Michigan has been in a funk for the past six years, with growth at half of the U. S. average. That lagging was the focus of the Detroit Chamber’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference last week. Edsel Ford II and others urged business and political leaders to collaborate in order to diversify the region’s economy away from its reliance upon the industry that his great-grandfather launched into overdrive a century ago, pushing for a regional effort under the banner of One D (for Detroit).
Most of the sessions centered upon the changes in the automotive industry and its deterioration impacting so much of the Michigan economy. Several suggested that Michigan needed to focus upon bringing in more corporate headquarters. The loss of headquarter companies like Kmart, Crowley, Gantos, Old Kent, Michigan National, Standard Federal and others has very adversely affected the state’s ability to withstand this recent automotive downturn.
HUH!!! Recruiting in HQs is old thinking, of people wishing that they could turn back the clock. Instead, the focus should be upon the development of entrepreneurs from the core of talented people who have been building products like automobiles for their entire life. Unfortunately, many of them learned their craft in a tightly controlled, non-entrepreneurial environment. They’ve got the skills, but need encouragement to make the entrepreneurial leap. Until Michigan figures out how to move from a corporate, bureaucratic, headquarters mentality into an entrepreneurial model, I’m concerned that they will continue in their economic stagnation. I hope that they embrace entrepreneurism quickly.