Five Things Michigan Entrepreneurs and Innovators Are Already Doing to Invigorate the State’s Economy


I recently had the honor of being interviewed for an Xconomy article. When I finished reading the article, I read a number of the related posts. One of them, “Five Things Entrepreneurs and Innovators Can Do To Invigorate Michigan’s Economy,” bothered me because, in my opinion, it leaves one thinking that Michigan is completely missing the boat with regard to invigorating its entrepreneurial community.

I expressed my concern to the article’s author, Sonya Erickson, who replied that her assignment was “to suggest five areas that can contribute to entrepreneurial growth in any city,” and in this regard the advice she provides is quite good.

What she missed, however, is that Michigan is making significant progress in the five areas she mentions. That these successes were overlooked is perfectly understandable given that the majority of the national media coverage regarding Michigan is negative.

Michigan is executing a vibrant and productive turnaround story. And that is the purpose of this article—to show Sonya, and others, the untold story. I will show how Michigan has been pursuing many of the activities discussed by Sonya and consequently may well become the epicenter of the “North Coast” entrepreneurial community.

Before addressing Sonya’s five points, just two quick comments: First, I have been immersed in the Michigan entrepreneurial community for the better part of the past decade and have an insider’s vantage point from which to address these points.

Second, the tenor of this article will be mostly positive (because there is a lot of positive to report). However, I am also fully aware of the challenges that face the state as it continues its difficult transition from a 20th century economy to a 21st century one. (With regard to this—a simple plea to the state’s leaders in Lansing—please focus your prodigious energies on leading the charge into the 21st century as opposed to continuing to fight a rear-guard battle for the economy of the 20th century.)

1. Focus on areas of competitive advantage: The state of Michigan has addressed this head-on. Simply look at the homepage of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). This page shows six sectors of competitive advantage, but those of us in the (technology-focused) entrepreneurial community speak to four sectors. How do we get from six to four? Automotive engineering and advanced manufacturing are typically treated as being a single sector; and the film sector, well, that just doesn’t count!

Four sectors. How much more focus could one ask for? Importantly, we are seeing … Next Page »

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Gerry Roston serves as the CEO of Civionics, a University of Michigan startup that delivers intelligent sensor-based systems to manufacturers to help them minimize unplanned downtime; and as an Executive-in-Residence at TechTown Detroit, where he helps entrepreneurs transition their ideas into sustainable businesses. Follow @

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One response to “Five Things Michigan Entrepreneurs and Innovators Are Already Doing to Invigorate the State’s Economy”

  1. Lisa Kurek says:

    Thanks for an article that focuses on the positive momentum in Michigan but at the same time acknowledges the challenges. Having been involved in the tech-based start-up economy here in Michigan since 1990 it has always been 2 steps forward, 1 step back (or sometimes 3 steps back) but the difference is a net positive. We have to remember the progress can’t be measured in months or even a few years but must be determined over a long period of time with sustained efforts. Let’s hope that the activities you describe continue to have the longevity needed.