“We have a broken culture,” he said. “We’ve been beaten up for so many years. We’re down on ourselves.”
Snyder was a constant presence during the three-day conference, pressing a message that new thinking can help rescue even Detroit — a city battered by decades of business closures, unemployment and urban decay.
He acknowledged the state has a long way to go asked for patience as his policies force sacrifice. He was blunt about the depth of Michigan’s problems, saying its education system is “broken” and the economy remains fragile.
But the state is sometimes its own worst enemy, alienating potential newcomers by focusing on what’s wrong, he said. The negativity also shows up in squabbles over a “shrinking pie” that divide people along regional, racial and partisan lines, he said.
“Who’s going to tell the Michigan story?” Snyder said. “We need some attitude about how we’re doing good and we’re going to make this happen. We don’t market ourselves the way we should and we need to get better at that.”
Snyder pledged to continue pushing for a more efficient state government and better public schools, and said he’d push hard for construction of a second international bridge between Detroit and Canada despite opposition from many fellow Republicans in the Legislature.
As a businessman and newcomer to politics, Snyder drew frequent applause and high praise at the conference — particularly for winning approval of a business tax overhaul and a slimmed-down budget since taking office in January.
William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., said Snyder is “moving very fast to make us a competitive place.” As the state economy recovers, advantages such as top-flight universities and a lower cost of living than the East and West coasts should make Michigan “the locus of the next generation of manufacturing,” he said. “I’m very bullish about our prospects going forward.”
Local government officials attending the conference were receptive to Snyder’s message but said his cuts in programs such as revenue sharing would be painful.
“It’s a big hit,” Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said during a panel discussion with the governor. But he said he was grateful that the budget’s funding of redeveloping contaminated “brownfield” sites would be more than previously thought.
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said he had established a good working relationship with Snyder.
“We may not agree with everything he does but when he tells us something we need to trust him,” Bing said.
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, whose county lost $23 million in revenue sharing under Snyder’s budget, praised the governor’s drive and focus.
Still, he cautioned that telling government agencies to “do more with less” would go only so far.
“A machine needs oil, the government needs oil,” Patterson said. “There’s a breaking point.”