A short note about last week’s Policy Forum: unlike four years ago, Right to Work was not on the table.
Perhaps we will put it down to the shift of the economy. In a seemingly prosperous time, RtW seemed like a natural; in these grimmer times, less so. But also, we may think of it as another indication of a walking back from GOP extremism. Granted, this is not something to hold one’s breath over, but that other items should take priority suggests that attendees were in fact thinking strategically.
After all, were there one measure to block the growth of W Michigan it would be that of RtW.
Still local businessmen have had a hankering for it, like some long-lost high school love. But examined closely, and the difficulties arise; this is no beauty. In fact, it is a recipe for more of the same, as Peter Secchia notes,
“A lot of companies don’t come here because they perceive Michigan as a rustbelt of union activity and that isn’t the case anymore,”
What he sees is a W Michigan that continues with the same old manufacturing base. More of the same, only better. But it is difficult to see how the future belongs to the older economy.While manufacturing will continue to play a major role in the economy, the real growth will lie elsewhere, that’s why the Chamber’s Jared Rodriguez rightly cited the need for talent retention.
Two items are at stake for West Michigan’s future. Will the region be prepared to participate in a new and transformed economy — this is where talent retention and education play such a critical role. And second, what will be the brand, the image the region brings to the world. A community that steadfastly clings to the old ways is far less likely to be seen on the cutting edge. And that’s the real danger of RtW — it’s not its impact on business recruitment, or even in its ability to hold down wages (dubious as that is) — it is simply that declares fealty to an older way of business (the Way We’ve Always Done It, actually in W Michigan).
A successful push for RtW would certainly make the region “safer” for current small businesses, but it would also leave them out of the competition for the real economic growth of the 21st Century.
So for once, they chose well. Our region’s growth depends on the motivation and participation of all its stakeholders; cooperation is far better than that of needless wrangling. Far better.