Economic Development, Higher Education, and Travel & Tourism

Policy forum reveals high interest in transportation

October 3, 2014
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When all was said and done, the numbers revealed the issue of transportation made the biggest impression on attendees of the 2014 West Michigan Policy Forum.

The annual forum, which was held Sept. 28-29 at both the JW Marriott and Amway Grand Plaza hotels in downtown Grand Rapids, focused on a number of issues pertaining to Michigan’s economic stability and development. The key issues for voting were transportation, talent and education, and term limits.

When the votes were tallied at the end of the event, the numbers revealed the top priority for voters was the matter of transportation/infrastructure, with 37 percent of voters marking it a top priority.

The three other priorities— term limit modification/elimination, expansion of college credits for work experience, and requiring that funding for state economic development and workforce agencies align more closely with private sector efforts in talent development initiatives — received vote percentages in the low 20s: Term limit modification/elimination received 22 percent, requiring funding for state economic development and workforce agencies received 21 percent, and college credits received 20 percent.

Mike Jandernoa, WMPF conference co-chair and founder and chairman of Grand Rapids-based investment management firm 42 North Partners, said he felt the way the issues were structured for voting played a role in transportation coming out on top of talent.

“I expected talent to be right there with transportation, so I think because we had two talent issues, it kind of split the vote up a little bit. But if you combine the two talents, that would have come out first,” he said.

“(Transportation has) been on our agenda for a few years. We’re getting closer and closer to getting something done and it’s a big lift, so I think people wanted to put that on the priority list.”

Overall, Jandernoa said he was pleased with the event, which had more than 450 people in attendance, including representatives from eight Michigan chambers of commerce and more than 230 Michigan businesses representing about 50 Michigan communities.

“It was awesome. Having been involved from the beginning, it came out like we had hoped,” he said.

The official percentages of votes


Do you agree that T/I has an impact on the economy?

No: 1 percent

Yes: 99 percent

Should Michigan be concerned that our state’s investment in T/I is less than nearby states?

No: 9 percent

Yes: 91 percent

Should this investment be an immediate priority?

No: 2 percent

Yes: 98 percent

Should business leaders begin to hold state legislators accountable for their lack of investment in the state’s T/I?

No: 3 percent

Yes: 97 percent


Should policies be expanded to allow more college credits for work experience?

No: 16 percent

Yes: 84 percent

Should the state explore policies to give more flexibility in K-16 curriculums so that learning is more connected to career paths?

No: 3 percent

Yes: 97 percent

Should the state explore allowing regions that are aligned with business more flexibility in spending talent development dollars?

No: 1 percent

Yes: 99 percent

Term Limits

Should Michigan modify or eliminate term limits?

Modify term limits: 71 percent

Eliminate term limits: 27 percent

Leave term limits alone: 2 percent

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