Persistent push crucial to attain educated future

April 4, 2010
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The second quarter of 2010 is expected to bring continued slow gain against the Great Recession, but it also will herald a cacophony from a too-crowded field of gubernatorial and state Senate candidates (among others). What could make this a more interesting season is the will of business owners — especially small business owners — who have suffered tremendous beatings at the hands of the state and federal governments. New assaults (“unintended” consequences) from D.C. make it almost impossible to keep one’s resolve on changing the crippling Michigan Business Tax, to which sitting legislators turned a deaf ear. There’s your sign.

It is no secret the West Michigan region in particular has contemplated the ineptitude of previously elected individuals and raised a unified voice of frustration through the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Regional Policy conference, and that patience for the pettiness of party politicking over resolution no longer exists. Some part of the disconnect may certainly be owing to a lack of knowledge of tax policy impact as well as basic budgeting functions and resolutions. Such is noted in the Guest Column on this page regarding the city’s “dis-ease” in taking a more difficult approach to bringing its budget into line, rather than applying the pox of yet another tax increase on those who live and work in its kingdom.

These issues are tied by a lack of formal education as well as a societal dumbing down that too long ago became “acceptable” to “make everyone winners.” The impact of that fact will further differentiate regions of economic success.

Evidence of the growth in knowledge-based economies is no farther than Ann Arbor, where Michigan Future President Lou Glazer last week reviewed a recent University of Michigan study showing “industries with a high portion of workers with four-year degrees or more are growing, while those characterized by workers with low education attainment will grow slowly, if at all.” Glazer notes that the main education attainment sectors include health care, education, finance and insurance, professional and technical services and information. The study notes the trend has been two decades in development, showing that from 1990 to the beginning of the recession in 2007, high education attainment industry job growth doubled that of low attainment. It further shows that of the 8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession, almost all have been in the low education attainment industries. One could assume those sitting in the hand of Michigan public sector “service” are similarly situated with the latter.

Glazer’s most striking comparison is related to a review in the January issue of Nature, which examines Pittsburgh’s ability to emerge from “rust belt roots” and the death of the steel industry in the 1980s to an economic bright spot of expanding companies in life sciences, computer sciences and energy. It was ranked sixth in 2009 on the Forbes list of U.S. cities for job growth.

It is important to stay focused on the issue even as the silly season begins in full bloom.

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