Without a Thriving Detroit, Michigan Cannot Catch that Train to Prosperity

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institutions that will help grow the economy. The entrepreneurs should be in close contact with local government to help them understand which types of skills might be required. That way, re-training initiatives can be directed towards providing the correctly skilled workers.”

This is already being done, on a modest scale through state programs like the Green Jobs Initiative and No Worker Left Behind, which is actually a model for the nation in its attempt to retrain former automotive engineers for new types of, for example, cleantech engineering work. And local universities are already involved in business incubator projects like TechTown. Dunsire is spot-on when she says that more should be encouraged. We need to clone these programs a few hundred times.

San Diego’s Larry Bock—once you get past his joking (I hope) reference to bulldozing the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck—has some interesting thoughts on using excess auto manufacturing capacity to build batteries, electric motors, renewable power, and wind power chassis systems.” He also says that local government officials should spend at least a year traveling around the world—“so they don’t think the universe has been modeled after Michigan.” International trade missions are a major focus of Automation Alley, although I have spoken to the head of another incubator who says that the focus should be the exact opposite: Get foreign officials and businesspeople to come to Detroit and see what we have to offer.

Other themes our Xconomists hit on include investment in education, training, and retraining; getting state government more involved in early-stage funding; lowering taxes on businesses; developing regional clusters of innovation; adequately funding tech transfer offices; and creating a culture where our successful entrepreneurs are hailed as heroes as much as our beloved Detroit Red Wings.

I think our Xconomist series can become a roadmap for what could be done, for possibilities, to finally get this city rolling on a train to somewhere, supported by pillars from across the region.

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