More than 1,500 attended last week’s annual meeting of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to hear the words of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat the region’s largest business group tried to defeat in the November election.
The attendance, given to the Business Journal as 1,530, set an all-time record for the chamber gathering, nearly doubling the previous high-water mark. The turnout was a nice belated birthday gift for Granholm, who turned 44 the day before.
Chamber President John Brown said the meeting, the body’s 115th, marked the first time a sitting governor was the keynote speaker.
Granholm called for cooperation in her appearance at the Grand Center, just 15 hours after her first State of the State address. She complimented the chamber for adopting its “One Michigan” theme for the meeting, and compared it to the “Michigan Spirit” slogan that underscored her statewide speech a night earlier.
“We’re all in this together,” Granholm told the attentive crowd. “It’s a waste of time and talent for us to be fighting each other.”
She said it shouldn’t be east vs. west anymore, and that everyone should focus on the things that unite us rather than those that divide us.
Granholm added that she was approaching the state’s budget troubles the same way a company executive would, by cutting expenses and growing the economy. The governor felt the nearly $300 million deficit for this fiscal year could be executively ordered away, but said making the $1.7 billion shortfall for FY04 disappear was a whole different matter.
“Next year, we’re going to have to do something drastic,” she said, while adding that she would have a balanced budget ready in March.
Portions of her talk echoed her state address from the previous evening. In that speech, Granholm remarked that the global economy was a “heartless beast” the state was wrestling with, and that her initiatives would lead to a better business climate. These include:
- A Technology Tri-Corridor to develop high-tech industries that could dominate the world economy in the coming years. Life sciences, automotive and homeland security are her components of the corridor.
- A bipartisan land use council to be co-chaired by former Gov. William Milliken and former Attorney General Frank Kelley. Eastbrook Homes Inc. President Mick McGraw will serve on the council. McGraw is an at-large member of the region’s planning agency, the Grand Valley Metro Council.
- Having business partner with education in the knowledge economy.
- Having business leaders suggest ways to streamline state government.
The governor also said last week that Michigan lost 59,000 jobs last year, a situation she wants to reverse. Toward that end, Granholm named former Lansing mayor David Hollister to head the Department of Labor and Economic Growth, which is charged with revitalizing cities. She also unveiled the Council of Economic Advisers, whose mission is to draw private investment and jobs to Michigan.
“Make no mistake,” said Granholm. “No one will out-work me, out-run me or out-hustle me when it comes to keeping or bringing good jobs to the state.”