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Posted on Thu, Aug 20, 2009 : 5:25 a.m.

Washtenaw County needs to talk about stemming jobs losses

By Stephen Lange Ranzini

What do we need to do in Washtenaw County to stem jobs losses here?

Before the depression ends, we need to identify industries and companies that can grow and pick up the slack The good news is that money is available for good projects if we can collectively work through the details. In addition to local banks who are still lending to worthy businesses, there is new help from the federal government for our area.

In addition to my day job as President of University Bank, I’m also the President of the Ann Arbor Economic Development Corporation and Vice Chairman of the Washtenaw County Economic Development Corporation. The Ann Arbor EDC was just allocated $17,266,000 and the Washtenaw County EDC was just allocated $33,100,000 of tax free bonds that can be used to provide funding for any economic development purpose.

So far this year, Washtenaw County has lost 9,454 jobs out of the 169,196 that we started the year with, or a loss rate of 5.6% of our jobs.

Jobs peaked in November 2007 at 182,749, so the recession so far has eliminated 23,007 jobs in the county, or 12.6% of the total. Unfortunately, the data also shows that the all-time high in jobs in the county was set in March 2001, at 190,136.

So we’ve been losing jobs for eight years now.

Also weighing down on the local job market is the situation statewide. State Treasurer, Robert J. Kleine estimates that Michigan loses 10,000 jobs for each 1% market share lost by the Big Three auto companies based here. The Big Three have lost 24.1% market share since 2000, 12.1% since 2006 and 3% since June 2008.

Michigan’s employment peaked in April 2000 at 4,966,314, and after dropping in the post-dot com bubble’s bust through 2003, rallied again to a peak of 4,734,441 in April 2006. Since then it’s been straight downhill along with the Big Three’s market share. When Washtenaw County’s employment peaked in November 2007, Michigan had 4,630,537 jobs - but by June 2009 had 4,131,522, a drop this year of 5.9%. It’s also a 16.8% drop since April 2000.

If Michigan doesn’t turn the situation around before the rest of the country starts to recover in the second half of 2010, we will suffer an exodus of people seeking work in other states.

Today, because there aren’t jobs available in other states, people are making do and sitting tight. If the rest of the country recovers on schedule and we don’t participate, Michigan will be permanently damaged by losing the raw material - skilled employees - that fuels economic growth.

Unfortunately with the rapid decline of the Big Three’s market share, the full extent of the job losses statewide may not yet be seen. If so, the jobs data, which appears to support a multiplier effect of 34,500 jobs lost for each 1% market share lost by the Big Three, might not even be the final story.

As much as we’d like to think that we are immune from the problems of the auto industry here in Washtenaw County, the reality is that we’ve been hard hit by automotive jobs losses. There are a lot of residents here who commute daily into Detroit, Dearborn and Auburn Hills and to other cities where the auto suppliers are located.

All of this brings me back to the Recovery Zone Facility Bonds, which we must use by year-end 2010. The sooner we can use these funds to back firms that will create new jobs the better off we’ll be.

Let's start a community conversation about what we could use that money for. I’ll highlight the best ideas in future columns.

Stephen Lange Ranzini is president of University Bank, president of the Ann Arbor Economic Development Corporation and vice chairman of the Washtenaw County Economic Development Corporation.



Mon, Aug 24, 2009 : 1:22 p.m.

I gotta idea, lets impose a city income tax and put this exodus on a fast track!