Opinion: Taking Michigan to great at 2018 West Michigan Policy Forum

John Kennedy is chairman of the West Michigan Policy Forum and president and CEO of Autocam Medical

Next month, the West Michigan Policy Forum will celebrate 10 years since our first conference. As we look back, it’s clear that Michigan’s economy is far better than it was 10 years ago. Dramatic policy changes have been achieved in Michigan – from Right to Work to the elimination of the job-killing Michigan Business Tax, from the elimination of the penalizing Personal Property Tax to dramatically lower unemployment. Not only are more people working, but their incomes are again rising.

It would be easy to sit back and relax. But challenges still face Michigan’s workers, employers and communities. Michigan is a far better place today than it was 10 years ago, but we all need to work together to take Michigan from good to great.

The West Michigan Policy Forum started at a time when Michigan had 15 percent unemployment and people and businesses were fleeing the state in record numbers. For 10 years, forum attendees have prioritized and supported policies that have irrefutably guided Michigan to its current trailblazer status for job growth, quality of life and economic prosperity. Attendees have demanded big goals for bold changes.

In the early part of this decade, the forum partnered with others and successfully called on the Legislature to repeal the Michigan Business Tax, which impacted numerous businesses forcing many to close their doors. We then pushed for Michigan to become a right-to-work state.

The creation of over 500,000 jobs – primarily private sector jobs outside of the automotive industry – and rising worker income have followed these changes. As business leaders, it is our responsibility to build upon these past victories to maintain and attract top-tier talent to build this continuous improvement for Michigan’s workers and their families.

As business leaders, it’s our responsibility to help Michigan keep its position as a welcoming home for both companies and employees. We need to ensure that our children have access to excellent education and that our families have the quality of life they deserve. Already, we are seeing results from dedicated investments in early childhood learning but the work is not over.

But while more money is often the political refrain, we should question what focus will help our kids. Michigan per pupil spending ranks in the top 20 states for education spending but various measures rank Michigan performance in the bottom 20 states and some metrics are even among the lowest 10 states. This is unacceptable.

Just as we pursue efficient and effective improvements in our careers, we need to ensure that money is spent wisely and that our professional teachers have the tools and support needed to prepare our children for their success tomorrow.

For Michigan’s success to continue, we need your dedicated and combined voices. We need business leaders to speak up and improve the system of retirement benefits for public employees so workers don’t lose benefits and our children don’t inherit massive debt. For many Michigan cities, roughly 20 cents on every dollar will go to legacy costs, this is already impacting what we can and should invest in vital public services.

We need your attention to special interest efforts to amend our constitution and impose changes similar to California. We need your voice to make sure that we have an educated and prepared workforce to fill all the positions needed to continue to push Michigan forward, and improve the lives of all who live and work here.

We need your voice to join the West Michigan Policy Forum and help drive Michigan from good to great.

We welcome you to join the discussion at our conference on Monday, September 24, 2018 in Grand Rapids at www.wmpolicyforum.com.;

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Thu, 08/30/2018 - 10:08am

I'm guessing the reference to California has to do with Voters not Politicians which this group probably doesn't want.

Richard Jaissle
Thu, 08/30/2018 - 6:31pm

Obviously, the forum is interested in what's good for Michigan Capitalists, and not the general public. We are in a national recovery that has helped re-employ Michigan, thanks to the auto industry bail-outs. Right to Work really means the right to union protection without paying dues which will, in effect, destroy the few unions we still have - a dream come true for employers unwilling to pay a living wage. An end to gerrymandering will help equalize representation and unsettle the current Republican majority - a majority that is at ALEC's beck and call and works only to enrich the already wealthy rather than serve the working class of Michigan. The failure of this forum us a success for the working people of Michigan.

Fri, 08/31/2018 - 4:57am

This rich fat cat thinks incomes have increased. He thinks this because he is a fraud of the highest order. The min wage is $9.25 and the only "workers" to see their incomes increase are those in the top 20%...everyone below that have seen their incomes DECREASE relative to inflation over the past ten years. Republicans have also DEVASTATED public education in this state, all so rich people can hoard more money. How does this con man sleep at night? Prescription drugs, thats how...

Sun, 09/02/2018 - 6:04pm

Seriously? You'll look long and hard to find anyone today that pays minimum wage, so your whining is nuts. Mac's is 11+ Aldis says $12! On the other hand the $15 an hour rabble ignores the fact that all they'll really bring is a bunch of unemployed high school and college kids. As a parent I never gave a second thought to what the school spend to educate my kids, we just did what we needed to do to make sure they were prepared. Nor did I ever care (or know) what they got on any of the assessment tests, let alone what the state financial allotment was. And shock of shocks they ended up with great careers. If you're worried about the crap you mention, you're wasting your time, that should be spent on your kid!