Photo courtesy of Brian Green.
Photo courtesy of Brian Green.

By Thomas Berry, Guest Writer

Three times a year the University of Michigan-Dearborn School of Business is the sight of the Executive Speaker Series, a tri-annual event that hosts a panel of business executives to discuss topical factors effecting business. Professor Brian Green rebooted the event three years ago with the sponsorship of DFCU financial and both have hosted every year since.

Four panelists gathered Feb. 5 to discuss why jobs are coming back to America and how we can make sure they stay here. The panelists included seasoned business professionals Laurie Harbour, Kevin McKervey, Ben Schmidt, and Tony Vernaci. The session was moderated by Dr. Brian Green, and Director of Internships & Career Management Center, Mike Callahan.

The panelist’s discussion involved the history of off-shoring, education, and even reluctantly dipped into politics.

When businesses laid out their plan for off-shoring production, they failed to account for the inadequacy of cheap labor in the production of complicated products. Ben Schmidt, VP & GM of Metaldyne Performance Group, said “quality and productivity bring businesses back to the US.” The panel subscribed to the idea that cheap labor is not effective in the production of complex products and that off-shoring of complex products has resulted in liability issues for those companies.

Companies like Boeing, Caterpillar, Coleman, and GE are bringing their business back to America looking for skilled employees. The question becomes will this resurgence of business include Michigan?

In some ways it already has, but in others Michigan still faces challenges.

Laurie Harbour, President & CEO of Harbour Results Inc., in regards to skilled trade said “In 5 years we will be in a crisis.” Today, there are 70-80k vacant skilled trade jobs in Michigan that cannot be filled because lack of technical education. Tony Vernaci of the Michigan Economic Development Corp said “we have to get education under control.” Vernaci emphasized the significance of reforming our education system to meet the increasing demand of skilled trade jobs. Without the reformation of education, Michigan will not be able to compete with the many southern states that have substantially invested in their skilled trade market.

On-shore business has created an increasing investment in America. One variable prompted less certainty by Kevin McKervey, President of Clayton & McKervey, P.C… McKervey suggested the idea that the recent increase of investment in the US is related to the dollar being weakened. If that’s true, McKervey says “The strength of the US dollar could create reverse investment.”

There are many factors that effect on-shoring. Factors which include trade competition, operating cost, taxes, and public policy. Ben Schmidt highlighted an important factor for on-shore investment which is to “keep a competitive environment in North America.” Schmidt also left the audience with a tip, “If you’re watching, if you’re thinking about it, where is that next low cost labor opportunity? And if you see it, I would pay attention to it because it will not be ignored by business.”

The Executive Speaker Series is intended to reach business students and professionals, but is applicable to anyone that simply wants to understand our current economy explained by seasoned professionals. The final event of the academic year is on April 9.. The event will focus on the Energy Industry & Its Effect on Business.