Steve Arwood
Chief Executive Officer
Michigan Economic Development Corporation



Michigan’s economic development landscape will see changes and new efficiencies in the new year, that is if Governor Snyder and Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s new Chief Executive Officer, Steve Arwood have anything to say about it. Not only will Steve help drive best practices and operational effectiveness to support business growth and the creation of more and better jobs throughout Michigan, but he will also oversee the Governor’s alignment of several functions in the initiative known as TED (Talent and Economic Development) which will create a more streamlined experience for companies wanting to do business in our state.

A few short months ago, Governor Snyder appointed Steve Arwood to be COO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation after a year as director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and chief regulatory officer providing leadership in reinventing the state’s regulatory and licensing environment. He has previously served as LARA deputy director overseeing the Unemployment Insurance Agency and Employment Security and Workplace Safety, which includes MIOSHA, Employment Relations and Workers’ Compensation. He joined LARA in 2011 from Windlab Developments, USA, LTD, where he served as U.S. regional director. He has worked in wind energy development, conservation, and business development since 1999. He previously served as deputy director and other executive management positions at the Michigan Jobs Commission under Governor John Engler. His experience also includes a role as director for the House of Representatives Programs and Policy, and the National Federation for Independent Business-Michigan. Arwood is a graduate of the James Madison College at Michigan State University.
As the Arsenal of Innovation Quarterly readers have come to learn in previous editions, the Michigan Defense Center is an operation of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, dedicated to protecting and growing Michigan’s defense and homeland security sectors. As MEDC CEO, Arwood will have ultimate say on the state’s economic investment in these important sectors of Michigan’s economy.
Q: What do you see as the main role of the Michigan Defense Center/MEDC in Michigan’s DoD and DHS industries?

A: The Michigan Defense Center/MEDC is the State of Michigan’s voice on domestic and international commerce in the state’s defense and homeland security economy. The Michigan Defense Center is able to marshal the state’s economic development gardening tools, business development resources, business attraction incentives, etc. to protect and grow the assets and companies here in Michigan doing business with the federal government. Because these industries are dependent on federal contracting, different tactics and specialized knowledge are employed. These strategies and tools differ from those needed in other private industries here in Michigan, like autos or tourism, however, there are also similarities in the industries. For instance, the crossover opportunities and necessities between our automotive industry and the needs and missions of our department of defense are clear and the State of Michigan is moving to leverage these assets. The Michigan National Guard facilities around the state employ secured, cutting edge energy, cyber and testing capabilities that are imperative to the work of the Department of Defense, Homeland Security and other federal agencies. The Michigan Defense Center identifies these assets, strategizes ways to market and leverage these capabilities and works to reach that market.

Q: Specifically, what resources are available to small and medium businesses in Michigan who want to do business in the federal contracting field?

A: The Michigan Defense Center has a host of economic gardening tools including:

  • The MDC app which has industry and sector up-to-date statistics.
  • The Bid Targeting System (BTS) which scores companies the way a federal contracting officer would to give small and medium sized contractors the same advantages that large Primes derive from their in-house experts.
  • Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs). The Michigan Defense Center partially funds this federal program to specifically support Michigan businesses in the government contracting arena.
  • The Bid Writing Grant Program.
  • Industry experts who search the media, attend conferences and forums to bring Michigan businesses the latest news in their sectors.

In addition, the MDC can connect Michigan businesses with all of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s tools including financial support for business expansions in the form of grants, access to a broader range of private sector capital sources, new technology investment funding and talent attraction, retention and development services.

Q: There is a good deal of speculation and concern around the defense industry as Congress cuts budgets and programs. How can the State’s economic development efforts change these inevitable market influences?

A: While the federal DoD budget is shrinking, it is still a very large pie! Because of the crossover capabilities with Michigan’s staple industries discussed earlier, as well as current initiatives into new markets like connected vehicle technology, cyber security and alternative energies, Michigan is poised to make progress in the emerging markets which will meet DoD and DHS needs. The MEDC and the MDC will work to capitalize on these new markets while continuing to support the time proven strengths of engineering talent, manufacturing prowess and research and development which has sustained our national security for decades.

Michigan National Guard’s Adjutant General Vadnais and myself are united in our mission to protect the economic generating assets which support thousands of Michigan businesses and jobs through Department of Defense work. Along with the Governor’s office and key leaders in the government and industry, MEDC/MDC will lead an effort to catalog the industry’s assets in Michigan and develop a strategic plan to protect the federal assets located in Michigan as well as identify companies and missions currently operating elsewhere, but which would thrive in Michigan. Look forward to future news about these efforts.

Q: What new initiatives, programs are you planning for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in the coming year that will benefit Michigan companies and the Michigan employment picture?

A: Today, when I speak with business leaders, it’s not about taxes, or bureaucratic red tape, or our business climate—it’s all about talent. They want to know where they’ll get it and how they’ll grow it.

In terms of both a challenge and an opportunity, talent is now the driver and the number-one issue going forward.

The future economic vitality of Michigan is dependent upon building a talented workforce, which starts with a quality education, includes career and college planning, and continues with life-long learning so workers can match their skills to those needed by Michigan businesses.

Thankfully, Michigan has a strong talent base from which we can build on.

Our state is home to 65,000 engineers, 70,000 R&D professionals, we have the fourth-largest high-tech workforce in the U.S., and More than 181,000 skilled trade workers (assemblers, fabricators, first-line supervisors, welders, machinists, inspectors, press machine operators).

Yet, like all states, Michigan is facing an increasing skills-gap in the jobs employers are looking to fill today and those that will be available in the future.

Currently, there are over 180,000 job openings in Michigan, with more than 80,000 jobs posted on Many of these are good-paying, middle-skill jobs in high-demand fields that require specialized training and skills but not necessarily a four-year degree.

We have to get in front of the curve and create a larger and more diverse talent pool to meet the needs of employers. Not just in middle-skills, but in all areas across the talent spectrum (skilled trades, IT, engineering, creative services, etc.)

The goal is to build a diverse talent pool, put people to work, and connect job seekers with employers.

They want to know where they’ll get it and how they’ll grow it.

In terms of both a challenge and an opportunity, talent is now the driver and the number-one issue going forward.

Q: Can you tell us more about the development of the new department T.E.D. and how that will benefit the Michigan economy?

A: One of the governor’s top priorities has been to make Michigan a national leader in talent development by focusing on workforce training for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

He has laid out a vision for an effective, efficient government that provides meaningful services to “real people,” regardless of their stage in life.

To turn the vision into reality, he has created a new department, Talent and Economic Development, where economic, community, and talent development will be housed under one roof.

Under this structure, the three pillars of economic development—talent development, community development and business development—will all be part of one organization and share the same vision and goals.

As part of TED, the new Talent Investment Agency will coordinate all programs across the executive branch of government involving jobs preparedness, career-based education, skilled trades training, incumbent worker training, employment assistance, STEM training programs, and programs targeted at the structurally unemployed.

This is an effort of the entire state pulling in one direction, and on a much larger scale, to align education and workforce development initiatives with business demand.

We are one team focused on making Michigan a national leader in creating opportunities for students and adults to gain in-demand skills needed to fill job openings today and those in the future.