Learning Should Head Politicians Agendas

November 6, 2006
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One of the longest gubernatorial campaigns in Michigan history concludes this week as election rhetoric cedes to the decisive voice of the electorate. Campaigns have focused on the Michigan economy and how any candidate would "help" the business "climate," but study after study shows a direct correlation with improvement of the state's educational resources.

Last week a number of Michigan's new economy business leaders spoke at a summit in Dearborn, including the CEOs of Tower Automotive, Google and Citizens Financial Group. The Detroit Free Press sponsored the event and reported an unanticipated optimism by the executives called for questions. The reason for that, especially reiterated by Google's Grady Burnett, who leads the online sales and operations for Google's Ann Arbor headquarters, is first-rate intellectual capital captured at some of the country's best universities — in Michigan

Similar findings were reported when WesternMichiganUniversity commissioned EPIC-MRA to conduct a survey of new economy business executives in five states during the early months of this year. Survey respondents overwhelming said a well-educated work force trumps tax structure as a leading indicator that a state's business climate is conducive to new economy success. More than 1,200 executives were polled, with 69 percent of them rating Michigan as one of the best or better than average in terms of overall quality of its state universities. Life sciences businesses saw the education links as especially crucial.

A summer summit hosted by think tank Michigan Future Inc., headquartered in Ann Arbor, brought together the presidents of those Michigan colleges and universities, municipal and state government leaders, as well as Michigan's leading business owners and renowned state economists. The group reached the same conclusions.

Investment in education in West Michigan has dominated Business Journal headlines. GrandValleyStateUniversity has provided new learning centers on various fronts of the new economy from the internationally recognized Michigan Alternative and RenewableEnergyCenter in Muskegon to the Cook-DeVosCenter for Health Sciences on

Michigan Street
hill in downtown Grand Rapids and its engineering school expansion along
Fulton Street

MichiganStateUniversity will build its medical school in downtown Grand Rapids, even as the Van Andel Institute pushes out its wall next year for expansion of its research labs. Recruiting by area hospitals further reflects growing expertise in specific fields, and the domino effect in the community is widening.

FerrisStateUniversity tech program offerings have expanded, and plans are afoot to augment engineering with architectural degree programs through FSU's KendallCollege of Art & Design.

DavenportUniversity and Grand RapidsCommunity College both have garnered state-wide recognition for particular types of new technology study.

In all, economists and business leaders across the country have indicated Michigan's economic future rests in the hands of university presidents and life-long learners, and that is the lesson for Michigan's elected leaders.    

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