You have to admire Jennifer Granholm for trying to do something to revitalize Michigan?s economy. At least she is trying. Yes, I know she is a politician running for re-election, and I know there is great skepticism about whether any of this will work.
I am skeptical myself. The problem is that the economy is largely like fishing. You can get the best tackle and the best bait, and some days they just don?t bite. And on other days, a dirty-nosed kid with a worm and a homemade hook hauls in big fat ones.
Here's something to think about: If there had been an industrial policy a century ago, there was no way the state would have given an Indian head penny to an eccentric farm mechanic named Henry Ford.
He had already run two businesses into bankruptcy, after all, and there was precious little evidence of a mass market for motor cars. Nor did anyone see personal computers coming, or the Internet.
Which is the problem. If you have a truly entrepreneurial society, about all the government can do is prepare the seed bed. Move beyond that, and you are taking a very risky gamble. Nobody can see around corners. No government anticipated Henry Ford or Steven Jobs or Ray Kroc. If you build the best baseball stadium in the world, it just might turn out to be the age of hockey.
So what I think we have to do is try and make Michigan a good place to come to in any event. Republicans seem to have a rigid, two-word prescription for how to do this: Cut taxes. Indeed, there have been times and places where taxes have been too high. But the perception that Michigan is a high tax state is largely a myth.
And I don't think anyone would want to locate a business where they had to live in the middle of a desert, no matter how low the taxes were. We have some very significant strengths on which to capitalize.
The nation's auto industry flourished here in part because we were strategically located. We still have water assets second to none. Michigan also has a high concentration of engineers and trained, adaptable, high-tech manufacturing talent.
What we need to put aside partisan differences and explode the destructive myths and market and sell this state like crazy. I think the governor should sign up Bill Milliken and Jim Blanchard and get them to go around the world and do that.
And we can fix the awning and paint the storefront. Whatever the next economic boom is based on, the people running it are going to require world-class universities and require livable cities.
Michigan needs to keep up the quality of its universities -- an area where this governor has failed so far -- and fix Detroit.
Whatever it takes. No excuses, no whining, fix it. Do that, and we have a shot. Fail to do it, and we are shot. Your move, everybody.