Great Lakes Believe It or Not

Michigan is transitioning its policies to compete in the knowledge economy as quickly as any state in the union, and all of the Great Lakes states are steadily moving towards economies based on info tech, innovation, and globalized markets, according to the 2007 State New Economy Index.

But at least one high-ranking Michigan official was skeptical of the results. It seems the news has been so bad, for so long, in the Rust Belt that folks don't recognize - or don't want to believe - a bit of good news when they hear it.

"The ultimate measurement is whether people are coming into Michigan and investing dollars and creating jobs," US Representative Pete Hoekstra, a Republican from Holland, MI, told the Detroit News. "For the report to have any credibility, you would expect that Michigan would start to excel in terms of certain measurements - employment and investment. And we're not seeing either.".

He went on to say that the people he represents are "very, very pessimistic about the future of the state."

But the 2007 State New Economy Index, authored in part by the Kauffman Foundation, gives reason for optimism. To gauge state preparedness for the Digital Age, it measures factors such as the number of entrepreneurs who start companies; the number of new patents issued to inventors; and the number of firms that rank among the fastest growing in the nation. It even considers manufacturing competiteveness.

Frankly, the results for the greater Great Lakes are rather impressive for a region that was all in on the Industrial Revolution and is now scrambling to be more dynamic, global, collaborative, innovative, and adventurous in the 21st century. New York and Minnesota scored #10 and #11, respectively. Both moved up several spots since the release of the last Index in 1999. Michigan made a bigger jump toward an innovation economy than any US state, up 15 spots to #19.

Illinois and Pennsylvania ranked #16 and #21 respectively. And Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana came in at #29, #30, and #31.

Some states lost ground within the pack. Colorado, for instance, fell six spots to #9. Arizon dropped out of the top 10 all the way down to #22. But not a single Great Lakes state fell in the rankings. All pushed their way up.

Employment growth and state per capita income - the ultimate measure of economic success - still lag the nation. But the report - if you believe it - reinforces the idea that the Great Lakes Region continues to move from smokestacks to laboratories, and from the Rust Belt to the Blue Belt.