Focus, Economic Development, and Government

TED’s umbrella covers many of state’s talent initiatives

March 20, 2015
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A new organization is reshaping the way the state leverages the ability to build talent.

The Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development, or TED, officially launched March 16 to provide an efficient and effective approach to economic and talent development projects throughout the state by combining traditional business and economic development with talent and community growth.

Created by Gov. Rick Snyder, the new department consists of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Michigan Strategic Fund, and the newly developed Talent Investment Agency, which incorporates the Workforce Development Agency and the Unemployment Insurance Agency.

Steve Arwood, CEO of MEDC and director of TED, said the organization involved the restructuring of four agencies that previously existed in distinct parts of state government and operated separately.

“It is bringing those four agencies into an umbrella organization, which is the Department of Talent and Economic Development. It is the superstructure that has been put over the top of it all to give it policy, communication and outreach direction,” said Arwood.

“It will provide all the services the previous independent agencies provided on their own, but will do it in a much more seamless and customer-focused fashion,” he said.

TED aggregates the state’s affordable housing financing arm through MSHDA; the business attraction, retention and growth efforts with the MSF and MEDC; and state programs fostering workforce training and development through TIA.

The new workforce agency is headed by Stephanie Comai, who previously served as deputy director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The Talent Investment Agency efforts will focus on the integration of new workers into the economy, help workers who have been in or out of the workforce transition to new jobs, and coordinate state programs such as job preparedness, career-based education, skilled trades training, incumbent worker training, employment assistance and STEM training programs.

Wayne Workman, acting executive director of MSHDA, Comai and Arwood will serve collaboratively in a management role with TED, meeting periodically to decide policy and goals moving forward to ensure strategic cohesion and direction, according to the media roundtable hosted March 16 in Lansing.

Snyder said the team is poised to help Michigan prosper by working with partners across the state to tackle the skills gap through innovative and effective workforce programs.

“This new department will accelerate the state’s effort to become a national leader in connecting highly skilled talent with in-demand jobs,” said Snyder in a press release.

Intended to streamline the process for individuals, businesses and communities that work with the state on a variety of economic development projects, Arwood said the department delivers efficiency and effectiveness in a multi-faceted approach.

“For example, the Grand Rapids community has business development, location incentive, assistance they receive from the state. … There are housing projects MSHDA is conducting in the Grand Rapids market, and then with the new talent agency, you have all the workforce development and unemployment-to-re-employment services,” said Arwood.

“When you think about place, community, business vitality and talent, it’s an all-encompassing approach. It is the most the state has to offer in economic development, and it is in one spot.”

With the new department open for business, Arwood said initial goals over the next six months are to re-organize around the customer — which includes individuals, businesses and communities — and business development.

Another goal is to address the skilled-trades shortage in the state by focusing on a number of areas.

Areas of priority are adding emphasis to skilled-trades training both for marketing and programs; working closely with other state departments such as the Department of Education to advance the approach to career technical education; and helping those who have lost employment to-enter the workforce through job availability or training programs.

“We are going to begin re-measuring ourselves, or finding ways to measure the success of this by really looking at how many of our younger people we are helping get into skilled or technical fields, and then what is the success rate post-two years of their work or school work career experience,” said Arwood.

“We believe if we can get people — and, in particular, young people — into these great careers once they are two years in, they are well on their way to being very successful.”

Comai said the talent gap is one of the biggest issues facing Michigan, and a number of businesses can only expand if they have the right skilled-trades workforce.

“Every business we talk to is struggling to find the right talent,” said Comai during the media roundtable. “We have some work to do. We have some work to do in communicating these opportunities to kids coming out of school and to the current workforce.”

With talent development a core focus for businesses looking to grow, Arwood said having TIA as part of the overall organization grants a seamless approach to business development efforts.

“While we are going to still be very involved in attraction, our economy is running along very nicely so a lot of our attention is focused on companies that are here and companies that made the decision to be here,” said Arwood.

“Companies need various things to grow their market share, grow their company, and that’s largely related to talent — helping find the workers for today and tomorrow.”

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