s entertainment district, to Midtown, the Woodward Avenue corridor is undergoing a tremendous revitalization. And there is much more to come. The future includes a new sports arena, residential housing, upscale restaurants and the construction of the mass transit M-1 Rail, which breaks ground this spring. Meanwhile, suburbs and adjacent counties have seen steadily lower unemployment and increased private capital investment during the last four years.

Detroit’s comeback won’t be fully complete until this energy extends to all of its neighborhoods. We’re working with our partners in the city to face financial problems and hurdles head on, improve essential services; enhancing the quality of life for all. We are headed in the right direction. The journey is far from easy, but we can and will get there.

We are up to the challenge. Few places have met the needs of the knowledge-based economy more than Southeast Michigan, where Automation Alley in Oakland County is among the leading tech hubs in the U.S.; Macomb County is home to a growing defense sector; and Wayne State University is a founding member of the University Research Corridor. In fact, the Detroit region has the highest concentration of tech jobs in the Midwest and is second nationally to Silicon Valley.

Last year, the MEDC worked with universities and other strategic service providers to help create more than 350 new technology companies through Michigan-born innovations like SmartZones, which include technology business accelerators that provide a broad range of services.

Put it all together and it is clear Michigan is a state with a legacy of entrepreneurship. Just this April, Detroit was named by Inc. as one of the top 20 most innovative cities in America. The business entrepreneur publication noted Detroit leads the country in 38 different patent classes, with the majority involving cars or car parts.

Whether it’s commercialization support, access to capital, or free professional business services, the State of Michigan has a comprehensive toolkit to support entrepreneurial ventures of all kinds in every sector and at every stage of development.

Yet fostering an environment of entrepreneurship and private capital investment is half of the equation. The other half is matching the most qualified candidates with an employer’s need. We need our educators and business leaders to work more closely together to identify in-demand skills and prepare our young people for the jobs of today – and tomorrow. Programs such as Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT2) show how the private sector can partner effectively with educators, and efforts like Career Jump Start and are working hard to match needs with talents.

As your governor, I’ve traveled from one end of Michigan to the other. I’ve toured our factories, small businesses and fields. I’ve walked the halls of our schools. I’ve met the people who believe in our wonderful state and who tell me why they chose Michigan to raise their family and start and grow their business.

I hear and see their stories and know that Michigan’s comeback is real, and that our best days are ahead of us.

With our collective and continued collaboration and relentless positive action, we can accelerate that comeback and ensure our state’s historic economic reinvention.

Rick Snyder is the Governor of Michigan