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Office Furniture Leaders head up Michigan turnaround planning team

Sunday 18 April 2010

A group of top-level business leaders from Grand Rapids to Detroit have decided that enough is enough. It is time to leave their board rooms, roll up their starched shirt sleeves and jump into the grimy political arena.
The top executives at Michigan\'s largest companies have devised their own turnaround plan and are asking citizens to get behind it.
They call themselves the Business Leaders for Michigan. They include Haworth Inc.\'s Dick Haworth, Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett, Meijer President Mark Murray, Amway President Doug DeVos, , Bissell CEO Mark Bissell, and Wolverine World Wide CEO Blake Krueger.
They are led by Doug Rothwell, the first director of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. under John Engler.
Called the Michigan Turnaround Plan, it boils down to five points:
• Switch to a two-year state budget, get better financial projections and ban new programs without funding.
• Scale back state payrolls, health insurance and retirement plans to be in line with the private sector.
• Make Michigan competitive in the race for jobs by reducing business taxes.
• Make education a priority, push school districts to share services and \"rationalize\" the number of public colleges and universities.
• Accelerate job growth through innovation and entrepreneurship.
The plan was constructed to favor neither Democratic nor Republican, management nor union, east side nor west.
It was released in December but the group has been disappointed at the slow pace of change since.
Last week, they launched an ad campaign to push the plan.
The TV ad is simple. Animated figures jump on one side of a teeter-totter to flip letters on the other side that eventually spell \"Michigan.\" The message: If enough concerned citizens get on board, they can bring back Michigan.
A voice asks, \"What will it take to run Michigan around and create jobs?\" Then it send people to the website to see the plan and let lawmakers know they support it.
The ad runs on 40 stations until May 9.
Mike Jandernoa, former chairman of Perrigo Co., and Rothwell stopped by The Press recently to explain the campaign.
\"We\'re trying as hard as we can to not make this a partisan issue,\" Jandernoa said. Instead they are urging cooperation among lawmakers.
The group\'s polling shows voters are well aware of the state\'s $1.5 billion deficit and are anxious for a solution, Rothwell said.
\"Our polling showed 75 percent of the people realize it\'s going to take both taxes and reform,\" Rothwell said. \"Voters are ready for both.\"
The group will also hold 16 regional forums around the state, including Grand Rapids Tuesday.
Both men hope the plan gives a downtrodden state hope that change not only is possible but doable.
\"A lot of groups are coming out of the woodwork that like the direction we\'re going,\" Jandernoa said.
But \"we need to act now, we don\'t have another four years to wait.\"

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