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Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm Headshot

After GM and Chrysler Bankruptcies -- What Now?

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Despite this morning's wrenching news about GM filing for bankruptcy, my state should not be the object of pity. Michigan should be the subject we study as the president leads an energy economy revolution. We will not be victims: we intend to lead the country in a move from 20th century rust to 21st century green.

Predictions are that by the end of this decade, due to the collapse of the nation's automotive and manufacturing sectors, Michigan will have lost almost one million jobs. Let me say that again: one million jobs lost in ten years in just one state. Good paying, middle class jobs. Jobs that have defined our state's identity and prosperity. Jobs that created communities, large and small. Gone.

We've had enough. We've gone through all the stages of grief and loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, just maybe, acceptance. With GM's bankruptcy filing today, we know we're finally starting to hit bottom. While many of us have not been supportive of the bankruptcy strategy, we are bound and determined to climb out of this decade-long tunnel of darkness.

My fellow governors often offer their sympathies. "When I feel depressed about my state's situation," one recently said to me, "all I have to do is look to the manufacturing sector in Michigan to feel better." Hmmm. I'm not sure we want to provide the means of comfort to others in that way. We don't want anyone to feel sorry for us. We are resolute, determined, and focused on the fix to our situation. Key to that fix is using Michigan's expertise in manufacturing products to achieve our nation's goal of energy independence.

It is old news that with globalization, U.S. manufacturers move production to low-wage countries. But when it comes to manufacturing green products, it's time to change direction on offshoring. And here's why: in short order, the U.S. will have enacted a national commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and end our dependence on foreign oil. This new energy policy will have defined a critical national need for the U.S. to become energy independent.

My point is this: we can't become energy independent by becoming dependent on energy products made by other countries. We either have the means to control our energy future, or we have to rely upon products made elsewhere to do it. Great nations do not relinquish their ability to make the products that will lift them to greatness. This is the moment for our nation to make green products here and export them, rather than the other way around.

In Michigan, we're not waiting around. Now and for the past five years, we are laboring to position ourselves to help lead the green industrial revolution. We adopted our own energy policy to create demand for renewables. We restructured utility incentives to deploy efficiency. We enacted tax incentives and grants for production of green products and created venture capital for green start-ups. We changed regulatory policy to invite producers of alternative energy products. We restructured our workforce training to provide the skills for green jobs. We are targeting our competitive strengths. And, now, we're no longer going it alone. We have a president whose energy policies will put Michigan's efforts on steroids.

Today, the advanced batteries used in electric and hybrid vehicles are made in Asia. Tomorrow, they will be made in Michigan. Today, the wind turbines used in much of America's wind farms are made in Europe. Tomorrow, they will be made in Michigan and in states across America. We have the technology, the workforce, the machining knowhow, the universities, the factory capacity, the infrastructure for transporting these products...and we will have federal policies that drive demand for those products researched, developed and produced in America.

So, three major opportunities exist to turn the destruction of bankruptcies and job losses into the creative reconstruction of America's manufacturing economy:

President Obama's commitment to free us from dependence on foreign and carbon-based fuels; the imperative that those green products be made in America to create that true independence; and a talented manufacturing sector hungry for work.

The moment is now to use our lean, retooled American manufacturing sector to build the green cars, batteries, a smart electric grid, wind turbines and solar panels that will lead us to energy independence.

It's a time of dramatic, historic, national transformation. And despite today's devastating news, Michigan is ready to lead.