New business columnist takes a look at Michigan’s economy

I am an optimist by nature.

When I look at Detroit and the wider Michigan community, I try to see what lies ahead, not what happened.

We face multiple challenges in Michigan, from the Flint tragedy to the deplorable state of public education in Detroit. But we also benefit from many strengths: legions of intelligent and knowledgeable engineers; a legacy of wealth that allows our philanthropic foundations to play a leading role in the reinvention of our state; an incomparable work ethic.

As we try to re-imagine what Michigan might become, it helps to keep these strengths in mind. I was never part of the “woe to us” crowd. I prefer to face problems and try to find creative solutions.

Income inequality is worsening across America. But we can mitigate the damage by closing the gender wage gap and ensuring that all Michigan residents, including those starting life disadvantaged by class, race, or family struggles, can find the kind of work that leads to a productive and fulfilling life.

Yes, Michigan’s economy has yet to recoup all of the jobs lost during our “lost decade” and the Great Recession. But we can create new jobs by encouraging entrepreneurial initiative and by seizing the opportunities inherent in new modes of transport.

Our unemployment rate in our cities remains far too high and the opportunities too low. But we are working on many potential solutions, from reforming education to encouraging creative people to start their own businesses.

The jobs of the past continue to disappear. But many new knowledge-based jobs are emerging. Indeed, recruiters in education, healthcare, tech and other fields say they can’t find enough candidates to fill all positions. It is our duty to train and educate all working Michigan workers, from aging baby boomers to the millennial generation, for new types of work.

Our state economy is constantly changing, killing jobs, businesses and even industries. But we can do more to encourage innovation and creativity at all levels, from government and the non-profit sector to our largest manufacturers, to find new paths to a better economic future.

This is the world I hope to explore as a business columnist – a community that tackles the toughest challenges with innovation and courage.

Journalism plays a crucial role in reinventing Detroit and Michigan. By exposing problems, holding leaders accountable for their failures and errors in judgment, journalism plays an important watchdog role.

But beyond this watchdog role, journalism provides the forum in which the Michiganders exchange knowledge, debate tactics, debate the meaning of events and trends, and ultimately push forward an agenda for the future.

I have the privilege of playing a role in this world as a journalist. Every now and then, one hears polls that rank the newspaper reporter as the worst job in America. It’s strange, because I’ve always thought that writing for a big newspaper like the Free Press was the best job in the world, a job that allows me to be part of the great story of Michigan’s reinvention and, of a small way, to contribute.

So this is my program as the new economic columnist of the Free Press: to inform, to cajole, to encourage, to serve. As always, I look forward to hearing from readers. My email is [email protected] Let me know how I’m doing.