2020 in Review: A Year Marked by Challenge and Hope

MEDC Staff

Friday, December 18, 2020

True character shines through in times of crisis, and in 2020 we proved Michigan has the tenacity and spirit necessary to face any challenge.

Downtown Lansing

We marked the beginning of 2020 with a feeling of optimism based on strong economic accomplishments in 2019; we shared a sense of momentum that the new decade would bring with it fresh opportunities for our state and its residents. And while it was no doubt a historic year, it was not for the reasons we may have hoped. From a global pandemic that impacted every aspect of our lives, to a national outcry over the racial inequities present throughout our society, these past twelve months have tested us all in significant ways.

Yet in a year defined by unprecedented challenges and global crises, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) came together in the face of the unknown to drive meaningful and positive change throughout the state. We ensured more than $180 million in critical relief funds made it into the hands of small businesses, entrepreneurs and the workers they support in every corner of the state. At the same time, we remained committed to our strategic vision while helping to engage and support Michigan’s Arsenal of Innovation.

“The Michigan Small Business Restart Grant has been a godsend for small businesses like mine. The grant funding has allowed me to put personal protections in place that will allow me to keep my doors open, and my customers safe, during the current health crisis. The funding has also allowed me to hire two employees to assist with cleaning and day-to-day operations. I am very grateful.”

– Sharlene L. Howe, Owner of Howe Art Supplies in Swartz Creek

Statewide Impact During a Global Pandemic

When the State of Emergency was declared on March 10, the MEDC moved swiftly to provide vital economic support to businesses, entrepreneurs, workers and communities across all 83 counties in Michigan.

We have provided grants and loans through flagship business relief programs – including the $20 million Michigan Small Business Relief Program, the $100 million Michigan Small Business Restart Program and the most recent $10 million Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Initiative. Through the PMBC COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants program, the $1 million in grants awarded 12 Michigan companies and non-profits for retooling helped to manufacture 2.5 million units of PPE right here in Michigan in a matter of months, while generating $27 million in new sales supporting their workforce and continued operations in the state. The need for funding and resources remains great, and we stand ready to administer new programs in the new year to continue supporting this critical need for small businesses and workers around the state.

We have been diligent about working to ensure all small businesses in the state have had access to relief – from our entrepreneurial ecosystem through the Tech Startup Stabilization Fund, to diverse-owned businesses through the Restart grants, but also our partnership with Michigan Woman Forward on the Michigan Entrepreneur Resilience Fund.


From tech companies pivoting to provide solutions for health care workers on the frontlines of the virus to local robotics teams at K12 schools coming together virtually to support their community’s response efforts, Michigan has come together in every way to provide a unified response in the face of this public health emergency. And here at the MEDC, we have been proud to support these efforts and ensure critical relief made it into the hands of our small businesses, communities, entrepreneurs and workforce across Michigan.

Building a Better Economic Future for All

As we deployed critical relief programs, we kept an eye to Michigan’s economic future by keeping focused on pursuing competitive business growth deals to ensure long term growth of good jobs. We continue to work to create a runway for economic recovery by growing businesses and resilient, diverse and vibrant communities long after this crisis has concluded. To that end, we have been proud to help create more than 14,100 jobs this year, generating $6.9 billion in private investment and reactivating 7.4 million square feet of public space.

We have supported impactful projects in communities throughout the state, including from Perrigo, a leading global provider of self-care products establishing its North American Corporate Headquarters in Grand Rapids, generating $44.7 million in private investment and creating 170 jobs for Michigan workers.

"In my mind [Medical Mile] could become the Silicon Valley of self-care," Perrigo CEO Murray Kessler told MiBIz in an interview. "It's a huge opportunity with like-minded people that all see the value in health care and wellness."

In southeast Michigan, Detroit Manufacturing Systems, a certified, minority-owned Tier 1 auto supplier, also announced it will invest in manufacturing technologies and become an Industry 4.0 “Smart Factory” as it expands in the city, increasing its automated manufacturing processes and creating 225 jobs.

Meanwhile, in Lansing, the BLOCK600 Development opened its doors to the public, featuring the Capital City Market as an urban grocery store, market-rate housing and a hotel, all of which is helping to spur greater economic activity while providing local residents access to affordable, fresh food options. By supporting transformative projects like this, MEDC is working to develop attractive places that will encourage people to not only visit our state, but choose to call Michigan home.

In Detroit, 4,100 Detroit residents have been hired by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) as part of its commitment to invest $4.5 billion and create more than 6,400 good-paying jobs at five existing Michigan facilities and by building Detroit’s first new assembly plant in 30 years. As we continue working to lead a strong economic recovery, these continued investments in Michigan and its workers will contribute toward the creation of long-term economic opportunities for working families throughout the state.

