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Posted on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 8 a.m.

Snyder smart to recognize Michigan's greatest asset as the talent within the state

By Tom Watkins

Michigan Governor Eco_Bert.jpg

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder addresses the Michigan Economic Summit, Monday in Detroit. Snyder says one of the keys to boosting job growth in Michigan is preventing young people from leaving the state.

AP Photo

Jobs and talent matter. Gov. Rick Snyder says there is a mis-match between the two as he kicked off his first two-day economic summit at Cobo Center in Detroit on Monday. Snyder points out there are more than 60,000 open positions on

But Snyder also recognizes that Michigan's "greatest asset that we have in our state is our talent."

With all the talk at the national, state and local level about fiscal cliffs, debt and deficit reduction crisis, are we losing sight of the real tragedy? A lack of jobs!

Human misery is measured in more than unemployment statistics. Job losses destroy families, communities, and cities, ripping away at the heart of our country. Behind the unemployment statistics are citizens: moms and dads, sisters and brothers losing hope as human potential slips away.

Just recently, the Obama administration touted the American economy adding 236,000 new jobs in February. Good news for a change. In addition to the “Happy days are here again” theme, we added more construction jobs than at any other time since March of 2007!

Yet even with these encouraging numbers, the overall recovery is still leaving far too many Americans behind.

A recent issue about jobs published in The Atlantic Magazine noted: “People looking for work for 6-months or longer - long-term unemployed - jumped by 89,000 last month. It’s been three years since the labor market bottomed, but the long-term unemployment rate is still higher than it’s been at any point since 1948. Technically-speaking, we’re still in a deep hole.”

Lessons Learned?

Over the past several years, economists and pundits have lamented that they had not seen Michigan’s economy in such a downward spiral since the deep Reagan recession of 1982.

Now more than 30 years later, again the dominant issue today remains the economy and jobs.

We Need Action In Dog Years!

The public isn’t seeing any political party or candidate making job creation a true priority. No one is offering meaningful proposals designed to get people working again, other than standard political party rhetoric about “cutting taxes” or “raising taxes.” Not unlike a Miller Lite beer commercial — it sure tastes great (cut taxes) / and is less filling (raise taxes) — but we need serious action to create jobs.

Just when we need government to work together, polls indicate people’s trust in government’s ability to handle virtually any issue at any level is at an all-time low.

Rest assured, someone who has lost a job, be it white collar or blue, does not care where the job creation ideas comes from - Democrat or Republican, Libertarian or Green Party — as long as people get working again.

At his economic summit Snyder reminded the audience he ran on a pledge: "More and better jobs and a future for our kids!"

He spoke with passion that Michigan needs the new "three C's"—

  • Collaboration to..
  • Create talent and to
  • Connect education/talent development with employers needs.

Michigan lost nearly a million jobs beginning just before the Great Recession of 2008. The recession only sped up the misery.

Rust Belt state Michigan has been in the top tier of economic decline for some time. Despite recent announcements of new jobs in the the auto sectors, the reality is that we lost jobs in a roaring tsunami and replaced them with tear drops.

Long Term Strategy: Quality Education From Cradle To Grave

Michigan must continue to focus on preparing, retaining and attracting talent — something government can actually do. Companies will grow in and come to places where talent is nurtured and concentrated. We must set a goal to make Michigan and America the brain bank of the world, where everyone comes for deposits and withdrawals.

This requires a cultural shift away from thinking a high-paying , low skill factory job is the easy ticket to the middle class. A 4-year college degree is not the sole pathway to success - technical, and vocational training can have a big payoff.

We have moved from a state where you once could "lift" for a living — to one where more and more of our citizens must "think" for a living.

The Atlantic Magazine got it right when it stated: “There isn’t a more urgent crisis than putting the long-term jobless back to work.”

Let's follow Snyder's lead and develop our talent and assure we have jobs to offer. Getting Michigan working again will pay big dividends for us all.

See: Business Leaders for Michigan report, A New Michigan: The 2013 Report on Michigan’s Progress in Six Opportunities, was developed in partnership with Anderson Economic Group LLC.

Tom Watkins lead two major departments of state government: mental health and education. He was president and CEO of the economic council in Palm Beach County, FL. and is a US/China business and educational consultant. Hecan be reached at:



Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

P.S.: Just announced....Michigan unemployment INCREASES from 8.9% in December to 9.7% in January. Those business tax cuts we're all footing the bill for are really paying off!


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 12:07 p.m.

"Talent Gap" is relentless positive spin on this administration's lack of results from an agenda that provides publicly-funded incentives and benefits to business at the expense of just about everyone, and everything, else. Get it? Everything would be rosy except for that dang "talent gap"!


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 11:36 a.m.

Very few rich care for the average person , only about getting more riches.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 4:34 a.m.

The big problem in Michigan and nationally has been 30 years of mindless tax cuts which gutted vocational training in high schools and generally defunded education to where we are now, cutting teachers and teacher pay every year and raising college tuition. The final straw in 30 years of less tax is the Snyder governments streamlining of the business tax and the subsequent $2B tax cut which is paid for by one huge cut in education. On top of that, Snyder raised taxes on individuals by cutting deductions and taxing pensions of the retired. My state taxes went up $1300 this year and I set just above the median wage in the state. It's nice to talk job creation, but cutting education year after year, adding taxes to middle incomes and retirees and laying off thousands of public safety people just destroys jobs. It is obvious looking at the income distribution in this country that cutting taxes for 30 years has not helped the poor and middle class. Most of the effects of these tax cuts are borne by the poor and middle class, not the rich. The Ryan budget cuts taxes on the upper incomes even more, while cutting programs that benefit the poor and middle class. The rationale for the upper income tax cuts is that the upper incomes are creating the jobs. Why aren't we awash in jobs if cutting taxes on the job creators works?


