From falling behind to surging forward: Renowned scholars to discuss building an economy for everyone in Muskegon on Nov. 13

Dr. Jamie Bracey Green and Mike Green will speak at the Frauenthal on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

By Mike Green and Jamie Bracey Green, PhD

In 2018, the Council on Foundations introduced Inclusive Economic Prosperity, a new strategic approach, led by community foundations, to assist policymakers, educators and economic development planners in creating more inclusive equitable economies in regions wherein the foundations had influence and impact. The summits were hosted in the Southeast and Midwest regions of the United States, and each was attended by 100 foundation leaders from states in each region, confirming philanthropy’s interest in elevating economic inclusion as a critical outcome of mission-driven socioeconomic impact.

During the design phase of the summits, strategic planning was also underway to launch the Center for Inclusive Competitiveness (CIC) at Temple University’s College of Engineering in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Led by Dr. Jamie Bracey Green (no relation to the co-author), the CIC has emerged as the first institution-based change agent invested in developing minority STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) talent for both workforce and entrepreneurial pipelines targeting growth-stage industries.

Mike Green has served the CIC and Council on Foundations as a cultural economist decoding how our nation’s systemic racial hierarchical thinking has translated into segregationist policies that undermine progress toward meaningful economic transformation. 

We were thrilled to receive an invitation from the Community Foundation for Muskegon County to discuss ideas and strategies that can help transform Muskegon’s struggling 20th century manufacturing economy into an inclusive competitive 21st century innovation economy. Mike Green has been engaged in Michigan since being invited to address planners and policymakers at Michigan State University in 2017, producing a case study on Detroit in 2018 and recently addressing economic policymakers at the 2019 Annual Conference of Michigan Association of Planners in Kalamazoo in October. 

In preparing our workshop to introduce inclusive competitiveness strategies to Muskegon, we scanned several paradigm-shifting economic imperatives happening simultaneously in Michigan:

  • Transitioning from the second industrial revolution (manufacturing) to the third industrial revolution (tech-based global innovation).
  • Accelerating the transitional pace of local and regional economies to incorporate inclusive strategies while impacted by a fourth industrial revolution (increasing pace of automation and job/industry obsolescence).
  • Coping with the impact of climate change on infrastructure, industries and property damage.
  • Transitioning from a racially homogeneous population to an inclusive diverse multicultural society that embraces shifting racial demographics as a valuable asset throughout the state.
  • Transitioning from 20th century ubiquitous segregationist policies and practices to a regional economy designed around equitable inclusive prosperity strategies that prioritizes cultivating talent across all populations and empowering residents of all races and ethnicities to reach their full productivity potential.
  • Transitioning from obsolete 20th century educational constructs into a 21st century educational environment conducive to preparing, equipping and supporting the success of children, teens and adults in a new creativity-based economic environment wherein lifelong learning, working and creative entrepreneurship is the new normal.
The Community Foundation for Muskegon County’s annual gathering will be held at the Frauenthal on Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Muskegon is in an advantageous position to address the myriad challenges listed above. But to understand how requires a view of the region through a lens of historical context. 

Since the official establishment of Muskegon County in 1859, the region’s economy was primarily developed by a homogeneous population of white Europeans who benefited from the success of lumber sawmills and fur trading. In the aftermath of the nation’s Great Depression in the 1930s, Muskegon found economic success again with manufacturing as an economic driver during World War II. This attracted a diverse population of workers, including multitudes of black Americans fleeing the south during the Great Migration. But as the manufacturing economy shifted toward a computer-based tech-driven innovation economy in the latter half of the 20th century, Muskegon joined many other cities and regions across the Midwest in falling behind the prosperity bell curve.

Today, we’re excited about the future for Muskegon, which has an opportunity for revitalization and economic resurgence using 21st century inclusive prosperity strategies developed through the lens of futurism: embracing change, entrepreneurial education, technology innovation, and the expectation of dynamic tension caused by introducing something new.

Of course, introducing a new economic strategy that essentially redesigns core elements of an existing infrastructure will inevitably clash with efforts to maintain the status quo. Fortunately, the Business Leaders for Michigan have already established a new statewide framework around economic competitiveness, complete with benchmarks Muskegon can use in developing inclusive economic strategies at local and regional levels. 

Michigan’s existing competitiveness framework dovetails directly with Dr. Green’s work at the Center for Inclusive Competitiveness, which was inspired by the architect of inclusive competitiveness, Johnathan Holifield, who authored the book, “The Future Economy and Inclusive Competitiveness: How Demographic Trends and Innovation Can Create Prosperity for All Americans.” The book’s foreword is written by Jay Williams, the former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development during the Obama administration. Holifield is the current Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities under the Trump administration, bridging common interests between both political parties to improve the productivity of underrepresented populations in today’s globally competitive innovation economy.

Today, white residents in rural regions have common challenges with minority populations in inner city urban areas. A majority of both populations have largely missed the prosperity window of the third industrial revolution and are now experiencing the threat of widening opportunity and wealth gaps, as the fourth industrial revolution steps on the gas and accelerates the pace of automation and obsolescence of jobs and industries in a global innovation economy. 

Muskegon can, however, capitalize upon this new paradigm shift and leapfrog into the future arena of global competitiveness through a strategy of inclusive competitiveness that leads to inclusive sustainable prosperity with measurable milestones. The fourth industrial revolution and inclusive prosperity strategies are not to be feared. They represent exciting opportunities for Muskegon to take a lead role in preparing and equipping its population for a new 21st century economic paradigm. This is the focus of the upcoming gathering on Nov. 13, hosted by the Community Foundation for Muskegon County at the Frauenthal Center. We look forward to an exciting discussion. 

About the authors: Dr. Jamie Bracey Green is the Director of the Center for Inclusive Competitiveness at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a national expert in development of minority STEM talent. Mike Green is co-founder of ScaleUp Partners LLC, a national consultancy specializing in economic development strategies of Inclusive Competitiveness.

The two will speak at the Community Foundation for Muskegon County’s annual gathering, titled “Building an Inclusive and Equitable Community for Local Prosperity,” at the Frauenthal Theater in downtown Muskegon on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 7pm. The event is free and open to the public, but you need to have a ticket to attend. To pick up your free ticket(s), visit the Frauenthal Box Office (425 W. Western Ave.) through the start of the event. Tickets are limited to four per household. For more information, please click here.

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