States future bolstered by young and ambitious

November 7, 2009
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Like a stubborn uneducated child, the governor of this state made a spectacle of budget cuts to take programs and dollars away from those it would hurt most, while throwing a tantrum to coerce her fellows in the legislative houses to give her more money only by raising more taxes. The systemic budget fixes advised for more than two years by those obviously more experienced and wiser remain ignored. And with no bread in the pantry, shall we eat cake?

Phil Power, founder and president of one of the state’s non-partisan think tanks, The Center for Michigan, last week wrote a blog about his experience as a substitute instructor in a University of Michigan classroom. He was confronted by a senior who professed her love of Michigan and then asked Power to tell her why she should stay after graduation in the spring.

Indeed, our educated talent force is weighing such matters, especially as job openings are anticipated to remain flat (especially teaching jobs, which continue to diminish in protracted school budget cuts).

But in the midst of the storm last week, Grand Rapids Business Journal congratulated 40 young business and community leaders, all under the age of 40. Most of the group are entrepreneurs in their own right; others are leading organizations through the upheaval of the recession. The networking of one to another during a reception in their honor provided a sense of renewal and hope.

All, we pray, will stay. To that end, Power wrote that his answer to the U-M student made three points: If everybody is moving out, the competition for good jobs and a career is less. In the kingdom of the blind, he wrote, the one-eyed man is king. Second: “What the economists call ‘barriers to entry’ — the things that make it hard to get started, whether in business or a career — are lower here than elsewhere. You have a disproportionate chance to make it big in Michigan, if only because there is more room to maneuver.”

His third point is to our class of 40 Under Forty: “There are two kinds of people. The first — the majority by far, I fear — are risk adverse, willing to follow the crowd and prepare for an ordinary, humdrum life. The second are risk-takers, the would-be entrepreneurs. If you are young and ambitious, there’s no better place to make a mark than a state in crisis.”

It is obvious that such talent is sorely needed, too, in public office, where the entrenched live in a world of denial of a manufacturing age now ended — needlessly, painfully ended because of the refusal to move into the information age and governance systems that follow the private sector to success.

The 2009 class of 40 Under Forty will likely face some of the same obstacles encountered by their predecessors, but in West Michigan they also have the guidance of the classes that came before them.

Even as state politicians currently holding office appear ready to implode, a new class is rebuilding and girding the future of the private sector of this region.

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