Remarks at Accelerate Michigan Gala Award Brunch
December 11, 2010
Thank you, Dave, and thank you to the New Economy Initiative for its commitment to our region’s prosperity.
There’s a tremendous amount of excitement in Ann Arbor today because of the Big Chill hockey game.
We’ve converted Michigan Stadium from a football field to a hockey arena. We’ve traded the pigskin for pucks, and swapped spikes for skates.
And any sense of a crisp autumn afternoon is, well, frozen in time. It’s simply going to be cold out there this afternoon.
We expect to set a world record in attendance, and I anticipate a terrific and memorable hockey game between Michigan and Michigan State.
But the real story in Ann Arbor – the story that will resonate long after the air horns and fireworks of the Big Chill – is the talent and creativity being celebrated in this room today.
The players gathered here for Accelerate Michigan are converting ideas into action, and swapping business plans for start-ups and commercial ventures. And in the process, you are giving our state a new look and a brighter future. If Michigan Stadium can become a hockey arena, then the Michigan economy can once again be the envy of the nation because of entrepreneurs like you.
It all comes down to having a good idea and taking risks. When we announced plans for an outdoor hockey game in early December, we knew we could expect an enthusiastic crowd. But we could not predict the weather. It could be too warm. There could be a blizzard. It might rain.
But it appears all will turn out well in a few hours.
At the University of Michigan, we value good ideas and a willingness to take risks well beyond the playing field. Our venue this morning, the North Campus Research Complex, is one of the biggest commitments our university has made in its nearly 200 years.
When Pfizer made the decision to leave our state and vacate this property, the University wanted nothing more than for another corporation or organization to step in and fill the economic void.
When it was apparent that would not happen, we took a long, hard look at a tremendous opportunity and, some could argue, a big risk. Twenty-eight empty buildings. One hundred seventy-three acres – 10 times the amount of land we purchased for Michigan Stadium. This overall site is the size of some smaller universities and community colleges.
But what appeared empty and daunting to some looked like a once-in-a-generation opportunity to the University. And a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the future of our state.
This is going to be a place of ideas and risks. We want to conduct research here in ways unlike any other research setting. And we want to find solutions to problems – really complicated problems – in health care delivery, sustainable energy, and medicine.
The University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Complex is a genuinely bold commitment to invest in research that will benefit Ann Arbor, Michigan and beyond.
The same can be said of the commitment you have shown to advance your businesses and help transform our state’s economy.
People are noticing this spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Great Lakes State. You know we are doing something right when a business columnist in San Francisco – an area that is home to some of the world’s leading high-tech firms – says Michigan is the place to be for innovation, because we know how to make things happen.
Both investors and inventors are taking note. This is a state that gave the world Henry Ford, Will Kellogg and Herbert Dow and their remarkable achievements. We are now ready for you and your products, your services, your technologies and your solutions. Nearly 600 teams and companies are part of this competition, and I’m particularly encouraged that half are the work of Michigan college students. This is a very strong indicator for our state’s future as a place of creativity and innovation.
Earlier this year, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke asked if I would co-chair the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and I did not hesitate to accept. We are in the early stages of our work – we just had our second meeting this week – and we are sharing ideas about how best to accelerate the national climate for entrepreneurs and the jobs they can create.
This competition does just that. Later this morning there will be awards handed out and prize money presented to the best of the best. But the real winners are the people of Michigan. The Business Leaders of Michigan, the University Research Corridor, Michigan’s corporations, business accelerators and investors – all of us benefit from your creativity. Your enthusiasm as entrepreneurs is showing all of us that Michigan has a vibrant, innovative future.
I’ve mentioned this afternoon’s Big Chill and the national attention it will undoubtedly generate. But know that the genuine game-changers are here, on the north end of town. This is our field of dreams, and you embody our aspirations for a thriving and innovative Michigan.
Congratulations, good luck, and thank you.