Generally speaking, it's a good thing when local companies expand and invest globally. But, at a gut level, the decision by General Motors to spend a quarter of a billion dollars to build an energy innovation center in Shanghai, China feels like a slap in the face to this Michigan resident. Because that incredible scale of added commitment would be a spectacular boon to the students, workers, and residents in the General's home state and, ultimately, America.
For the last several years now, Michigan has oriented its staggeringly slow economic turnaround effort around the idea of energy innovation. Citizens have the heard Governor Granholm say it a mind-numbing number of times now: "Michigan is in the perfect position to lead the nation - and the world - in researching and developing alternative and renewable energy solutions."
The compelling thought looms not only as Michigan struggles to grow relevant industries, generate jobs, and prosper in the 21st century. But also as the United States wrestles with monumental challenges like climate change and homeland security. So energy innovation is a timely and strategic issue for the nation as well as it's eigth largest state.
But moving the needle requires more than a big vision and fancy speeches. It demands a complete and concentrated realignment of policy and spending decisions in both the public and private sector to drive real action. This is a huge ship to turn around!
Right now General Motors is steering away from where Michigan aims to go. The company is not only waging an all out battle against modern fuel efficiency standards that promise to drive innovation and technological advancement. Now its helping to fund the competition abroad.
"We believe China has the potential to become a leader in the adoption of alternative propulsion systems," said General Motors CEO Rick Waggoner.
Funny, that's what Michigan and America is trying to do. And while the venture likely will return knowledge, jobs, and hopefully profits back home, a $250 million infusion of cash, talent, and lab space would have been a serious step in the right direction for downtown Detroit. Disappointing that it's happening China.