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 5:22 p.m.

"Let's follow Snyder's lead and develop our talent..." No thanks. Snyder and his GOP cronies have gutted public education in this state. They care nothing about developing talent — especially if it gets in the way of cutting taxes. Say it with me: "One-Term Rick."

Tom Todd

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Get a Degree and Run for the Michigan Border.

Tom Todd

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

Helping out! do you mean handing it all over to ricky

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4:46 p.m.

Keep watching Fox news

Basic Bob

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4:39 p.m.

No. Get a degree and stay to help out. Plan to work your butt off. Your plan just continues to dumb down the state, inching ever closer to that Marxist ideal handout state, where everyone consumes and no one produces.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

One thing the state SHOULD be focusing on is an education system- which is a separate track from the "Hi-Tek College" system churning out hopeful Starbucks employees- focusing, instead, on rebuilding the soon to be lost traditional master building trades such as carpentry, brick and stone masonry, plumbing, tile and glass work, electrical work, timberframe mastery and so on. There are 39 all tolled, in traditional building construction. All in danger of being lost for good. Unless you personally have one of these master artisans in your family, there is nowhere to learn these skills anymore so, instead of having beautiful and timeless buildings constructed on a regular basis, all are now done by panelized erector-set systems using the cheapest possible supply of transient, unskilled labor. That is why every single large construction project proposed meets stiff public resistance. Because the buildings are ugly, high-maintenance, heartless boxes which will start to deteriorate even before they are completed. These new student hi-rises being perfect examples. Rebuild the building trades and get artisans and craftsmen/women back in the construction business. In turn, we will rebuild the customer base for the projects being built.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 4 p.m.

The destruction of the building trades was deliberate. Highly skilled tradesmen made a decent living and had skills in high demand. Builders and developers wanted to recapture that money for themselves so they (collectively) had to come up with systems that could be built using UNskilled labor. You can also blame that on the wave of modernists like Le Corbussier and that wave overtaking architecture and engineering schools with theoretical starchitecture (like the Ross business school). Using ever more highly manufactured, panelized materials in place of teaching traditional, deliberate, highly skilled methods which have stood the test of time- millenia even, using local, natural materials (like the law Quad). That false-feeling of construction is almost all of what we have today. And people naturally reject it. Even if they don't really know why. It is inauthentic. As Léon Krier points out- Can you imagine a profession such as refrigerator or automotive design open to severe public criticism BEFORE the products are even produced? Or medicine, where your doctor would propose a course of action only to be shouted down by mass protest from all involved? But the profession of architecture has actively pursued this course, trying to convince everyone to trust that they have mystical intelligence and taste the rabble can't comprehend- while becoming servant to money interests- and diminished their own authority with the public. Unfortunately, once their products are built, the public cannot then choose to reject them in the marketplace, like they can with a car or fridge. It will take political action to turn that around. Along with actively protesting the proposed construction of ugly, soul-less human storage facilities.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

You bring a new and important perspective. Please send your message to your government officials and to the governor. You highlight important skills that are best learned through apprenticeship with on-the-job training that deserves encouragement and sponsoring by state agencies. Like you I would hate to see these skills lost.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

"Snyder Smart to Recognize Michigan's Greatest Asset as the Talent Within the State" and slash their pay.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 1:15 p.m.

Seems to me he and the Lansing occupyers are HELPING to drive young people out of the state. So he's saying that's really not his goal? Because his actions have proven otherwise


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 1:05 p.m.

Slashing state-funded education is not likely to help develop our talent. Seems to me Snyder's saying one thing and doing another.


Fri, Mar 22, 2013 : 11:58 a.m.



Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

It is obvious, is it not?

Larry Baird

Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

The 2012 census numbers seem to support some of these conclusions for our state: - 33,000 people left the state from 6/30/11 - 7/01/12 (Net Domestic Migration) - 17,000 people arrived from outside the US (Net Int'l Migration) - 22,500 more births than deaths (Natural Increase) The net population change was therefore statistically breakeven (gain of 6,559 in a state of 9.9 million), which is better than previous years. Unfortunately, the "Natural Increase" numbers keep falling every year given the aging population and falling overall birth rates. So that means the "Net Migration" numbers will have to vastly improve in future years or else the state will continue to lose significant population. If 60,000 jobs remain open yet 33,000 left the state, then focusing on the "skills gap" through better education and retraining should continue to be a primary focus.


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

I agree, but what interest has state government shown to make this happen?


Thu, Mar 21, 2013 : 12:41 p.m.

With over 400,000 Michigan citizens remaining unemployed, Governor Snyder has not offered a program that will get them back to work. The limited skills and education backgrounds of those mostly displaced from automobile jobs prevents most job seekers from qualifying for those 60,000 advertised job openings. If Governor Snyder and his Republican legislature are serious about achieving full employment then they will need to invest money into the infrastructure which offers shovel-ready jobs repairing roads, bridges and sewers and improving our school buildings. Most of the unemployed will qualify for this type of work and, while employed, can receive assistance towards attending vocational classes to acquire 21st century skills and knowledge. So far the governor and the legislature have ignored the large number of unemployed Michigan citizens and are unwilling to spend money where it would provide the most good. Instead the Republican government in Lansing has provided tax "relief" to the wealthy while decreasing financial support for education that would increase employment in Michigan.