Opinion: Next gov. should follow in Snyder’s footsteps

Rick Baker and Sandy Baruah
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder poses with member of the Operating Engineers 324 on an excavator.

As Gov. Rick Snyder executes his last days in office, now is a good time to reflect on the tremendous accomplishments Michigan has achieved under his unique leadership and his trademark “relentless positive action” approach to public service.

Imagine if someone told you in 2010 that a mere eight years later Michigan would have a balanced budget and have paid off substantial amounts of debt. Not to mention growing the rainy-day fund from $2 million to more than $1 billion.

It would have seemed unlikely, if not impossible, that by 2018, the unemployment would fall to 5 percent as of July 2018 from 12.6 percent in 2010. Imagine the Michigan-based automotive, agricultural, technology, advanced manufacturing and business services industries performing at record levels. Imagine thinking in 2010 that Michigan’s biggest challenge in 2018 would be finding enough people to meet the talent needs of a growing economy or that Michigan would be included in the lists of top states for per-capita income growth.

It’s been a remarkable turnaround, and so much of the success is attributable to the earnest work of Rick Snyder. That he has been able to accomplish this transformation without ever criticizing another person and never resorting to the lack of civility that is so common in today’s public discourse is remarkable – and appreciated.

Gov. Snyder’s leadership is also unique because he actively worked to bring the state together as “one Michigan.” His focus on ensuring that all areas of the state benefit has resulted in a state far more unified than when he took office. As representatives of the key business advocacy groups on different sides of the state, we see the collaboration and partnership between west Michigan and east Michigan on a daily basis.

Today, business groups across the state, including ours, work together on everything from economic development legislation, education reform efforts, foreign business attraction, not to mention the assistance business leaders across the state provided in supporting the landmark passage of the "grand bargain" to facilitate Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy.

Part of this has been the result of Snyder’s focus on Michigan’s cities. He clearly understands the role that strong cities, of all shapes and sizes, play in fostering economic growth and talent attraction. Snyder’s remarkable role in the comeback of Detroit was not just critical to southeast Michigan, but his “ignore the politics” approach to Detroit resulted in a transformation that the nation is still talking about – and has made Detroit a city that once again makes all parts of the state proud.  

Leadership makes a difference.Under the leadership of Snyder, Michigan has achieved more than anyone could have expected in 2010. You need look no further than the health of our companies, the vibrancy of places like downtown Grand Rapids and Detroit, and any economic data chart. While there is much left to do, we just wanted to say “thank you” to Gov. Rick Snyder for his transformative and unique leadership. The next governor has big shoes to fill.  

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

Sandy Baruah is the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.