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Posted on Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Amy Cell's priorities for MEDC in 2013: Jobs, jobs and more jobs

By Ben Freed


Amy Cell works at the MEDC in Lansing but still lives in Ann Arbor, where she previously was vice president of talent enhancement and entrepreneurial education at Ann Arbor SPARK.

Melanie Maxwell |

While politicians like to speak about putting people back to work, Michigan Economic Development Corporation senior vice president Amy Cell is the one trying to make it happen.

Cell, one of’s Ones to Watch in 2013, oversees the MEDC’s talent enhancement program that is designed to help Michiganders either find jobs that match their skill set or develop new skills to qualify for available jobs.

“The governor and the MEDC are committed to talent development and filling the skills gap,” she said.

“We want to make sure that young people that graduate from our colleges and high schools have the opportunity to get a good job here in Michigan.”

Since joining the MEDC in 2011, Cell has helped run programs such as Live Work Launch in Detroit and Grand Rapids, which aim to keep entrepreneurial graduating college students in the state by providing access to venture capital, mentors, and incubator space.

Ones to Watch 2013

Six profiles of people to watch in the upcoming year

She also helps oversee the Shifting Gears program that helps highly educated, mid-to-late career displaced workers re-train themselves for jobs in Michigan.

Cell’s newest project is targets high-school seniors who are interested in manufacturing.

“It [manufacturing] is really the core of Michigan’s economy,” she said.

“… A lot of people don’t want to go into manufacturing these days because they’ve seen their parents get laid off, so they think it’s unstable, or they think it’s a ‘dirty’ profession. The truth is there’s a big need for it and the jobs are very different.”

Closing the gap between the skills employers need and those students are taught will also be a focus of two conferences that will be hosted by the state government in the spring of 2013. Cell is on the planning committee for the economic development talent summit March.

“The goal is to identify as much as possible what are the skills that are in demand by employers, so it can feed into how we can solve the problem of making sure those skills are taught,” she said.

“For years there has been a governor’s education summit in April, so we’re trying to have the output from this March session feed into the April one.”

The March conference will have a focus on regional collaboration, which Cell said will help employers focus on the issues that are most pressing to them.

“A lot of the problems we have are regional,” she said.

“What’s a priority for one region of the state might not be for another, but once it's solved in one region we can take the solution they find to help others.”

In Southeast Michigan, Cell expects to see increased connectivity between Ann Arbor and Detroit in 2013.

“It opens up the talent pool to the area immensely because you have more people who will be willing to come as you increase the high-tech job density,” she said.

“Especially in the tech world, people don’t just move for one job because they know their companies might have a short life span and people just tend to move around a lot. If people see there’s 100 companies in Ann Arbor I could work for and 100 companies in Detroit, then it’s a no-brainer to move to the region.”

As Dan Gilbert continues to invest in making Detroit a high-tech hub, Cell sees the energy developing there also rubbing off on Ann Arbor’s growing startup scene.

“People able to find people you can learn from and keeping the brainflow going back and forth between the two communities will have a good impact on Ann Arbor,” she said.

“When I was doing economic development in Ann Arbor, we would always be very supportive of Detroit because we knew that if Detroit was doing better, Ann Arbor was going to be better.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Charles Buck

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 6:53 p.m.

Focusing on skills enhancement and training will provide much more economic benefit to Michigan than business tax cuts ever will. One need only graph annual nonfarm private sector job growth versus any of the state business tax climate indices floating around out there to see there is zero correlation.


Wed, Jan 2, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

As of November, Michigan has 411,707 unemployed, mostly related to automobile cutbacks years ago. Most of these former workers do not possess the skills or training necessary to become employed again in Michigan. In order to achieve greater employment Michigan should create a comprehensive database of employers seeking workers which includes detailed listings of skills needed and education required for each job opportunity. Likewise each Michigan citizen who wants employment should provide for the database his educational background, skills and previous job experience. The database can compare employer needs with employee traits in an effort to identify compatible matches (a sort of eHarmony for workers). The computer can also generate the number of unique job opportunities which remain unfilled and create a check list of candidate requirements. This information can be used to redesign our educational system so that it will train unemployed for specific jobs. Also this information can be used by high school career counselors to assist students in choosing career pathways which will likely be successful. Of course, providing necessary funding for schools important if most citizens are to be put back into work.

Basic Bob

Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

Apparently some people are content to do nothing while jobs and skill leave the state, except complain of corruption and favoritism. Not that those happen in the state-controlled union workplace? Let's ALL get state jobs and see how quickly we can burn through the budget. They make a great point about an excess of job opportunities encouraging people to move here. I moved here because I knew if the worst happened - and it did - I would find some other work in my field. Today I would not make the same choice. I would most likely move to Alabama or Tennessee, where the pay is less but so is the cost of living, even with the added expense of private schools. This is largely an advertising and marketing campaign, so it makes no sense to try to determine how much of a profit this generates for the state. It is a cost of doing business, as much as having adequate schools, roads, airports, and public safety. But none of these other things are worthwhile if in the end all the jobs, skills, and our children end up in another state. Michigan could become one big empty Detroit.


Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

MEDC and the administration have lost millions from state employees retirement funds. The jobs created cost more than the worth of the tax base to the community there are developed in. You are right lets audit to see the worth of this organization. Seems to be a money pit for large contributors.

Charles Buck

Thu, Jan 3, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

How likely is it that taxpayers would tolerate public employee pension funds not having any skin in the game of helping Michigan's economy recover? The calculus is easy. No recovery = no pension. While you're auditing, find out how much the state lost on Facebook stock.

Rick Stevens

Tue, Jan 1, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

Sure would be nice if some independent audit validated the claims of job creation from MEDC, SPARK, etc. But no, we'll just see PR fluff (like this), more phony numbers, more promises, etc. and more of our tax money wasted. Why can't do an investigative piece on this? Oh, we forgot - part of the coverup is


Wed, Jan 2, 2013 : 7:38 p.m.

I'm with you, Rick. Lots of money for MEDC and SPARK but not much transparency. Do they have to provide detailed annual reports to anyone and, if so, should these be available for public scrutiny if tax dollars are being consumed?