Urban Core Mayors: 21st Century Economy Commission

By: Arnold Weinfeld, MSU UOE, Director of Urban Policy Initiatives, weinfel8@msu.edu

Urban Core Mayors

At the most recent meeting of the Urban Core Mayors held in February, representatives from the Governor's office presented on the work of the "Building the 21st Century Economy Commission". The Urban Core Mayors, founded in 1992, represent the cities of Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Bay City, Dearborn, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Muskegon, Pontiac and Saginaw. The current chairs are Mayors Bobby Hopewelll of Kalamazoo and Roslynn Bliss of Grand Rapids. The MSU Center for Community and Economic Development has worked to host meetings of the group, including but not limited to, coordinating communication, hosting educational events and sharing relevant research findings.

The commission was created by Governor Snyder in October of 2016 and is comprised of 23 appointed members. Its charge is to identify priorities over the next 20 years along with short and long term actions related to creating a vision for Michigan's economic future. The commission is to provide a final report to the governor by June 30, 2017.

Michigan's economy remains in a state of transition from a 20th century manufacturing centered economy to a 21st century economy based on industries more reliant on brains than brawn, including manufacturing. Through regional and state initiatives Michigan has expanded its economic base to include industries such as life science, bio-medical technology, insurance and—more recently—entry into the field of autonomous vehicles. But all of these and other economic sectors rely more and more on a highly skilled, highly educated workforce. Those involved in economic development, workforce development and K-16 education are learning to work collaboratively to ensure that Michigan is prepared for to meet the needs of employers.

Cities across Michigan play a key role in attracting and retaining talented workers and the companies that employ them. The services and amenities provided by local communities to ensure a high quality of life play an essential role in economic development. The Urban Core Mayors will be working with the commission to provide information and perspective as their work moves forward.

The UCM also has weighed in on other policy issues this winter. Legislation revising reforming reform the state's criminal justice system and create the "Work Opportunity Employer Reimbursement Fund" has been making its way through the Michigan Legislature. A key component would provide incentives for employers to hire former prisoners. Devising methods by which persons can re-enter society and become productive citizens has not always been easy. The UCM supported this particular efforts as a step toward reintegrating persons.

The next meeting of the group will be in May. Look for more information on the activities of this important group in the future.

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