Doing More To Nurture Startups

Every state sets up its own ‘rules’ for business. So, when it comes to a state like Michigan that needs to recover from the car industry to nurturing small business, some people believe the state needs to take more steps.

Becoming an entrepreneur is all the rage right now in Michigan. Various business accelerators, also known as incubators, have sprung up all over the state to aid entrepreneurs. And the near-collapse of the auto industry in recent years has provoked a lot of buzz about reinventing Michigan’s economic model.

But for all the excitement, it’s hard to tell exactly how many entrepreneurs are working in Michigan today, or how broad the movement is toward a more diverse and nimble work force.

State and federal labor force data don’t capture the level of entrepreneurship directly. Surveys of the labor market “often miss these little guys,” says Charles Ballard, a professor of economics at Michigan State University. “The little guy who has a good idea and makes something in his garage and has one employee, that person is often under the radar screen.”

If the numbers are fuzzy, everyone agrees that Michigan needs to do more to nurture entrepreneurs, said John Austin, president of the State Board of Education and a fellow of the Brookings Institution. He urges Michigan to spend more on education and health care research, since many new spin-off firms come from those fields. Having a more welcoming attitude toward immigration would help, too.

Photo by Peter Zillmann

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