Jobs, jobs, and more jobs has become a mantra for recession-battered states around the Midwest. The solution? Get involved in helping businesses create them.
That was the message heard today in Chicago at the Clinton Global Initiative America, during a panel discussion on success stories. Its moderator: former Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, whose state was hit hardest by the recent downturn.
Although Michigan has lost 500,000 jobs in the past few years, many of them in the auto industry, Granholm, a Democrat, said she focused on helping develop the next auto industry, namely electric vehicles.
By the time she left office last year, Granholm said Michigan had partnered with 18 companies involved in aspects of the electric vehicle’s underpinnings.
These companies, she said, have promised to create 63,000 jobs by 2010. “It would not have happened without the partnership,” Granholm said.
In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels said his state has been aggressively clearing away red tape to make it attractive to new investment. (His efforts recently paid off, when Indiana wooed away the Michigan headquarters of Fronius USA.)
Daniels, a Republican, said his philosophy has been to create the “best sandbox in America” where business can operate with few obstacles. “We want companies to bet a buck in Indiana, and have a chance of getting it back.”
Every agency of state government, he said, is aligned to put business development first. If the state’s economic development office calls, “that request goes right to the top of the heap,” he said.
Despite the success stories, Granholm said she still had reservations about government involvement in job creation. “I am constantly struggling with how active government can be,” she said. The best view might be as something of a patchwork, she said, in which projects are pieced together with the partners each playing its role.
“If we aren’t afraid to have government as a partner…then I think this patchwork that is America will be a robust economic patchwork,” she said.