Michigan’s economy headed for recovery or relapse?

Unemployment is down, auto sales are strong, and the city of Detroit lost $7 billion in debt with its recent emergence from Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Michigan’s economic future therefore looks brighter than it has in ages, doesn’t it?

Indeed, it is, unless we:

■ Be complacent and don’t solve obvious problems (think roads!).

■ Or we do stupid things, like erect new barriers to investment and job creation.

Two of the state‘s top economic development leaders will discuss Michigan’s 2015 economic outlook — and new results from a survey of business leaders — Thursday at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon. More than 500 people have already registered to attend, but there was room for around 80 more on Monday morning.

Rodrick Miller, chairman of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., and Michael Finney, who is transitioning from his role as CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) to Governor Rick Snyder’s Senior Advisor for Economic Growth, will be the speakers. I will be the moderator and Baker Strategy Group will share the results of their recent survey of business leaders.

The results of the Baker survey show an improvement in trust. When asked to rate Michigan on a scale of 1 to 100 as a place to grow a business, respondents average 73 this year, up from 71 a year ago and 68 in 2013. And 71 % said they plan to hire more. people in the coming year.

Miller told me this week that Detroit “is seeing more investment than we’ve seen in the past two decades. However, this is not a full recovery. The sobering pill is that much of this investment still needs to be subsidized.

“The bankruptcy really gave us a fresh start,” he added, but Detroit needs a clear strategy to attract new people and new businesses.

Finney said Michigan’s image has improved dramatically since the depths of the Great Recession, when Chrysler and General Motors were bailed out by the federal government as dozens of auto suppliers and other businesses collapsed.

“It’s a very different dialogue right now,” said Finney, who led a delegation from Michigan to meet with a large group of corporate site selectors in Texas late last year.

“In the days following these meetings,” he added, “we received three or four calls for tenders” (requests for proposals) related to information technology, software and call centers. “That has never happened in the past.”

To turn this dialogue into sustainable growth, Michigan must match the talents and skills of its workforce to the needs of growing businesses. And Finney said he expects Snyder to offer ideas in that vein during his state of the state address on Jan. 20.

Contact Tom Walsh: 313-223-4430 or [email protected], also follow him on Twitter @TomWalsh_freep.

Detroit Economic Club Tickets

When: 11:30 a.m. Thursday

Where: MotorCity Casino and Hotel

Rates: $45 for DEC members, $55 for member guests, $75 for non-members.

To purchase: Online at www.econclub.org or by phone at 313-963-8547