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When I ran for office eight years ago, I heard the same question across Michigan. “Where are the jobs?” Now I hear two different questions. Residents with better-paying jobs and children and grandchildren moving back to Michigan ask if the comeback is sustainable. Employers ask where to find more workers. We can answer both questions by deciding how our state moves forward. For many years we focused on the comeback. Now we are back, so what next?

To take the comeback to the next level, we must be decisive and lead the way. The biggest change in our economy since the Lost Decade is that we have robust diversification in key industries. We are still dominant in automotive manufacturing, but we also are driving its convergence with information technology. New advances in mobility mean new software and IT jobs.

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Thursday at the Mackinac Regional Policy Conference, columnists Daniel Howes and Nolan Finley find plenty of concerns about Michigan's future. DPTV

 

Detroit has become a national hub for automotive IT and the rapidly evolving financial technology sector. In 2017, Michigan added the third most tech jobs in the nation. Agriculture is still one of our top 3 industries — but we’ve also progressed into value added processing and “agritourism.” Michigan is a destination where people come to see their favorite craft beer or wine made. We are a state of thinkers and doers, and it has made us stronger than we were before. Our creative spirit will keep driving us forward as long as we keep our foot on the gas.

There are still many silos we need to tear down, including regional and industrial divisions, and disconnects between different levels of education and our employers. Also, there are too many misperceptions about great opportunity areas such as the professional trades.

Common goals exist: for everyone to have a well-paying job and for Michigan to be the best state in the nation. We need employers and educators to work more hand-in-hand. There has been great statewide support for the Marshall Plan for Talent — a sweeping overhaul of how we educate our students and prepare them for in-demand careers now and in the future. This isn’t about higher education versus vocational training. There are many different paths to achieving a rewarding and well-paying career for all students.

We must continue to modernize our infrastructure to provide Michiganians with an improved quality of life and support further economic growth. Michigan has grown from a state that was the worst in almost every national ranking to the top ten in many. However, our infrastructure is still catching up from many years of underinvestment.

The upcoming state budget has a billion dollars more for roads and additional funding for other infrastructure, including the Soo Locks. Updating this vital shipping connection is critical for economic stability for our state, the Great Lakes region, and the nation.

State government should be fiscally responsible while creating an environment of success for future generations. In the past seven years, we have paid down nearly $20 billion in debt, eliminating a crushing budget burden. By continuing on this payment plan, we will see the real benefits of taxpayer money being freed up for other priorities decades from now. It’s imperative that future elected officials not divert from this path.

We need Michigan to be a state that people look to as a model of responsible budgeting. No one wants to live in a state that is suffering financially, which we saw when we lost population for a decade.

The greatest threat to our nation is lack of civility. By working together and being respectful, Michigan can be a role model. We are a great state, and others look to us as a model for resiliency and resurgence. We got here because of partnerships and cooperation, not by fighting.

Fighting could take us down a slippery slope to another Lost Decade. We need to bridge gaps and work together across different backgrounds and communities. We must find common ground, not focus on what makes us different.

We have an excellent foundation for the future. I am committed to making it even stronger in my seven months left in office. I plan to run through the tape at the end of the year. Now and for the future, let us all commit to following this path to even greater prosperity. Veering off this course could greatly curtail Michigan’s future success. Together, we can lead the world in many ways and deliver a bright future for the Michiganians of today and for future generations.

Rick Snyder is the governor of Michigan. 

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