Charlie Mahoney is chair of the Michigan Works! Association Board of Directors and owner of FourM Associates in Livonia
Michigan is at a crossroads.
That’s a phrase we’ve heard many times over the decades, as politicians work to drive their agendas for change. The “crossroads” metaphor is meant to add urgency and drive change — but it’s been used a lot. Like the villagers who were weary of listening to the boy who cried wolf, many Michigan voters think these so-called “crossroads” are little more than a public relations ploy.
Unfortunately, our state now has a very real wolf at the door, a very real point of intersection between past efforts and the future needs of Michigan. Perhaps the ultimate stroke of irony is that this crossroads is partially related to, well, roads. Will Michigan adequately fund roads and bridges, making it possible for our infrastructure to keep pace with those of other states and nations? That is what most people see as the choice to be made. For many state residents, this crossroads involves a tax increase, an investment, and a better way to prioritize.
But from where I sit, there’s an even more important crossroads to consider. Roads and bridges are only one piece of Michigan’s most important choices today. The larger question, the one we are only beginning to grapple with, is this: what kind of state are we going to be?
In her recent budget proposal, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared plans to invest in two areas that we at Michigan Works!, believe are critical to our success - infrastructure and workforce development. We are supportive of plans to invest in these key areas, investments that will benefit all Michiganders.
As the state’s talent development partner, Michigan Works! proudly connects residents with career resources and helps businesses train their workforce. Those efforts can only work if Michigan is a great place to live, work and raise a family.
For most of us who call Michigan home, there are lots of reasons to live here. But we’re a state that needs to keep growing, re-skilling our workforce, attracting new residents, jobs, and business opportunities. On our present trajectory, we’re not doing those things well enough.
Let me put it another way. If low costs remain the only priority, we’ll fail to invest in what is really needed for growth. Things like prioritizing resources for K-12 education to include career pathways and certificate programs, supporting business growth through apprenticeships and training resources and, of course, good roads. Without focusing on these investments, we will strangle our economy by depriving it of resources needed to maintain a skilled and talented workforce for our businesses and for our economic growth as state.
This is the crossroads Michigan now faces. We need to decide what kind of state we’re going to be. Do we believe in ourselves and the promise of a bright future? Or are we going to keep doing what we’ve always done, and getting the same results we’ve always gotten?
Investing in both workforce development and infrastructure is critical to Michigan’s success. The Michigan Works! system appreciates Gov. Whitmer making both of these areas a priority.
Michigan’s future growth depends on safe infrastructure, providing career resources and training for our local talent, as well as attracting new business and talent. Investment to get our roads into better condition and in a re-skilled and up-skilled workforce are the building blocks that allow Michigan Works! to take its talent development efforts to the next level. It’s time to be bold and leave these tired crossroads behind. Let’s choose the right path — a path toward prosperity, opportunity and a better future for all.