With the economies to the east and west motoring right along, Michigan tends to feel like the lone soldier in the U.S. fighting against the wave of job losses, factory closings, and other wrenching trends linked to deindustrialization.
But Stephen Forrest, one of the state's more accomplished entrepreneurs, says it's in the country's best interest for national leaders to understand and respond effectively to the economic transition underway in America's Heartland.
“Michigan’s problem is not local," Dr. Forrest said in a recent presentation to a group of venture capitalists in Holland, MI. "It’s not even a regional problem. It’s a national problem. The federal government needs to understand the importance of this region to the entire country.”
Despite the upheaval, the greater Great Lakes region - with Michigan at its center - remains one of the most influential economic centers in the United States of America. But the Mega Midwest remains deeply invested in the Industrial Era as the global economy is driven more and more by information and new ideas.
Without an immediate "all hands on deck" approach to accelerate the transition, generate new jobs, and reverse the decline, “Michigan could become a millstone around the nation’s neck," according to Dr. Forrest. The U.S., he said, simply cannot compete globaly if it writes off the 2/3 of its population which exists in the center of the country and says we can do it all on the coasts.
“Michigan is the leading indicator of large regional trends," said Dr. Forrest, who serves as vice president of research at the University of Michigan. "The reason we’re getting pummeled by this economic change is simply because we’re so invested in and been so successful in the past at manufacturing."
"So it’s natural that we would be hit the hardest the earliest," Forrest continued. "But it’s coming all around us. We know that. Ohio is the next one down. Indian is having trouble. So if we fix Michigan we actually fix the whole region. And if we fix the region we fix the U.S.”