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Gov. Whitmer Signs Executive Order Creating Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, Names Jeff Donofrio as Director


June 6, 2019


Gov. Whitmer Signs Executive Order Creating Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, Names Jeff Donofrio as Director


LANSING, Mich. -- Today Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order to streamline and better coordinate efforts within state government to meet the state’s business and labor needs by consolidating workforce and economic development functions under the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), which is the new name for the Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED). In addition to the reorganization, the governor named Jeff Donofrio the new director of the department.


“This new department will make Michigan a home for opportunity by improving how our state approaches workforce and economic development to ensure that everyone has a path to a high-paying job,” Whitmer said. “Jeff has proven that he knows how to get the job done by building strong partnerships with business and labor leaders, and I know that he’s the right guy to move this state in the right direction.”


Executive Order 2019-13 restructures the Department of Talent and Economic Development as the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. The order consolidates all workforce and economic development functions, which were previously scattered between various departments, into the re-named department to streamline operations. Among other agencies, LEO will include the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the Michigan Strategic Fund, and the Michigan Office for New Americans, which is transferred from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs and rebranded as the Office for Global Michigan.


The executive order also creates new commissions within the department, including the Workers’ Disability Compensation Appeals Commission and the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission.


“Michigan is home to some of the hardest working people and best businesses in the world,” Donofrio said. “And while we've seen strong job growth since the Great Recession, too many of our residents still struggle to make ends meet today, and many more worry about how they and their families will fair in the future. While talent is equally distributed across the state, opportunity often isn't. I'm excited to get to work increasing opportunity for Michiganders by closing the skills gap, breaking down barriers to work, and supporting job growth.”


Jeff Donofrio has served under Mayor Mike Duggan as the city’s executive director of workforce development since 2015, helping increase residential employment by more than 20,000 under his tenure. In this role, he led many of the city’s most successful initiatives to reform workforce development programs for in-demand fields, build better pathways to high-paying careers, and remove barriers to employment, including leading the charge against the now-defunct driver responsibility fees. Other notable projects include:

  • A $30 million revitalization of career technical education for youth and adults at Detroit Public Schools Community District’s Randolph (construction & skilled trades,) Breithaupt (automotive, robotics and service industry,) and Golightly (tech/innovation).
  • A $20+ million economic development partnership to create a talent pipeline for the Gordie Howe International Bridge construction, Ford’s Corktown Campus, FCA’s Jefferson North and Mack Avenue assembly plants.

Currently, only 45 percent of Michiganders have a degree, credential, or certificate in addition to a high school diploma even though a majority of employers require further education. In her State of the State address, Governor Whitmer focused on closing the skills gap by setting the state’s first goal to increase the number of people with a postsecondary attainment to 60 percent by 2030.


The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity is charged with building a strong state economy by developing and implementing policies that enable greater opportunity for workforce and economic development, including a focus on closing the skills gap and boosting economic potential for businesses. As the new director, Jeff Donofrio will coordinate efforts on behalf of the executive branch to achieve these goals and ensure the state’s economy remains strong.


Stephanie Beckhorn will remain as the acting director of the department until a start date is confirmed, upon which Jeff Donofrio will take over as director.


Executive Order 2019-13 requires submission to the legislature and takes effect after 60 days.


To view the full executive order, click the link below:






“Gov. Whitmer has made a great choice adding Jeff to her cabinet to lead Michigan’s workforce and economic development efforts. Jeff and his team have done great work building out our Detroit At Work platform to get thousands of Detroiters trained and placed in good paying jobs. I can’t think of a better person to do this work every day on behalf of Detroiters and all Michigan citizens.”

  • Mike Duggan, Mayor, City of Detroit      

“Our state’s economy is driven by the labor of the working men and women of this state. It makes perfect sense that all agencies related to labor and economic development be placed under one coordinated effort. This reorganization is thoughtful leadership from Governor Whitmer that will benefit the working families of this state. We look forward to working with Jeff Donofrio to build an economy in Michigan that works for everyone.”

  • Ron Bieber, President, Michigan AFL-CIO              

“I have had the pleasure of working with Jeff over the last four years as the co-chair of the Mayor’s Workforce Development Board. Jeff is extremely talented and has worked closely with the business community and the regional CEO group to drive systemic change. This included putting 20,000 Detroiters to work, driving expansion of the Detroit CTE schools and enhancing the summer youth program. The business community is excited about this appointment and look forward to working with Jeff to make Michigan the best state in economic and workforce development.”

  • Dave Meador, Vice Chairman, DTE Energy          

“Jeff did tremendously important work for our city and our region. I look forward to seeing him do the same for our state.”

  • Gerry Anderson, CEO, DTE Energy

“There’s a tremendous demand for highly-trained, skilled trades professionals in our state to fill countless jobs. I applaud Governor Whitmer for making this much-needed change and appointing Jeff Donofrio to lead our state forward in this new department. Union labor is such an important partner in this process to train our skilled workers. We look forward to working with Jeff to close the skills gap and make our state a home for opportunity.”              

  • Lisa CanadaPolitical and Legislative Director, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights

“With today’s announcement coupled with her historic proposal for investment in public education, Governor Whitmer has put in place a long-term plan to ensure that all Michiganders have the opportunity to succeed from the time they enter Kindergarten through the time they leave the workforce. Governor Whitmer is putting Michigan families first by ensuring that each and every person has a path to a high-paying job through access to postsecondary opportunities, including higher education and skilled trades training."

  • David Hecker, President, American Federation of Teachers (Michigan)

“The city of Detroit has been so fortunate to have Jeff at the helm of Mayor Mike Duggan’s workforce development efforts over the last few years. His knowledge, experience and talent has moved our city’s workforce development efforts forward considerably. All you have to do is look at some of our metrics today: we have put nearly 30,000 Detroiters to work in quality jobs and we’re not done yet. Jeff will exceed every expectation in his new role.”

  • Cindy Pasky, CEO, Strategic Staffing Solutions    

“I cannot think of a better candidate for this appointment. Jeff’s short tenure in Detroit provided more measurable and meaningful workforce solutions than any effort I’ve seen in my 22 years working in this discipline. He has built trusted partnerships with the corporate and philanthropic community, while keeping the best interest of Detroiters at the center of all of his efforts. He has a tremendous knowledge of economic development and workforce that will serve the state well.”

  • Dave Egner, CEO, Ralph Wilson Foundation