We have also continued to grow our automotive and mobility leadership throughout the pandemic, with the Governor launching the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification to fully leverage the state’s public, private and non-profit sectors to think creatively and support the startup and scale up of emerging technologies and businesses here in Michigan. Already, this office has made significant progress, announcing alongside the Michigan Department of Transportation, Cavnue and Ford, an initiative to develop a first-of-its-kind 40-mile driverless vehicle corridor between Detroit and Ann Arbor, designed to improve transportation for communities in Southeast Michigan.

We continue to prove we are up to any challenge here in our state, demonstrating record-high gains in key national business climate rankings. These gains reflect ongoing policy and reputational gains that we will continue to pursue, even in the face of this global pandemic.


We know that Michigan can only be a successful state if we are a state of successful people. So we will remain laser-focused on having the greatest impact possible for our businesses, communities and job creation efforts over the past twelve months. And that is what will continue to motivate and guide us in helping the state rebound from this crisis, to not only pick up our economic momentum where we left off last year, but build upon it even further.

Underscoring the Need for Equity and Inclusion in 2020

There is no doubt the impacts of COVID-19 have touched every Michigander in some way. Yet those impacts have also served as a cruel reminder of the systemic racism and inequities faced by our minority communities, and Black Americans in particular, as we know they have been disproportionately impacted by the virus.

It is our duty to strive to do better, and we are doing that as an organization by conducting an honest assessment of where we’re at both within our organization and externally in terms of how our programs are created and executed. We’ve also appointed a DEI Officer who is identifying equity issues and solutions internally and programmatically that we can tackle quickly, while launching a monthly speaker series for our MEDC team to hear key perspectives on these issues and how they impact our work.

To begin the new fiscal year, we have also approved updated guidelines to our flagship community revitalization and business attraction programs to better align them with our values around diversity, equity and inclusion, making them more accessible and reinforcing our commitment to invest in geographically disadvantaged areas – all of which is helping us to create a more equitable and resilient economy for all.

A Resilient Michigan in the Year Ahead

Today, we are heading into 2021 optimistic as we work to create a more equitable and resilient economy in the coming year. As Pfizer begins shipping its COVID-19 vaccine around the world from Portage, Michigan we have a tremendous opportunity to build on this story of Michigan’s Arsenal of Innovation – across industry sectors – and the economic momentum and jobs it will drive in the coming year.

We are equipped with a Fiscal Year 2021 budget that signals a statewide commitment to rebuilding our economy in a way that carries us beyond the status quo, ensuring we create equitable economic opportunities for all Michiganders.

This budget also includes support for our award-winning Pure Michigan campaign, which will allow us to continue to support the economic recovery of the travel and hospitality industries. Whether we are recruiting talent, attracting businesses or promoting leisure travel in the state, Pure Michigan is a key element in our economic development arsenal. In closing out the year, we will relaunch the paid portion of the Pure Michigan campaign to begin driving safe four-season travel that will play a key role in our economic recovery efforts. We are also doing all we can to support the travel industry by encouraging residents across the state to continue traveling and shopping safely and locally through winter and beyond.

From budget cuts to the impacts on travel as a result of COVID-19, our Travel Michigan team has continued to demonstrate the passion and innovation Michigan is known for – creating the “Two Peninsulas, One Pure Michigan” initiative, as well sharing virtual ways to explore the state and support our tourism industry to continue to spread hope and unity during a time we needed it more than ever.

As part of this effort, we continue to balance emergency relief support with a longer-term outlook to set a foundation for the best and most impactful way to support our small businesses. This includes our Support Local initiative to encourage Michiganders to shop local during the cooler winter months to help support and sustain our restaurants, retail shops and other small businesses that are the heart of our downtowns.

As we work to recover from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19, we are also adjusting our efforts to be even more responsive to our current environment, in an effort to continue creating opportunities and jobs for Michigan residents and enabling equitable economic opportunities for all.

As we look ahead, we will be driving efforts to address and position Michigan as a leader in key national trends – from Industry 4.0 and reshoring, to remote work, particularly in the tech talent sector. We are also helping lead on issues around broadband and workforce training to address economic issues like the need access to high-speed broadband, realizing internet access is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

2020 has been a year unlike any other in nearly every way, and at the MEDC, we realize that in moving forward, Michigan’s businesses and 10 million people are looking for us to set a course for the economic future. And while there is still more work to be done by us all, we are approaching the year ahead feeling hopeful, knowing that the possibilities for enabling good jobs and a secure future for all Michiganders are truly endless.

May Mobility Shuttle in Downtown Grand Rapids

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