BLMs turnaround plan needs understanding discussion

March 28, 2012
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Business Leaders for Michigan president and CEO Doug Rothwell carved into his schedule some critical “face time” in Grand Rapids this last week, not just to reiterate the executive group’s six-point economic recovery goals but to keep West Michigan business leaders supportive of that process and engaged in the anticipated outcomes.

The broader business community here needs to be more engaged in those processes and become part of the solutions.

Business Leaders for Michigan is represented by a more than 80-member board, 20 percent of whom are CEOs from West Michigan’s largest companies. While political initiatives such as the (now accomplished) elimination of the Michigan Business Tax comprise almost half of those six initiatives, little has been discussed in regard to the goal to make Michigan the “global center of mobility.”

The multifaceted initiative deserves much more attention than it has received — and better sooner than later.

The 18 BLM board directors representing the western side of the state are actively engaged in world trade, including Wolverine World Wide, Stryker, Whirlpool, Perrigo and Autocam. Their “global mobility center” vision includes incentive and concentration on the future of the auto industry and its vast supplier base in this region, and the future is defined as R&D, manufacturing and emerging businesses related to next-generation electric powertrains, battery cells and cathode materials.

This West Michigan supplier base also might heed the group’s anticipation for a new premium on “lighter-weight materials … that can be recycled.” Further aspiration is to push “to assure that the materials cluster that explores and exploits those possibilities put roots down (in Michigan) and cross fertilization of advanced products in the global mobility market.” The Gentex R&D reach from automotive mirror technology into aerospace for the Boeing Dreamliner, in this scenario would represent a fraction of what might be accomplished in the more near future.

Much more is intended as a part of that future surge, including transportation initiatives to support this peninsula, uniquely providing an international crossing into U.S. and world markets. The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has supported Gov. Rick Snyder and BLM’s steadfast support of a new bridge to Canada, but it is just one important aspect of providing infrastructure to support positioning the entire state as a portal. Rail service and building out the Detroit “aerotropolis” have real ramifications in this area, and consideration must be given to assure the region is not left off the line.

The Business Journal encourages the Grand Rapids chamber to work with its area chamber partners to provide greater understanding and involvement in these important initiatives. The West Michigan representatives of Business Leaders of Michigan should lead such information initiatives and assist in opening the door of possibilities.

This region is uniquely regarded for its creative initiatives and forming partnerships for successful results. These aspects of the BLM Michigan Turnaround Plan are too important not to be more fully understood and discussed.

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