Editorial

‘Eds and meds’ is old think, creative talent is key

December 23, 2016
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Grand Rapids Business Journal is reporting on how the local manufacturing sector is growing, and as Cedric Duclos, president and CEO of Hutchinson North America on Fuller Avenue notes in one story, his industry is transforming (evolved) with “smart plant” concepts in what has become a transformational point in terms of manufacturing technology — or rather technologies.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters proudly has proclaimed success in senate approval of the Peters-Gardner American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which links manufacturers and leaders in federal science and technology research to “help boost small- and mid-size manufacturers and encourage entrepreneurs” in new manufacturing businesses. The Business Journal observes the industry leaders — in Grand Rapids and elsewhere — are ahead of what the federal government finds useful and setting new pathways. The real problem is finding workers with the skill sets to help them advance to new levels of international success. The Business Journal observes education is fundamental in that regard, and Michigan is a laggard when compared to a majority of other states. The Grand Rapids statistical area fares even worse than the oft-cited Detroit region in terms of education levels and personal incomes per capita.

Business Leaders for Michigan issued its year-end summary of how well the state is measuring up, finding continued threats in GDP and personal income. BLM president and CEO Doug Rothwell notes in his update:

“Michigan’s employment ranking has risen from 48th to 31st since 2009, but the state still ranks 33rd for personal incomes and 35th for per capita GDP. Michigan’s growth has been slow relative to other states and some key measures of talent supply, infrastructure and economic development are actually declining. Things are generally getting better, but not fast enough to become a Top Ten state.”

He also notes, “Our most significant challenges include low education attainment (29th), career and college readiness (36th), urban road conditions (40th) and economic development expenditures (30th).”

A fall report from internationally regarded economies analyst Richard Florida (who most famously authored the game-changing “The Rise of the Creative Class”) compared top-tier states with underperforming states, looking specifically at education. He wrote, “What is perhaps more surprising is the close connection between the arts and the scientific and technological capabilities of states. Indeed, the (science/technology worker) is more closely associated with the share of workers in arts, culture and entertainment occupations (.53 State Technology and Science Index) than it is with the share of the workforce that is comprised of scientists (.41). Many states have invested in educational and medical institutions, so-called ‘eds and meds,’ as a way to build up their high-tech capabilities and spur economic development. But, we find no statistical association whatsoever between the State Technology and Science Index and the share of workers in eds and meds occupations.”

It seems that, too, is readily understood by manufacturers. Duclos notes in the Business Journal report, “Robots can’t think analytically. … You are gaining new business where human skills and the ability to analyze a problem are needed.”

It’s all about focus, and focusing on goals and results that make a difference.

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