(DETROIT) — The economic messages varied greatly this morning depending on which end of the Cobo Center you found yourself.
“The greatest asset we have in our state is our talent,” Snyder said.
At the other end of Cobo, dozens of union supporters and Snyder opponents gathered to talk strategy and to bash the Governor, who they say is helping corporations and hurting workers, like by passing Right to Work (RTW) last year.
They vow to make sure that their complaints follow Snyder for the rest of his term, and likely, the two sides’ differences in opinion on how to continue turning around Michigan’s economy will help define the 2014 election.
“They think we’re asleep,” carpenter Bill SAROS said this morning. He paused. Then, he added, “I think they woke up a sleeping giant.”
Saros and dozens more union protesters demonstrated outside the Cobo Center today as the Governor’s economic summit opened in Detroit.
After the summit began, the protesters headed inside the building to talk strategy going forward.
Saros, a member of Carpenters Local 687 out of Detroit, said the group’s message was simple: Snyder’s economic policies are hurting Michigan, and regular workers have been “totally forgotten.”
“A good wage is what will drive Michigan’s economy. A low wage will not,” Saros explained. “If you make a low amount of money, you’re barely able get to work and pay for lunch. If you’re making a good wage, you’ll not only go to work you’ll buy a car, you’ll buy a house.”
Another member of Carpenters Local 687, JoAnn ROWLAND, claimed that Snyder’s policies are hurting working families and are risking destroying the state’s economic recovery.
Rowland said Snyder was speaking to people who paid a $150 attendance fee, while ignoring the regular workers.
“We are the source of the economic recovery,” Rowland said. “And we want to be heard.”
Jon HOADLEY, director of We Are Michigan, also hit on that subject today.
“We didn’t charge anyone $150 to come to today’s event,” Hoadley said. “Because we think everyone’s voice should matter.”
Calm and passionate, on the other side of the facility, Snyder had a laser-focus for much of today. He talked about growing talent and keeping talent in Michigan.
He told the crowd that the state needed to do a better job of talent management.
Doug ROTHWELL, president and CEO of the Business Leaders for Michigan and chair of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) board under Snyder, also spoke at the Governor’s summit today. He spoke about the need to produce talent with the right education and the right skills at the right time.
Globalization has accelerated the state’s path to becoming a knowledge-based economy, Rothwell told the crowd. And, he said, education is increasingly driving income growth.
“The result is a need to dramatically increase the education level of the nation’s workforce,” he said.
But Rothwell also presented data that more than 90 percent of businesses said they are able to find people with the right education for above average paying jobs. However, he added that more than 50 percent can’t find people with the right skills and experience.
On a small scale, Snyder tried to help with that today. The Governor introduced 10 young people whom he aimed to help find jobs in Michigan.
After the young people spoke about their lengthy and impressive credentials, Snyder said simply, “We should be very proud of that.”
He added, “We should all have a passion to have them stay here.”
At the other end of Cobo, Saros noted that he’s lived in Michigan his entire life — 57 years.
With recent policy changes, including Right to Work, Saros said, “I cannot believe what my home state’s turning into.”