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Lt. Governor touts talent, not grants, on U.K./Ireland trade mission

Michigan Governor's office
Michigan Lt. Governor Brian Calley (second from left) during U.K.-Ireland trade mission

Lt. Governor Brian Calley is returning from a seven-day trade mission to the U.K. and Ireland.

It's the Snyder administration's first-ever trade mission to the U.K. and Ireland. 

Calley says his focus was on discussing Michigan's wealth of talent in engineering, IT, and skilled trades.  The state no longer offers long-term tax breaks to lure foreign businesses, but Calley says that kind of incentive isn't really necessary.

"Talent is the new currency of economy development," Calley told Michigan Radio.  "The very first question they [executives] have is, do you have the engineers, what kind of information technology professionals are available, and what about your skilled trades?"

Traveling with the Lt. Governor were 12 small and medium-sized Michigan companies who want business opportunities in the U-K and Ireland:

  • FlowerHouse, Clio – Manufacturer of innovative greenhouses, plant covers and other gardening and landscaping equipment
  • Dell Marketing Systems, Rochester Hills – Provider of marking devices and marking inks to the automotive industry
  • Panagon Systems, Macomb – Manufacturer of aftermarket hydraulic piston pumps and parts
  • Clear Image Devices, Ann Arbor – Manufacturer of advanced medical imaging equipment
  • Logos Logistics, Taylor – Provider of integrated supply chain solutions
  • Tranor Industries, Detroit – Supplier of body stamping dies
  • Fluxtrol, Auburn Hills – Developer and manufacturer of magnetic flux controllers using proprietary soft magnetic composites
  • Menawat & Co., Saline – Provider of business analytics to manufacturing and services organizations
  • IBS Global Consulting, Inc., Troy – Business development and marketing consulting firm specializing in helping small and medium-sized enterprises expand into international markets

Calley says larger companies wanting to expand business opportunities overseas can do fine on their own, but for smaller firms, the state is able to help them get a foot in the door.
Earlier in the Snyder administration, Detroit's spiral into bankruptcy was a sore point on trade missions.  But Calley says the story of Detroit's recovery is becoming more well-known internationally.

"It's not unusual for me to go into a meeting and have a firm describe how amazing it is -- what they're hearing about Detroit, how amazing this turnaround is," he says.

Calley says it appears that the "Brexit" vote to leave the European Union is not discouraging so much as encouraging U.K. firms to expand abroad.

"To the extent that a company has a heavy reliance just on the European Union, maybe now would be the best time for them to look at North America for that type of diversification," he says.

U.K. firms have invested nearly $428.5 million in Michigan since 2010, according to the state, and they've created more than 2,697 jobs.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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