Mid-Michigan Workforce Challenge: Grow our own and Import Talent
The Small Business Federation of Michigan recently released its fourth annual Michigan Entrepreneurship Score Card, which objectively analyzes the state’s entrepreneurial status relative to the rest of the country. Some of the news is bad — census estimates show that Michigan has the slowest growing economy in the U.S., its population is declining and it’s dead last in general growth—but the focus of this report is positive; namely, that the small business community offers Michigan its best chance for economic recovery.
To grow, small business owners will need to attract tech-savvy younger people, who are presently flocking to higher density technological regions of the country. According to the report, we’re 33rd in the country and last in the Midwest when it comes to technology in schools. Michigan dropped more than 7 percent from 2003 to 2006 in the average number of students per instructional computer (roughly one computer for every four students). This is sad. It means that we’re doing a terrible job at giving the next generation the tools they require for work and for life, which is increasingly becoming technology driven.
In addition to the Creative Class, mid-Michigan businesses should actively recruit employees from countries with proven backgrounds in science and technology occupations, including Japan and India. Importing talent diversifies our workers’ skill sets, which improves the development of new products and services.
For all the unpleasant truths in the score card, there were also plenty of happy surprises — not really surprises at all for those in the know. Michigan is one of the most highly competitive states in the country when it comes to broadband coverage, fourth in the country and second only to Wisconsin in the Midwest: 100 percent of Michigan ZIP codes are covered by two or more broadband providers. On the same note, we’re only behind Ohio, Illinois and Indiana when it comes to Midwest broadband connections — between 2003 and 2006, Michigan had a 183.9 percent increase in the number of broadband lines per 1,000 residents.
The Michigan economy is nowhere near where it needs to be, but thanks to reports like the Entrepreneurship Score Card we can see what is required to get out of the statewide bog in which we’re currently mired. Studies like this are effective tools for giving Michigan business leaders a true compass reading toward economic recovery and providing very specific goals that must be reached. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not too late to make the necessary changes to turn Michigan around and make it competitive in every category. But we need to start now.
To survive the slow economy in mid-Michigan, local companies need to find new customer segments, put a new twist on services they offer, or find ways to serve customers in stronger markets outside our region. Here are two local companies that are exporting their services to high growth markets and creating business service product lines.
1) Developer Marketing Services, Inc. (East Lansing). DMS is a new concept: an investor, real estate and marketing firm rolled into one, targeting small- to mid-sized luxury homebuilders. Currently they are funding (with class B capital), marketing and selling a $9 million luxury condominium project in downtown Grand Rapids. This project, called Park Row Condominiums, is located within the Medical Mile, an area that is attracting doctors, teachers and researchers from around the world. Currently, the Medical Mile is home to nearly $1.2 billion worth of construction. DMS isn’t just limiting its scope to Michigan, however, as it’s currently seeking deals in Idaho, Arizona and North Carolina. More information: www.PRCR.biz
2) Jadian Enterprises, Inc. (Lansing). Jadian is a global software and services company with 10 employees in North America, three in India and two in Dubai. Led by CEO Jerry Norris, Jadian is part of the Metro Internet Exchange (MIX) building, a business incubator catering to technology-based companies. More information: www.jadian.com
Kevin Schoen is CEO of ACD.net, a telecommunications and broadband provider based in Lansing.
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