Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, March 7, 2011

U-M entrepreneurs meet Gov. Snyder, discuss state’s future

During a recent lunch engagement with Gov. Rick Snyder, U-M student Jennifer Jaramillo was interested to hear what the governor had to say about how Detroit can compete with Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

  Gov. Rick Snyder meets with 18 young professionals to discuss the future of Michigan. (Photo by Jena McShane)

“Governor Snyder began his response by expressing his gratitude towards Chrysler and the commercial they aired over Super Bowl. The commercial is a reflection of the spirit of the revitalization of Detroit,” says Jaramillo, who earned an engineering degree from U-M in 2002 and will graduate with a master’s in business administration from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business in 2012.

“We are different and we offer young talent the opportunity to be part of something exciting, to be part of the revitalization,” she says of the city.

Jaramillo and four others with U-M ties were among 18 invited to attend because of their commitment to making Michigan a vibrant place to work, and for their dedication to innovation, entrepreneurship and community service. The event marked the 24th annual Michigan Society of Association Executives pre-legislative conference luncheon with young professionals, which included an opportunity to ask questions of the governor. Gary Heidel, executive director at the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), and MSHDA sponsored the lunch.

Jaramillo dedicates much of her time to economic development in Detroit through her professional and volunteer work. As a native Detroiter, she moved back to the city and planted co-op gardens and painted murals with Detroit Summer, among other volunteer opportunities. Professionally, she worked with the greening of Detroit and the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Jaramillo says she’s particularly passionate about making positive social change and innovation through business.

“Universities also need to play their part in embracing Detroit and Michigan as a viable and exciting place to live and work,” she says. “Opportunities include increasing student engagement with Detroit through orientations, encouraging recruiters to highlight Michigan-based opportunities, and holding large events in Detroit.

Vice President for Government Relations Cynthia Wilbanks, who sought out the U-M students and graduates to take part in the luncheon, says Snyder shared an inspiring message about their role in remaining in the state.

“Our students, like those from many other universities and colleges, look for opportunities to match their goals and aspirations with exciting opportunities to stay in Michigan,” Wilbanks says. “This was a great chance for students and graduates to have dialogue with the governor on characteristics that are important to them in considering their career choices to stay in Michigan.

“I was pleased to have a very diverse group of students and graduates participate. The governor, in his vision for Michigan, clearly sees these type of students as part of the rebirth of our state.”

The lunch was such a success that some of the participants are interested in forming a network to keep the momentum going, and MSAE is considering launching a statewide career mentoring program with its members in response to Snyder's call-to-action, says Rochelle Black, vice president for government relations at Oakland University.

“A lot will come from that interaction,” says Black, who served as chair of the legislative planning committee for the MSAE conference. “They really appreciated that the governor took time to talk with them and listen."

The gathering, which included participants from 21-39 years old, focused heavily on the young entrepreneurial spirit.

“(Snyder) sees graduates as go-getters. He see’s a future in them, great potential,” Black says.

Austin Black II, who completed a summer scholarship in 2002 at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, says Snyder’s decision to meet with young leaders is “an example of his commitment to engage emerging leaders.”

“It shows a commitment to getting to know more what we are looking for and what we can offer state of Michigan,” says Black, founder of City Living Detroit, a real estate brokerage headquartered in Detroit’s Midtown. “As Michigan ages, it’s important for us to keep as many young people as possible. With people leaving the state, it’s the best opportunity to capture people early in their career.”

Black gives back to Detroit by volunteering and participating in community service.

“My business thrives only as long as Detroit thrives,“ Black says. “Urban areas are an important area of bringing the state back. We need to strengthen urban cores.”

U-M alumnus Brandon McNaughton says he was impressed by the depth of the governor's insight, and his commitment to making Michigan an attractive place to start and grow small businesses.

McNaughton is chief technology officer of Life Magnetics, a U-M spin-off diagnostics company based in Ann Arbor. As a young entrepreneur he says all start-ups are focused on the same issues, such as raising funds, finding skilled employees, securing appropriate equipment and facilities, and developing and protecting intellectual property.

“I think we can agree that the economic future of our state rests, in large part, on our ability to attract and retain young entrepreneurs and professionals who are focused on growing companies and creating jobs,” he says. “I think events like the recent lunch and meeting are great initial steps. Given his background, I have no doubt the governor will continue to be engaged in the process of attracting young professionals and companies to our great state.”