Gov. Rick Snyder announced the creation of a new state department that will put emphasis on developing a workforce and talent pool that better fits the needs of employers.
As first reported by the Free Press, Snyder held a 10:15 a.m. news conference today at which he detailed an executive order creating a new state Department of Talent and Economic Development.
“I’m excited by this,” Snyder said at the news conference. “We have tens of thousands of open jobs that are not being filled,” and the new agency will help put Michigan workers in good jobs more quickly, he said.
The new agency will oversee the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Unemployment Agency, the Michigan Workforce Development Agency, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It will be headed by Steve Arwood, the former director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, who is now the chief operating officer of the MEDC.
Michael Finney, the current CEO of the MEDC, will move to new responsibilities in the governor’s office, sources said.
Stephanie Comai, who now heads the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, will head a new agency, the Michigan Talent Investment Agency, which will also be under the umbrella of the new department.
The changes are a key plank of Snyder’s election campaign platform earlier this year.
But as far back as two years ago, Snyder talked about a disconnect between employers’ needs and the skills found in Michigan’s workforce, noting that Michigan has a relatively high unemployment rate of 6.7%, though it is the lowest for the state since April 2006.
Nearly 82,000 vacant jobs — many of them well-paying — are listed on the state’s Michigan Talent Connect website.
The governor says Michigan will have a huge short-term competitive advantage over other states if it solves the disconnect quicker than the rest of the nation.
The Unemployment Agency is now part of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority is part of the Treasury Department.
Today’s announcement is part of a series of changes in Snyder’s administration for his second, four-year term, including changes in Snyder’s inner circle.
Education adviser Craig Ruff and transportation adviser Dennis Schornack are leaving the governor’s office, officials confirmed this week.
Snyder is soon expected to announce a replacement for Bill Rustem, his director of strategy, who retired in the fall.
And a new director of the Department of Human Services, to replace outgoing Director Maura Corrigan, is a major cabinet change Snyder is expected to announce soon.
It’s not unusual to have turnover in a governor’s administration between the first and second terms.
“Generally, it’s going to be a pretty strong consistency in both the executive office and the cabinet,” said Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel.