What does it take to grow a company? It takes people. The Michigan Growth Census, prepared by Build/Inc., identified the state’s sustained growers as companies with net job growth during the five-year study. In 2007, these companies were comparable in size to the average Michigan business, but by 2012, they were 3.5 times larger in employment-;and four times larger in sales. In fact, sustained growers generated more jobs (68,162) than all other businesses combined.

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One powerful impetus for such growth is the talent pool native to Michigan, whose high-tech workforce is the fourth largest in the country. But just having the talent isn’t enough, says Mike Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a public-private partnership dedicated to business and job growth. “It’s about listening to employers to understand what skills they need and then making sure we develop the talent to meet those needs,” he explains.

A proven recruiting shortcut

Finney points to the Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT²) Program as a prime example of this strategy. In the program, participating companies take on students as co-ops or interns while they complete their degree requirements, after which they return to the company as employees.

"The beauty of this program for employers is that they don’t have to fight for these individuals via a recruitment effort," Finney says. "They know that they’re going to work for them through a two-year commitment." What’s more, it’s the employers who decide what skills are developed. "Our choices about what to train people for is 100 percent correct, because we have employers already committed to hire these individuals," he adds. Corporate participants in the program have included Brose, which delivers mechatronic systems and electric drives to about 80 automotive manufacturers worldwide, and the machining firm EMAG.

MAT² is just one of several programs under MEDC’s Pure Michigan Talent Connect umbrella. Another, called Michigan Shifting Gears, focuses on small cohorts of seasoned mid- and late-career professional talent as they transition into other occupations. "In most cases, these people have the education and the credentials, but they’re transitioning from a large company to a startup, or going from manufacturing to a technology firm."

"We find that there are a few key resources that companies need as they consider decisions about where to start, where to locate or where to expand," Finney concludes. "Of these, the most essential is talent. We can demonstrate to companies that Michigan has the talent they need to meet their current requirements and support future growth."

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