The highly anticipated 2015 Economic Outlook for Washtenaw County was presented at the March 19 Washtenaw Economic Club program at Washtenaw Community College.
This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Economic Outlook, which is co-authored by Dr. George A. Fulton, economics research professor at the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy (IRLEE) and director of the Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics, at the University of Michigan and Dr. Donald R. Grimes, senior research associate at IRLEE.
Complementing Fulton’s presentation were remarks from Mark A. Murray, co-CEO and vice chairman of Meijer, Inc., a chain of supercenters with stores located in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.
Dr. Fulton presented the findings, which included projections out to 2017. He noted the healthy job growth over the past four years and predicted the addition of more than 13,000 more jobs over the next three years.
Fulton also highlighted that the top job producers will be knowledge-based, require some higher education and focus on the industries of higher education, professional and business services and health services.
WCC addressing county’s talent needs
WCC is meeting the need for knowledge-based education with its broad course offerings and by offering both certificate and degree programs in highdemand jobs such as advanced manufacturing, business and entrepreneurial studies, information technology and nursing and health sciences.
Murray discussed the importance of a skilled workforce by breaking down skills into two categories, transactional and transformative.
He explained transactional skills refer to the ability to go into a labor market and offer specific skills that businesses will pay for now. Transformative skills refer to the ability to think critically, analytically and creatively and with integrity they ultimately are very valuable in helping an organization through the needed transformations of whatever circumstances they face.
Murray cited Washtenaw Community College as a “big bright light” when it comes to preparing its students with a combination of these skills.
The Economic Outlook event was co-sponsored with the Ann Arbor News and drew more than 200 attendees representing a broad cross-section of leaders in business and industry from across the county. The program was moderated by Paula Gardner, editor of the Ann Arbor News.
“The partnership with the Washtenaw Economic Club makes sense for us on many levels,” said Gardner. “The dedicated core audience for the club is a natural fit for the information in this report and the exact audience the Ann Arbor News sought in the years before the partnership,” she continued.
“I think that WCC’s vision for keeping the WEC vital is important for this community and I’m proud to be a part of it in this way.”
“This Economic Outlook is important for our college because it provides industry-specific data and trends which show where job growth is predicted,” said WCC President Dr. Rose B. Bellanca.
“It also gives us an opportunity to hold conversations with the business community so we can understand their needs from the employer perspective. By listening carefully, we are able to align our programs to current and future job opportunities for our students and assure they have the skills necessary to succeed in the workplace,” Bellanca added.
Value to community
In each of the thirty years that the Economic Outlook has been presented, it has provided key data and information for the entire county.
“The college brings great value to the Washtenaw community with this type of programming,” said Dr. Michelle K. Mueller, vice president of economic, community and college development at WCC.
“The Washtenaw Economic Club meetings bring business, community and education leaders together to develop successful partnerships and programs which benefit us all.”
The next WEC event will be on May 28, featuring Ari Weinzweig, CEO of Zingerman’s Bakery in Ann Arbor. His remarks are titled,” Zingerman’s 12 Natural Laws of Business.”
For information about memberships to the Washtenaw Economic Club, visit washtenaweconclub.org.