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Business hungry state helps economic revival

Business hungry state helps economic revival

BUDAPEST: Automobile Group Motor Co. Ltd. confirmed plans to enter the U.S. market, Gov. Rick Snyder slipped through the Detroit auto show crowd and on to yet another opportunity to promote Auto 2.0 in Michigan.

Unlike his predecessor who refused for eight years to visit China and tout Michigan’s automotive cred, the business-minded Snyder is hungry for business. He has led seven missions to China, held “multiple meetings” with Guangzhou Auto’s senior leadership and visited their headquarters, the governor told The Detroit News Tuesday. Credit a strategy to “create the environment for success,” as he put it. Credit a long-game aimed at relationship-building. Credit an understanding that should, but often doesn’t, transcend partisan politics: improving quality of life and expanding opportunity are tightly linked to increased business investment grounded in reality, not feel-good hype. No, government is not a “business” in the profit-and-loss sense of the word. But it can rally leadership, revise policies and remove obstacles that prove to be disincentives to business expansion, relocation and investment  all of which contribute to the state’s economic vitality in the real world, not some faux ideological state mired in the 1970s.

Government can use its levers and the persuasive powers of its office holders to highlight its human and technical assets; to update narratives tarnished by corporate restructuring, bankruptcy and the long arc of urban decline; to assemble incentives, when necessary; and to serve as salesperson-in-chief. Michigan’s accumulating record of regulatory and business tax reform, of a competitive auto industry and a reviving Detroit, can be touted to foreign investors, hometown automakers and mega-suppliers. Their post-recession investments in Michigan are reasserting the state’s status as the automotive capital of North America. But will the momentum continue when the CEO-turned-politician leaves the governor’s office to a successor almost certain to come from the Republican or Democratic political classes? It should, but it’d require the next governor to see policy through a lens of long-term business competitiveness instead of short-term politics.

Exactly right. And as much as Snyder’s many detractors are disinclined to give him credit for anything, the facts are that Michigan’s business environment is far more competitive today than what he inherited from Jennifer Granholm. The Obama-era auto bailouts helped, as did a slowly growing macro-economy.