Tonight, as your governor, I want to celebrate Michigan!
Together we have accomplished what most thought was impossible.
So, for a moment, let’s think back to just two years ago, when I took office. All of you can sadly remember those times: political gridlock, budget impasses, declining tax base, increasing crime, shuttered plants, foreclosed homes, finger-pointing and blame, and an exiting and aging population.
The watchword for the young was: Get your education here, and get a job elsewhere. Layoffs — already striking the private sector — spread to the public sector. There were no safe havens from our harsh economic times. We were all at risk.
Yesterday’s leaders were either drinking their own Kool-Aid or throwing rocks from their silos of “Being Right.” There was no collaboration, no “reaching out” to understand, and no problem-solving.
But a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.
And, after the election in 2010 and its mandate for change, we seized the opportunity to begin again from the ground up — or, as I like to say, we “started over.”
Let’s take a quick look at our current state of the state:
First and foremost I want to thank the Legislature for its enactment, during my first 90 days in office, of legislation authorizing the creation of the Michigan Green Enterprise Zone, a virtual investment zone that has become the enabler and unifier for Michigan’s turnaround — based, in part, on unparalleled cooperation and trust between management and labor.
Last week, in its 2012 Annual Report, the governing board of directors of Michigan’s Green Enterprise Zone — made up of diverse leaders from business, labor, and other key stakeholders — reported a return to the state treasury of $457 million. The gains were the result of intergovernmental revenue-sharing based upon the savings enjoyed by companies and enterprises opting into the Zone to do business in Michigan. We can now say that Michigan is the “Hong Kong” of America, and serves as the gateway for commerce throughout North America.
The Zone has transformed our landscape in Michigan. Our Blue Economy Initiative, undertaken by the Zone in 2011, has resulted in bringing key water-focused industries to Michigan, including battery, semiconductor, and alternative energy manufacturers. They employed our workers and stabilized our tax base and housing market.
Agriculture has transformed itself in our hard-hit urban areas, bringing jobs and real hope for families in our inner cities. Today we have acres of productive farmland in Detroit, and workers — many from underperforming schools — are learning new skills.
The Zone’s Clean Energy Initiative is designing and manufacturing leading-edge alternative energy products, systems, and services, resulting in state exports.
The Zone’s Health Care System is drawing on best practices from around the world and is largely self-funded for its participants. It’s another reason for industries to be here.
The Zone’s Innovation System has broken the barrier that blocked the transition of ideas at the incubator or accelerator stages, and has paved the way for successful commercialization.
The Zone’s dispute-resolution panels have resolved conflicts at a level of efficiency and fairness that was unheard-of before. Legal efficiency and transparency on a cost-effective basis is the result.
“Made in Michigan” isn’t just a slogan anymore — it is our reality. And it’s a sustainable reality, due to our relentless attack on political and economic instability. All of us now know that investment needs predictability. Without it, incentives are not enough. Through our administration’s initiative of Prospectus Michigan, the corner has been turned and our prosperity isn’t based upon handouts. We have fixed the fundamental uncertainties, and the world is lining up to come to Michigan.