Baruah: State of our region is robust

Sandy Baruah

It is universally known and celebrated that the economic state of the Detroit region has made significant gains in recent years. Our region has gone through a lot, but we are regaining our rightful place as a world economic powerhouse.

But how much have we actually achieved, and where do we stand in comparison with our national competitors? These are the reasons why the Detroit Regional Chamber annually presents the State of the Region report — a data-driven analysis that offers a fact-based account of the progress of the 11-counties that comprise the Detroit Region.

Businesses, employees and families can all feel the positive momentum in the region and this year’s report offers plenty of data to celebrate. Detroit’s emergence from bankruptcy, a governor who has led the state’s reinvention, effective business, civic and political leadership, and strong industry performance all set the stage for an even brighter future. Industries leading the way include mobility, health care, aerospace and defense, engineering and design, food and agriculture and others – a diverse mix.

It is no surprise that key economic indicators, such as per capita income, are on the rise. In fact, one-year per capita income growth ranks the Detroit Region third nationally. Also, median home values lead peer regions in both five-year and one-year growth rates. New data shows we lead our peer group in median home value growth between 2014 and 2015 at 10.7 percent.

The report also shows the region has added more than 200,000 jobs since 2010, with architecture and engineering as the fastest-growing occupations. The Detroit Region is now sixth among its peers in the Kauffman Innovation Index, charting startup activity — up five spots. The region is also number one in patent growth, with patents granted to regional innovators growing by 8 percent.

While there is much to celebrate, there remains areas for improvement. Educational attainment remains one of our most challenging hurdles. The needs of today’s, and tomorrow’s, workplace reside in the highly skilled arena. In order for our region, businesses and residents to successfully compete for these jobs, we need to be a highly skilled region. The data shows that while our region matches the national average when it comes to educational attainment, the region lags behind most all of our competing regions. To compete and win in the 21st century marketplace, we need to do better.

Transit is another area for improvement. The need for coordinated transit remains to spur and support population growth as well as to move our residents efficiently between home, work and play. Our transit entities handled approximately 42 million public transit rides last year, far short of our goal of 55 million rides.

It is appropriate to pause and take note of the progress Michigan and the Detroit Region made in recent years. Progress is a result of collaboration across the region and among government, civic and business leaders. But it is important to recognize that economic prosperity has not come to all in our region.

Much work remains to be done to ensure that prosperity reaches more families and that our strong above national average gains continue into the future. The reality of the 21st century global marketplace demands nothing less.

Sandy Baruah is president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber and chairman of the Governor’s 21st Century Economy Commission.