opinion: Michigan's business future depends on strengthening entrepreneurial foundation
Capitalizing on its local assets, Ann Arbor is modeling one path to economic growth and will likely enjoy more success as statewide reforms of the past two years begin to take root.
As we optimistically begin 2013, we stress the importance of maintaining the positive, pro-innovation progress of the past few years. Regions and states that successfully have improved their economies have employed a range of strategies over time, rather than depending on a single “magic bullet.” Along with business-friendly tax policies, they’ve also embraced support for education, infrastructure improvement, protection of natural resources and - most importantly - fostering a culture that celebrates risk-taking and innovation.
Rob Fowler, President/CEO of Small Business Association of Michigan
In the early 20th century, Michigan was the Silicon Valley of its era. Hundreds of entrepreneurs and innovators invented the automobile industry. Over the long term, however, that success led to cultural expectations that huge companies would continue to employ generations of well-paid - but not entrepreneurial - people. That paternalistic legacy is long gone, but the mind-set behind it remains. The unsuccessful electoral counterattacks in the fall 2012 elections against the improvements in our business environment illustrate that economic backsliding is a real danger.
Making Michigan entrepreneur-friendly is different from making it friendly to business and keeping it that way. Pro-business tax, regulatory and fiscal policies are important but not sufficient for success in entrepreneurship. Our challenge now is to keep the entrepreneurial momentum of the past two years going to reshape Michigan’s business climate and investment image.
Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders deserve great credit for embracing SBAM’s concept of “economic gardening” - the idea that cultivating and nourishing our own home-grown business operations is the most productive economic development strategy. Economic gardening depends not just on business-friendly rules and regulations, but on a whole range of cultural and educational attributes as well.
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Michigan and several key regions have made progress. Three examples are pertinent and illustrate the different routes to success:
1. Downtown Detroit is a thriving hotbed of small business growth. A gritty urban image coupled with small business support programs and the catalyst of big business real estate investment is leading to a surge of entrepreneurship.
2. Traverse City’s beautiful landscape and access to the Great Lakes is encouraging entrepreneurs to come for the climate but stay for the business growth opportunities.
3. Ann Arbor is a model ecosystem of entrepreneurship flowing out of and being supported by a world-class research university.
The common factor that links these regions together is that communities — cities, counties, towns and townships — are working together to celebrate and support a culture of entrepreneurship.
Our future lies in building on the accomplishments of the past two years and strengthening our entrepreneurial foundation. I would welcome a conversation with our unions to explore their role in promoting entrepreneurship and job growth. We need to enhance collaborative opportunities among state/local governments, communities like Ann Arbor that are pioneering “sense of place,” our educational institutions and our rapidly-growing private sector investment community.
Rob Fowler is the President and CEO of Small Business Association of Michigan.