Michigan's Comeback in the Spotlight

By Mike Brownfield | July 09, 2013

Site Selection Magazine

Michigan's comeback is getting attention in this month's Site Selection Magazine -- a global business journal. A new article highlights the state's economic turnaround and features interviews with Michigan business leaders. Click here for the full article, and read some excerpts below:

Michigan's Unprecedented Turnaround

David Sowerby, portfolio manager for Loomis, Sayles & Company in Bloomfield Hills, talks about Michigan's newfound prosperity:

"I have a measure I call prosperity --- job growth plus income growth. For ten-plus quarters, Michigan has been growing much faster than the U.S. and generally has for the past three years.

The primary reason for our economic turnaround is the fact that the current Michigan business climate is moving in the right direction," says Sowerby. "The best yardstick is the Tax Foundation's State Tax Climate Index. Nationally, we are now at number 12, up from number 19 just a year ago.

Sowerby notes that Michigan's rapid turnaround is unprecedented. "Over the last two years, Michigan has witnessed the greatest improvement of any state relative to the corporate tax environment, individual income taxes, sales taxes, unemployment insurance and property taxes," he says. Sowerby says he has followed the Michigan economy closely for more than 20 years, and this is the biggest improvement he has witnessed.

Venture Capitalists Take Notice

Christopher Rizik, CEO and fund manager of the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund in Ann Arbor, says Michigan's comeback is attracting attention -- and investment -- from the venture capital sector.

"There has been a pretty big cultural change here in the last fi ve years," Rizik says. "As a big company area, the automotive companies took all the oxygen for many years and we became a risk-averse state. It was diffi cult to get people to do entrepreneurial things at the rate they should be doing them." The onset of the recession in 2008 "changed all that," he says. "We found older, talented people moving into entrepreneurial opportunities and younger people coming out of school and jumping right into entrepreneurial ventures."

"We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of startup companies, and we are seeing younger people stay in Michigan when they come out of school," Rizik says. "We are seeing the research coming out of our universities being commercialized in a way we have never seen before. The number of startup companies in Michigan today is at least double what it was four years ago."

New Energy in Detroit

Matt Cullen, president and CEO of Rock Ventures, describes some of the substantial investments and successes in the City of Detroit:

"Fundamentally, we made a decision to come down here and affect the outcome of Detroit," says Cullen. "We are all hometown Detroit folks. There is a great opportunity do good work here."

Over the past two years, Gilbert has invested $1 billion to purchase in excess of 7.5 million sq. ft. of real estate in Detroit, and more than 80 companies have moved into Gilbert-owned properties downtown. "We now have 10,000 team members working in the city of Detroit," Cullen says.

"We are buying beautiful buildings that are underpriced and turning them into places where people want to be today. We are creating great street life and a great working campus." The migration of workers to downtown dwellings has created a CBD residential market that is now 98 percent occupied. "It is essentially full," notes Cullen.

"We have hired 3,000 new employees in Detroit, and we have brought 1,000 interns to the city. Our strategy is to recruit other companies down here."

Click here to read more of the article in Site Selection Magazine.