By: Nathan Bomey
Michigan has a network of hidden assets and entrepreneurial resources that can be tapped to help revitalize its economy, economic development leaders said this morning at the Michigan Emerging conference in Dearborn.
Rishi Jaitly, a former Google executive who recently launched a nonprofit group called Michigan Corps, said Michigan would benefit from engaging business executives and leaders throughout the world who have direct connections to the state.
Jaitly has recruited Google CEO Eric Schmidt, former Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, CNN commentator and University of Michigan alumnus Sanjay Gupta and others to contribute cash for his group. Michigan Corps aims to convert "national philanthropy" into economic and social benefits for the state.
Newark, N.J,. provides an example of how communities can use private capital to provoke change, Jaitly said. That beleaguered city and its school system, led by Mayor Cory Booker and Governor Chris Christie, have raised some $240 million in private capital from sources such as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to improve schools, parks and other community institutions.
"If there's one state that you could build a organization that taps national assets, it's Michigan," said Jaitly, who described himself as a "nomad" who embraced Michigan after being introduced to it by his wife, a long-time resident of the state.
"I am, and our organization is, zealously convinced that this state and our cities have a community of stakeholders that have not yet been tapped worldwide, nationwide and even statewide," Jaitly said.
That vision fits with an emerging concept proposed by other economic development leaders such as Ann Arbor SPARK CEO Michael Finney, who has estimated that there are 1 million alumni of Michigan universities living around the world.
Finney, who is leading the economic development strategy for the transition team of Michigan Gov.-elect Rick Snyder, believes the state needs to make a more concerted effort to tap engage alumni in revitalizing Michigan.
"Folks around the world really represent he kind of resources we're going to need to be connected to to do better," Finney said this morning at the Michigan Emerging conference.
Jaitly said his group would not make investments in companies but instead leverage the philanthropic community to drive change, develop programs, support businesses and boost the entrepreneurial community.
He said, for example, that Michigan Corps may seek to help develop a "non-governmental workforce training program."
"There's a whole range of assets from this state that have not been engaged by our ecosystem," Jaitly said. "The bus is still three-quarters empty. Folks in the state and folks around the country are looking for ways to get involved in this state's renewal."
Contact AnnArbor.com's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's newsletters.
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