LANSING -- Governor Granholm and the state's political and business leaders gathered at the Lansing Center on Thursday for the key event of the Michigan Prosperity Initiative -- a program aimed at finding ways to drive the state's economy forward.
MSU Economist Charles Ballard began with a comforting message to the folks here: Michigan's economy isn't quite as bad as it's been made out to be.
"Look, we are much more affluent than we were 40, 50, 60 years ago," Ballard said, noting that's adjusted for inflation. "We've got the resources to do all sorts of things; we have a lot of assets. If we can keep our head up and keep a positive attitude, I think that will help us to move forward."
In fact, a report out from the University of Michigan this week shows net job growth is likely in 2011 and 2012.
In her address, Governor Granholm touched on the importance of diversifying Michigan's economy.
"We have to quickly figure out (a) What's gonna replace those lost manufacturing jobs, and (b) What's the skill level that's necessary," she told reporters at the event.
Granholm and a panel of economists have identified six growth industries: Advanced manufacturing (like battery plants); defense manufacturing; tourism; life sciences; film; and clean energy -- a bit of a depature from the past economy of one-trick pony.
And the state has tackled that goal, starting up or expanding more than a thousand companies in those sectors.
"It is happening," Ballard said. "It's not gonna finish overnight, and it's not gonna transform our economy by next week."
Of course, to venture further into those industries, everyone here agreed: Education is the key.
"If we doubled the number of college graduates in Michigan, we would have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation," Granholm said. "The link between college education and unemployment is inextricable."
So, too, those here say, is the link between this new economy and the future of our state.