Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

August 9, 2012

Another View: Increase business acumen

Michigan famously boasts an entrepreneurial history.

The innovators, inventors and risk takers who gave birth to the auto industry come to mind, but Henry Ford and Ransom Eli Olds and their contemporaries hardly stand alone.

From furniture makers in Grand Rapids to Dow in Midland to Upjohn in Kalamazoo, the Gerbers in Fremont, the Kelloggs in Battle Creek and more, Michigan has seen entrepreneurs who had visionary ideas and who acquired the business acumen to create enduring companies.

As those companies matured over generations, they became some of the best places to work. Michiganders got used to steady jobs with good benefits.

Yet, job security has been dwindling, and the last decade saw a plummet.

Now the leading thinkers in economic development point to the state's roots, when economic success was closely tied to entrepreneurship and risk taking.

Michigan needs more small businesses — companies founded and run by people who are working hard for themselves and, eventually, providing jobs for others.

Getting there requires a change of mind-set. The state needs people who are driven and creative, knowledgeable about the fundamentals of business and willing to learn from mistakes. Michigan must nurture 21st century entrepreneurs.

Strides are being made. A survey done for the Sense of Place Council found 92 percent thought that small business ownership should be a career option considered by young people.

That's a start. But there is much more to do. That's why organizations like Lansing Economic Area Partnership collect resources for business startups.

It's why the Technology Innovation Center and the Hatch business incubators in East Lansing and the Center for New Enterprise Opportunity Center in Lansing were founded. It's why Michigan State University created eNet, a program for students and community members interested in learning entrepreneurial skills.

And why Paula Cunningham is helping to found the Learn, Live, Lead Entrepreneurial Academy, a charter school with a business perspective.

Public education at all levels needs more lessons geared toward understanding business ownership.

Adults must take more responsibility for continuing their own learning.

And Michiganders must harness the resilience honed during the recession, a skill essential to overcoming business mistakes.

The map to Michigan's prosperous future can be found in its history.

Lansing State Journal

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