Ahead of midterms, Mich. business executives seek stability
Detroit — Less than a week from the midterm elections, Michigan business leaders are calling for consistency in policy as a new administration is poised to take control in Lansing.
Delaying the release of an economic benchmark report for the state because of Tuesday's election, Doug Rothwell, CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, emphasized the need for continuing sound fiscal management to keep Michigan on a growth pathway.
"If there's one thing you think about in Michigan's history that we're pretty consistent about is that we're consistently inconsistent," Rothwell told 400 business, nonprofit and community leaders gathered Thursday at Cobo Center for the group's CEO summit. "Other states constantly use our state's schizophrenia against us."
He noted Michigan is in a much better place than when Gov. Rick Snyder took office in early 2011. Unemployment decreased to 4 percent from nearly 15 percent; there are 500,000 more people working; and the state's population is growing again.
"Things are pretty good for where we stand today," Rothwell said.
But he said changes around incentives, education standards and higher education funding have harmed Michigan as Business Leaders for Michigan sets a goal to make Michigan a "top 10" state. Today, the group ranks the state 25th. Rothwell said Michigan is held back by allowing the government to set economic strategy.
The group that represents more than 100 business leaders is pushing its "Plan for a Stronger Michigan" that calls for a competitive tax structure, investment in talent and infrastructure and leveraging the talent, industry and natural resource strengths of the state.
Sandra Pierce, Huntington Bank senior chair for Michigan, said business leaders must take the initiative to contact their legislators to support policies that work across party lines.
"Consistency and stability are needed for us to be successful," Pierce said. "I'm so proud of how far we've come over the past 10 years, but we still have a long way to go."
Rothwell called on voters to consider candidates that will continue healthy fiscal practices, reduce long-term debt, increase user taxes for roads, increase education affordability and develop programming to highlight the state's advantages.
"We know the last thing we need is divisiveness if we want to continue our growth," Rothwell said. "We get the best results when we're unified around some common strategies for growth."