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Google move highlights value of strong university system July 17, 2006

Posted by Tom in Community, Economic Development, Education, Media, Research, Technology, Workforce.
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Buried at the bottom of an earlier post is a mention about Google looking to open a major facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For the Midwest, where I am located, this is a very significant development. The President of the University of Michigan appears to agree with me. In a recent Detroit Free Press op-ed, President Mary Sue Coleman shares her perspective, offering up themes that we’ve been exploring on this blog – that workforce (presumably developed by a top education and training system) will end up being a significant driver of economic development activity. In her article, she states:

Google’s announcement marks an important turning point for our state, one that showcases the importance of collaboration and innovation as the economic model for Michigan’s future.

Knowledge is the currency of the 21st Century, and Google cofounder Larry Page recognizes the rich resource of educated employees that awaits him in Michigan. By locating near U-M, and less than an hour from Michigan State and Wayne State Universities, Google — and the spin-off companies it undoubtedly will generate — will benefit from a steady stream of talent and fresh ideas.

Research universities help generate the kind of synergy that is vital to our state’s turnaround as a hub for high-tech jobs. Our institutions are an impetus for attracting and nurturing talent, creativity and venture capital. We are a magnet for companies, large and small, that want to operate in communities that take risks and seek new knowledge critical for improving our lives, our society and our understanding of the world.

I admire her vision – actively positioning one of the Midwest’s top research universities as not just a component but a leader of a knowledge-based economic transformation in the Great Lakes State. She’s been at this level for some time, apparently, as this article about her larger vision for research driving innovation and economic development indicates.

The transformation of the automobile manunfacturing-driven economy has been wrenching for Michigan, and Google’s decision is an indicator that a move away from that economic model is indeed possible.

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