Thank you, Larry Page. Thank you, Google. Thank you for your creative approach, your free organic cafeterias, your yellow scooters, and especially for giving Ann Arbor – and Michigan – a chance.
Google, the widely touted online search giant, announced last week plans to open an office in Ann Arbor that will create 1,000 jobs in the next five years. The significance of the move cannot be overstated, not only for the jobs it brings to a state devastated by the struggles of the auto industry, but also for the precedent it sets regarding Michigan as a target to which other companies can relocate.
Google’s arrival in Michigan is like a basketball team landing a top free-agent. Sure, he’ll bring you his 25 points per game (or 1,000 jobs, in this case), but what makes the move especially productive is that he’ll make all the other players on the team better. With Google soaking up the best local talent, other companies will be forced to make hires, too. All the additional jobs will lead to increased spending in real estate and other markets, which will boost the local economy.
Pretty soon, other prominent free agents see this team as a rapidly improving one and look to jump in. Given Google’s status as the coolest company in America today, there is no doubt that other major companies will now seriously consider Michigan as a legitimate player for their business. And with it all snow-balling, before you know it, you’ve got a championship-caliber team – a vibrant economy worthy of Michigan’s glory days past.
At least we hope this is how it all plays out, and we have no reason to expect otherwise. It is important, however, to note the type of hires Google will be making. All of the available jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree, proving once more the importance of a college education in today’s economy. The state should therefore continue its emphasis on higher education because it is clearly the key to its recovery. A good place to start would be to stably increase funding for state universities so they remain affordable and within reach for all of the state’s young people.
Google says it was attracted by the highly educated workforce the University graduates each year and the vibrant atmosphere for which Ann Arbor is known. Co-founder Larry Page’s status as a University alum may have at least served as a tie-breaker, but no matter. What matters is that the company looked past Michigan’s perceived bleakness and chose to move here anyway.
It only takes one to blaze a trail for others to follow.