After kicking off his re-election campaign with an unconventional ad during the Super Bowl last Sunday, the nerd returned to the University Monday night.
Over 300 students filled the Blau Auditorium at the Ross School of Business as Gov. Rick Snyder (R) — who holds a BGS, MBA and JD from the University — addressed his transition from the private to the public sector. Before becoming governor, Snyder served as the chairman of the board of Gateway, Inc. from 2005 to 2007 and founded two venture capital firms based in Ann Arbor.
Snyder’s speech was part of Ross’ 100/100 Initiative, a series of events for graduating BBA and MBA students in the 100 days leading up to graduation. However, the event was not just limited to the Business School as students from across campus attended the governor’s speech.
During the hour-long event, Snyder touted his record in office, particularly the transformation of Michigan’s $1.5 billion budget deficit into a billion-dollar surplus. He also emphasized Michigan’s, and specifically Detroit’s, potential for future job creation and a high standard of living.
“It’s one of the coolest places in the country,” Snyder said of Detroit. “I’ve told people, if you want to be another yuppie, go to Chicago. If you want to make a difference, move to Detroit.”
During his speech, Snyder also discussed other topics including his career path, renewable energy and entrepreneurship. However, he returned multiple times to addressing the need for graduates to stay in the state and help with Detroit’s revival, which he said is already well under way.
The governor said many students aren’t aware of the high-paying career options that are already available in Detroit. He also emphasized that while reviving the city would be a challenge, University graduates would be essential to rebuilding and recreating the city from the bottom-up, an element that’s missing in other urban areas such as Chicago.
“We need our corporate community in particular … to do a better marketing job,” Snyder said. “We know how to make things, so we’re poised to be in the center of a big comeback, and that’s what I’ve been trying to create.”
He added that students would be more inclined to stay in state if they were aware of the options for high-skill, high-paying jobs, particularly in the auto industry.
Because he is focused on filling high-paying jobs, he said he isn’t concerned with raising the minimum wage in the state, an issue that has drawn popular support lately, especially among college students. Of the many questions raised by students on social issues, Snyder refocused them to ballot-box issues as opposed to something he would focus on as governor.
“I appreciate the social issues, but right now we still need to stay focused on helping people find jobs,” he said. “I don’t want to screw it up.”
Snyder ended his speech by encouraging students to aim high and “be bold.”
Andy Hoffman, a professor in the Business School and the School of Natural Resources and Environment, moderated the talk. In an interview after the event, he said the question of jumping between sectors was interesting because of the many opportunities students have today to develop career paths that don’t fit into traditional molds.
“He’s an intense guy, he’s very business,” Hoffman said. “I think he was probably an outlier for his day, and I think students can learn from that.”
Business graduate student Damian Chatman, president of the Ross Student Government Association and organizer of the event, said he thought the governor had an interesting perspective to give students on the intersections of the public and private sectors.
“I think the governor had some great words for the students going forward,” Chatman said.