What have you heard lately about Michigan? That its biggest city (Detroit - once the wealthiest city in the world) recently filed for bankruptcy? Or that from December 2009 to March 2013, it was the #1 state in the nation for creating manufacturing jobs, and that more than half of college students now choose to stay after they graduate?
Detroit’s financial blues notwithstanding, Michigan’s unemployment rate has dropped from more than 14% at the height of the recession to less than 8.5% today, and its growth rate is now top in the Midwest and sixth best in the country with economic activity at a 10-year high, notes Mike DiBernardo, economic development specialist at the state’s Dept of Agriculture & Rural Development.
And its food and agriculture industry - which grew by a whopping $20bn between 2009 and 2012 - generating more than $91bn in economic activity a year, has been key to the reinvention of the state, he says, pointing out that Michigan is 2nd only to California in agricultural diversity, and a major exporter of soybeans, corn, wheat, dairy products and fruit.
Within this, the food processing industry employs more than 130,000 people and generates nearly $25bn in economic activity, he reveals.
Frustratingly, however, it’s taking time to get the message across that Michigan is about more than automotives, he says: “We’re great at getting the job done, but we’re not always as good at communicating it.”
Michigan has undergone a transformation over the past couple of years
Everyone knows Michigan makes cars (albeit fewer than it used to), and breakfast cereal, agrees Steven Hilfinger (pictured above), executive VP and COO at public-private partnership the Michigan Economic Development Council (MEDC).
But do they know that Michigan is the biggest US producer of tart cherries, blueberries and dry black beans, and home to a raft of innovative food and beverage firms from Arcadia Ales to Boxed Water, GoGo Squeez, Garden Fresh, Hudsonville ice cream, Better Made, Jiffy Mix, and Sanders, the firm claimed to be behind the world’s first ice cream soda?
Chances are they probably don’t, according to the MEDC, which invited FoodNavigator-USA and a bunch of other trade publications to Lansing to remind us that the fortunes of Michigan are not just tied to the Detroit big three (Ford, GM, Chrysler).
Michigan is now one of the best tax environments in the country
“Michigan has undergone a transformation over the past couple of years”, says Hilfinger.
“The governor has worked hard with the legislature to improve the business climate here and in the last four years, over 200,000 new jobs were created in the state. And food/agriculture is one of the key industries we have been charged to grow and help support.
“In January 2012, the state business tax was replaced by a single flat rate of 6% corporate income tax, making Michigan one of the best tax environments in the country - from 49th to 6th best in the US - and things will improve even more next year for manufacturers as the state personal property tax is phased out.”
Meanwhile, Michigan’s cost of living is lower than that of any other state or metropolitan area in the Midwest, he points out.
Michigan has more engineers per capita than any other state
As for the workforce, Michigan - which has more engineers per capita than any other state - has the 4th largest high-tech workforce in the country with 87,000 engineers, 70,000 R&D professionals, 75,000 skilled tradespeople and a top-rated research university system, says Hilfinger.
Meanwhile, nearly 1,500 Ph.D.s are granted every year, almost twice the national average, while Michigan now ranks third in the number of engineering degrees awarded annually, at 6,500+.
From a logistics and transportation perspective, it’s also home to the busiest border crossing in North America and one of the largest U.S. air hubs to Asia, says the MEDC, which offers a number of business assistance services and capital programs for businesses and manages the ‘Pure Michigan’ brand.
As for food safety, thanks to the new Global Food Protection Institute, created in 2009 with seed money from the Kellogg Foundation, Michigan is now on the map internationally as a center of excellence for food safety research and training, says Hilfinger. (Click here
for full details.)
“We’re the comeback state.”
to find out about the MEDC’s business assistance services and capital programs.