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GUEST COLUMN: Clinton’s tech initiative is what Michigan desperately needs


College graduates with technology expertise are leaving Michigan in droves.

Instead of staying close to home, young people are moving into the hive of Silicon Valley and other tech hubs looking to become skilled techies. As older generations of tech workers begin to retire, the existing gap between younger and older workers widens.

This is a looming crisis for Michigan businesses and the state’s economy as a whole.

When young and skilled labor migrates out of state, all the income, and property and sales taxes they contribute dries up. That’s revenue that could have been used for local primary, secondary education, and building future generations of educated workers.

That money can’t be recycled back into the economy if they leave.

Michigan’s existing tech infrastructure problems require solutions from those defecting techies.

Michigan’s information industry made $3.8 billion, but spent $14.1 billion on trying to recoup those lost skills from other states. Shipping out money and jobs while not investing in our public schools to create jobs demonstrates a complete lack of foresight from those in power.

To put this into better perspective, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Michigan only employed 102,330 Computer and Mathematical jobs in May 2015. Virginia employed 195,140, nearly doublethe number despite having a lower population.

It’s not just Virginia: New Jersey and North Carolina have similar populations to Michigan, and they both employ more tech workers than we do.

This problem can’t be solved unilaterally, but President Barack Obama and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton know that it will take initiative from state and local leaders. Following in the footsteps of Obama’s “Computer Science For All” initiative, which gives $4 billion in funding for states, Clinton said she will double that number. She also hopes to offer other benefits that will provide and improve computer science courses in public schools.

More importantly, she wants to make the “New Markets Tax Credit” permanent. Investors could claim the tax credit and owe less in taxes if they invest in local projects. This allows start-ups to operate without fear of repaying loans taken out from banks.

With proper funding and healthy economic soil for youth to plant their roots, Michigan could see a tech surge. But first, Clinton needs to win against Republican nominee Donald Trump in November.

Neither Trump, his running mate nor his network of surrogates have mentioned the tech industry. Instead, they’ve focused on blue-collar physical labor industries like coal and steel, industries whose markets are steeply declining.

Under a Trump administration, Michigan could never reach the benefits of a booming tech industry.