Gov. Gretchen Whitmer seems to love traveling through Macomb County to talk about economic development. Or maybe she loves the fanfare and news coverage those trips generate.
The contrast between the hoopla and the reality of this administration’s commitment to our community is stark. For all the news releases and press conferences promising investment, the governor’s administration has very quietly decided to eliminate the Michigan Defense Center location in Sterling Heights — despite a $5 million appropriation in the latest state budget.
This center serves as an important nexus for our local defense industry, a sector that significantly contributes to the region’s economic vitality and has also been instrumental in securing thousands of federal contracts for Michigan businesses.
Given the center’s importance to both America’s military preparedness and southeast Michigan’s economy, the recent decision to forgo the appointment of an executive director and eliminate its location in Sterling Heights is a disturbing development. It raises serious questions about the governor’s commitment to our military, local economy and the center’s future.
Leadership in any organization is not merely a managerial function; it encompasses vision, strategy and the capacity for decisive action in a volatile environment.
In a sector where timing and precision are paramount, refusing to hire an executive director will make the difference between success and failure.
The lack of an accountable leader located on the ground will also hamper the Michigan Defense Center’s work with federal agencies and defense contractors. The center competes nationally for federal funding and contracts. In this competitive space, the absence of an executive director and location on the ground will be seen as the center being unserious and incapable, jeopardizing future opportunities.
The administration’s decision comes when the defense and automotive industries are undergoing significant transformation. Technological advancements, shifts in geopolitical priorities and the ongoing ramifications of the pandemic are altering the sector’s landscape. The center requires a location and leadership capable of navigating these complexities and positioning the organization for long-term success.
For America’s military preparedness, Michigan’s economy and our future, the Michigan Defense Center needs the Sterling Heights location and the leadership team it was promised.
We’ve heard enough talk about economic development from the Whitmer administration. Now, we need more consistency between its rhetoric and actions.
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Tom Kuhn is the State Representative for Michigan’s 57th District. He represents portions of Sterling Heights, Troy and Madison Heights. Alicia St. Germaine is the State Representative for Michigan’s 62nd District. She represents portions of Chesterfield Township, Clinton Township, Roseville, St. Clair Shores, and all of Fraser, and Harrison Township.
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