The path to prosperity; Three blue-ribbon reports outline a bold agenda for change in Michigan. Are our lawmakers and policymakers up to the challenge?

Author:Mead, Chris
Position:Transforming Michigan's Economy
 
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Three reports will be featured this year at the Mackinac Policy Conference's opening session:

* Michigan Future, Inc.: First Annual Report on Michigan's Transition to a Knowledge-Based Economy

* Michigan's Defining Moment: The Report of the First Round of Community Conversations

* Michigan's Defining Moment: Report of the Emergency Financial Advisory Panel

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In the following pages, you will find summaries of the reports, which have been broken into three sections-Welcome to the North Coast, The Talent Factor and Long Term Reforms. Alongside each summary is a Q&A sidebar with the conference speaker who will be presenting the report on the island.

It may be hard to do, with headlines of a bleak economy filling your inbox and everywhere else to be found, but sit back, close your eyes and imagine Michigan lawmakers and policymakers:

* Implementing a system of universal access to health care

* Replacing all revenues lost from the Single Business Tax repeal

* Eliminating or extending legislative term limits

* Requiring school districts and local governments to consolidate and share services

* Setting specific performance measures for all public agencies, including K-12 and higher education

* Providing taxpayers with an annual report card on state and local spending and taxing

* Re-branding Michigan as "The North Coast"

Those are just a few of the bold-perhaps even visionary-recommendations contained in three blue-ribbon reports for Michigan's future that will be discussed at the Detroit Regional Chamber's 2008 Mackinac Policy Conference.

While the reports differ in their specific focus, all three sound this warning-Michigan's current economic crisis is too serious for partisan sniping and business-as-usual polities. As the authors of one report put it-Our response to this crisis will, in large measure, define Michigan for both this and the next generation.

Welcome to the ' North Coast'

Re-branding Michigan as a vibrant "North Coast'' is one of many intriguing recommendations included in a report released in January by The Center for Michigan, a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 by former Ann Arbor publisher Phil Power. The North Coast is defined as a place that is home to one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water and other bountiful natural resources that support sustainable growth in industries such as agriculture, tourism and forestry-and a place that grows ever smarter and more innovative.

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Based on input from some 1,500 leaders and citizens who participated in 96 first-round community conversations across the state last year, the Michigan's Defining Moment (MDM) report released by The Center for Michigan outlines in broad brush strokes a number of ambitious, long-term reforms for Michigan under three guiding principles: A Talented and Globally Competitive Workforce; A Vibrant Economy and Great Quality of Life; and Efficient and Accountable Government. For a talented and globally competitive workforce, the report recommends:

* Dramatically improving overall learning and completion rates from early childhood to K-12 through higher education.

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* Assuring affordable access to lifelong learning so young people get the skills they need to launch prosperous careers and workers in mid-career and beyond can best adapt to the rapidly changing economy.

For a vibrant economy and great quality of life, the report recommends:

* Reinvigorating and diversifying our economy by forging unique niches that draw on established and emerging assets.

* Greatly boosting economic development by growing an entrepreneurial culture, growing venture capital and ensuring a competitive, simple and predictable business tax structure; providing greater recognition and support for our state's growing new economy of entrepreneurs and small businesses: and embracing change and risk as key factors in 21st century personal and corporate success.

* Rejuvenating communities to assure they have the amenities, culture and diversity to develop, attract and retain talented people; effectively managing the size and cost of our infrastructure; and protecting our natural resources. For an efficient and accountable government, the report recommends:

* Considering lengthened term limits and a unicameral and/or part-time legislature in addition to campaign finance reform and redistricting.

* Establishing a new "public purse"-a tightly focused, long-term, sustained taxing and spending strategy that focuses on sustaining those public investments that are crucial for the state's competitiveness in the global economy.

* Increasing collaboration and service sharing among Michigan's hundreds of school districts and local government units.

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The Talent Factor

A report released in February by Michigan...

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