Rick Snyder became Michigan's 48th governor when he was sworn into office on Jan. 1, 2011. In his inaugural address, he described his vision for reinventing Michigan by creating more and better jobs, revitalizing the educational system, and revamping government to focus on providing excellent service to its customers, the state's 10 million people.
With the state's people and economy struggling, Snyder infused his administration with a sense of urgency, saying he wanted to accomplish four years of policy reforms in his first year and then maintain that pace. He describes his approach as "Relentless Positive Action." That means solve a problem with no credit or blame and then move on to the next one.
Bringing that business executive's approach to government has produced impressive results. With Snyder's leadership, the state has eliminated its $1.5 billion structural deficit and produced four balanced budgets without any accounting gimmicks. The state's "rainy day" fund has gone from nearly zero to a balance of more than $500 million. The state also has repealed the job-killing Michigan Business Tax and replaced it with a Corporate Income Tax that reduced the state tax burden on job providers by at least 80 percent.
The governor also has led efforts to secure pensions and retirement benefits for state employees and teachers, while reducing long-term costs to taxpayers, and boosted state funding for K-12 education by nearly $1 billion, or an average of $632 per pupil. Early childhood education is a priority for the governor and he's implementing a plan to eliminate need as a barrier to attending preschool by 2015.
Snyder's reinvention of Michigan is working and making a difference in the lives of people across the state. Michigan's economy is at a 10-year high and nearly 300,000 private sector jobs have been created in the state during the governor's tenure. Plus personal income and home values are on the rise. Most important is the renewed optimism in Michigan and growing agreement with the governor's view that the state's people and businesses can build a better future by working together.
Early Days in Battle Creek
As a child, home for Rick Snyder was a 900-square foot house in Battle Creek, where he lived with his mother, a homemaker, and his father, who owned a small window cleaning company.
Growing up, he did the normal kid things: attending the local public school, spending his summers swimming, fishing and working at a general store at nearby Gun Lake.
He also did some things that weren't typical -- like calculating the tip at restaurants for his mom when he was five and reading Business Week when he was only eight.
It's no surprise that Snyder proudly describes himself as "one tough nerd."
Charting a Life Plan
Almost from the start, Rick had a plan for his life. His goal was to find success in business so he could provide for his family and live in Michigan, and eventually identify an opportunity for public service. Public service would be followed by teaching so he could continue to give back and help improve the state he loves so much.
He got to work on that plan in high school, taking classes at Kellogg Community College. That allowed him to graduate early and go on to attend the University of Michigan. With a plan to finish quickly, Rick was able to earn an undergraduate degree, an MBA and a law degree, all by the time he turned 23.
When Rick graduated, he had two job offers. One was for a job in Houston. The other paid 30 percent less to work as a tax accountant for Coopers & Lybrand in Detroit. Rick chose to stay in Michigan to remain close to his family and because he saw an opportunity to be mentored as he started his career.
Achieving Professional Success
That decision paid off. Rick found early success at Coopers & Lybrand and became one of the youngest partners in the firm after only six years. Beyond helping to shape his professional career, his years in the company's Detroit office helped shape his personal life, as well. It was there that Rick met his wife, Sue, with whom he has three children.
Coopers & Lybrand sent Rick to Chicago to build the firm's mergers and acquisitions office. That proved to be a turning point in Rick's career. It was in Chicago that Rick met Ted Waitt, the co-founder of Gateway Computers. Waitt offered Rick the opportunity to serve as the company's executive vice president in North Sioux City, S.D. That role eventually would lead Rick to become president of Gateway. With Rick's leadership, Gateway grew from a small operation with 700 employees to become a Fortune 500 company with more than 13,000 employees.
After six years with Gateway, Rick came back home to Michigan. In 1997, he formed the first of two venture capital funds, bringing investment capital of almost $200 million to the state. One highlight of Rick's venture capital years was the success of HealthMedia, a company that used technology and the Web to help people improve their health. At one point, the company was so short on cash that it couldn't pay its employees. While others lost faith, Rick believed the company's mission was a good one. He and another cofounder used their own money to pay the employees and keep the doors open. That bold move helped HealthMedia stay in business, grow to 150 employees, and eventually be purchased by Johnson & Johnson.
"It all started when I was on 'date night' with my wife in Ann Arbor," Rick says, when you ask him how he decided to run for governor. He and his wife Sue were talking about the downward direction that Michigan was headed. Rick was full of ideas about how the state needed to be reinvented, and Sue told him, "Well, why don't you run for governor?"
And that's how a business executive started his quest for Michigan's highest political office.
Rick's candidacy was an unlikely one. He'd never run for office before, was a virtual unknown, and didn't have any political experience. But he had a vision and a message for the state: More and better jobs and a future for our kids. It was a message that resonated with the people of Michigan. Rick Snyder was elected governor on Nov. 2, 2010.
Just as Rick had a plan for his professional career, he had a 10-point plan for reinventing Michigan: create more and better jobs; leverage our new tax system; reinvent our government; keep our youth -- our future -- in Michigan; restore our cities; enhance our national and international image; protect our environment; revitalize our educational system; reinvent our health care system; and win through Relentless Positive Action.
The reinvention of Michigan is a growing success story that's still unfolding. It's already earned Michigan the title of "Comeback State."
While the governor is pleased with the state's progress, he's focused on accomplishing even more.
As Governor Snyder says: "The reinvention of Michigan is working and we're seeing great results. Michigan is the Comeback State. But too many people in our state are still struggling. There's much more we need to do to create more jobs and expand our economy. I'm committed to continuing the reinvention of the state and to make Michigan a great state once again."