Guest Column

Needed: A state budget that supports infrastructure, talent and economic growth

May 31, 2019
| By Rick Baker |
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West Michigan’s economy has been on the right track — earning the region national recognition for being a great place for businesses, entrepreneurs, jobs, millennials and families.

The data backs it up. The population in Kent County has grown 7.6% since 2010. The Grand Rapids metro economy was the fastest-growing metro economy in the U.S. in 2016 and it is the seventh-fastest growing economy over the last five years. In addition, 50% of Kent County’s population is under the age of 35.

To continue our momentum, we need to maintain a vibrant business climate by investing in our people and our infrastructure.

Michigan’s roads are some of the worst in the nation and that puts the West Michigan success story at risk. Safe, well-maintained roads and modernized infrastructure support the creation of great communities that attract and retain employers and talent.

Investing in people also is fundamental to our future success. Proposed programs like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Opportunity Scholarship and Michigan Reconnect will help strengthen our workforce, make college more accessible and provide skills training at community colleges for in-demand jobs in Michigan.

The Grand Rapids Chamber supports both of these initiatives as they align with our members’ top priorities of creating a talented Michigan and increasing degree attainment. These opportunities will increase access to good-paying jobs and spur innovation.

Talent and infrastructure are vital to the continued growth of West Michigan. We encourage the Legislature and Gov. Whitmer to work together and develop a budget that supports investment in both talent and infrastructure so West Michigan can continue to be a magnet for talent, innovation, new businesses and growth.

Rick Baker is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

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