Dark anniversary is time to look forward

September 6, 2011
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Labor Day provides some reflection on a new direction this year, especially in Michigan, in regard to the celebration of a skilled work force, rather than a day often hijacked to honor labor unions.

Even as national and state economic indicators are encouraging (regardless of the rhetorical games of politicians), Michigan businesses believe the threat to continued growth is the recruitment of that skilled work force. The West Michigan poster child for this concern is Zeeland-based Gentex, as it tries to fill hundreds of new jobs to fuel its expansion.

Gov. Rick Snyder acknowledged those concerns in his first State of the State speech back in January, adding that the action plan for this year also would include attracting the immigrant population to add new entrepreneurial opportunities to Michigan’s job base. Those initiatives are sorely needed, sooner rather than later.

During his January speech, Snyder said he believes the effort to encourage immigrants with advanced college degrees to move to Michigan, instead of finding high-tech jobs in other states, would assist this state in recovering from the “brain drain” that has occurred with recession-related unemployment. That brain drain has hampered companies like Gentex, Perrigo and Van Andel Institute.

Grand Rapids Business Journal this week reports on the work of immigration attorney Susan Im, offering what should be Snyder’s hit list of impediments to achieve these job gains. Further, the policies of the state impede the growth of businesses — Michigan and foreign-based. It is therefore unconscionable that the Michigan Senate in June passed legislation that effectively creates even greater obstacles to these goals.

The Business Journal is hopeful that the governor will begin his Sept. 25-Oct. 1 Asian trade mission with a specific agenda and a fast turnaround plan, in addition to addressing the Senate’s odd juxtaposition of legislation. Some senators involved in such risky behavior cited Arizona laws (some repealed), believing themselves to be Arizona rather than Michigan representatives. The oddity, however, of perception versus reality is as real as the juxtaposition of Labor Day so near the 10th anniversary of 9/11, bringing with it the fear mongers of isolationist policy.

There was no greater act of patriotism and heroism on 9/11 than that of 40 passengers and crew members aboard United Airlines Flight 93 over the fields of Shanksville, Pa., who, with some understanding that terrorists had already laid waste to the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, chose to fight — and save other lives. Terrorists, not immigrants, were using planes as weapons. Their leader and others assisting in the atrocity are dead. The images from around the world as countries mourned with America are of a world connected. Those connections are exemplified again as countries navigate past a world recession and financial crisis.

As citizens of this country and of foreign countries around the world remember, mourn and heal, it is time to embrace and move forward in the flat business world.

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