Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
As former President Bill Clinton brought his two-day CGI America conference to a close on Thursday in Chicago, he announced an impressive sounding list of pledges by those who took part.
The conference secured 51 commitments from its participants to implement ideas that could affect 2.7 million people, Clinton said.
When fully funded, these commitments would create or fill more than 124,000 jobs, provide more than 364,000 people with access to job training, and provide entrepreneurs with $265 million in investments or loans, the former president said. “I hope that their efforts will inspire others to take action to revitalize their own communities.”
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.
John Fernandez had some blunt words in Chicago Wednesday for a room full of manufacturing experts.
“Let’s be honest about how we got here,” said Fernandez, the assistant Commerce Department secretary for economic development. “We adopted a macro policy that said, ‘invented here, make it here, it doesn’t really matter.'” He added, “Where you make things makes a huge impact.”