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Michigan & the Smart Money: What the State Needs Today to Build Tomorrow

The smart money has not been flowing into Michigan in a long time. However, that money is starting to come back to Michigan again. This smart money—investments coming from well-informed and experienced financiers —is the key to a recovery for Michigan, and the state government needs to work hard to accelerate that trend. As Michigan shifts away from the auto-dependent economy that has forced the state into a multi-decade decline, the state government needs to focus its effort on attracting the smart money, and it needs to ramp that effort up now.

In order for the state to diversify away from the auto industry, Michigan should make a concerted effort to attract smart money with as much effort as it expends trying to attract tourists. Central to a recovery will be the smart money that helps grow new businesses. Venture capital companies can provide the money and expertise to help young companies get off the ground at a time when traditional funding routes are not open to start-up businesses. Michigan is ripe for continued growth if it focuses on showcasing what it has in spades: a strong university system that spins off opportunities and talent, an abundance of skilled labor, and low barriers to investment. Not only is there room for more money in Michigan but also the demonstrated venture capital returns are impressive enough that the state should be able to sell itself as an attractive investment locale if it makes the effort.

Michigan’s CEO, Governor Rick Snyder, and its Board, Michigan’s legislature, need to coalesce around this reality; the path to recovery will come if Michigan focuses on attracting the smart money. Quick hits and fun headlines will not help, but venture capital firms like Detroit Venture Partners will. The venture capital investments can help build a solid foundation for a diverse economy, and they can leverage the work already done, such as former Governor Jennifer Granholm’s focus on attracting new industries by encouraging investment in battery and alternative fuel manufacturers. The blitz should ensure that local companies know where to seek the funds. Michigan should also showcase what the state offers to large venture firms around the country. This won’t be a sexy, short-term investment like film tax credits, but it will help create jobs, and it will build a strong foundation for growth and diversification.

Right after Governor Snyder gets home from his trip to Asia, where he will try to drum up trade deals, he needs to have his Chief of Staff put together a domestic itinerary. If Gov. Snyder puts in some hours promoting Michigan in Silicon Valley and New York City, those cities will be promoting Michigan in the not-too-distant future as the next great American turnaround story

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Joseph R. Morrison, Jr.

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