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September 08, 1983 - Image 59

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1983-09-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 8, 1983 -Page C-7

Michigan eyes

(Compiled from Daily reports)
Michigan. The great lakes state.
Vacationland of the midwest. Once the
leading producer of autos in the world,
now the home of some 700,000 jobless
workers.
The nation's recession has hit hardest
here. Because very few families want
to purchase that second car when
money is tight, and because
automakers were not prepared for
strong competition from other coun-
tries, the automobile industry was first
to feel the pinch of the feeble economy.
GENERAL MOTORS and Ford ex-
perienced some of their worst selling
years ever. Chrysler was rescued from
bankruptcy only by several controver-
sial loans from the federal government.
State government, business, and
labor leaders seem to agree that the
auto industry will never be as strong as
it once was; they are on the hunt for
new business to broaden Michigan's
economic base. And the industry they
are eyeing with the most zeal is high
technology.
Nothing would make those leaders
happier than to see the state become a
national, if not world, leader in robotics
and biotechnology.
BUT THERE are problems with
Michigan's high tech dream. It is a
dream shared by hundreds, maybe
thousands, of other states, cities, and
towns, and not all of them can see it
come true. And even if Michigan should
come out ahead, some say that the high
tech industry would not create the jobs
Michigan needs.
"Say yes to Michigan," is the new
slogan residents have adopted. Tourists
are supposed to say yes to the state's
miles of shoreline. New residents say
"yes" to comparitively low-priced
housing. But most importantly, high
technology firms are supposed to say
"yes" to Michigan's recently
overhauled business climate.
The high-powered promotional cam-
paign is only part of the state's efforts
to attract high tech businesses.
IN 1981, former Governor William
Milliken set up a high technology task
force to look into ways of diversifying
the state's economy. On Milliken's
directive the state legislature set aside
$25 million to help develop robotics and
molecular biology projects. And
lawmakers have established a $375
million pension fund for high-risk, high
tech companies.
These funds have been used to create
a molecular biology institute at
Michigan State University and a
robotics institute in Ann Arbor. The
goal of both centers is to bring the up-to-
date research of universities closer to
everyday. production in factories. The
result, state leaders hope, will be more
jobs.
Governor James Blanchard, who was
Taxis buses
help stranded
students get
around tawn
(Continued from Page 6)
riders can go anywhere in town for
$1.50.
Dial-a-ride is a free shuttle service
for handicapped and senior citizens, but
the general public can use it between
6:45 and 10:45 p.m. on weekends.
Another concern of many students is
getting to Detroit Metro Airport. There
are three ways: limosine, bus, or taxi.
Limosines cost $8.30 one way, and
$15 per person round trip. Tickets are
sold at the Union ticket office, and

limosines leave every hour on the half
hour.
Greyhound buses leave for the air-
port daily at 11:40 and 4:40, and cost
$5.70 one way.
Taxis are more expensive but they
leave when you want to. The ride costs
about $29 although the price can
sometimes be negotiated. Students
can split the fare if they do
not have a lot of baggage.
City starved
for parking
spots; cars
are a hassle
(Continued from Page 6)
friend who has extra space in the
driveway. If the friend is nice, this
method won't cost anything and the car
is probably safer.
But. regardless of how much parking

elected last fall, continues to throw out
the bait: start-up funds are offered to
new firms, workers compensation laws
have been changed, tax incentives
favor new business, and the state has
even volunteered to recruit and train
workers for incoming firms.
THE FIRMS Michigan is hoping to
attract concentrate on two high tech
fronts.
Robotics and integrated manufac-
turing is the first. Robotics firms are
trying to build robots that can perform
manufacturing chores which are now
done manually. The key to this science,
is to make the robots "intelligent"
enough, through complex computer
programming, to perform wide-
ranging tasks without having to be re-
programmed. The goal is to boost fac-
tor productivity with robots that are
more accurate, more durable, and less
costly than human labor.
The other type of high tech firm con-
centrates in molecular biology and
genetics. Molecular biologists transfer
altered genes from animals and plants
into special fast-grow bacteria. The
bacteria incorporate the altered genes
into their own genetic structure and
produce chemical enzymes or reactions
that have practical applications.
Researchers have been able to create
cells that produce insulin for diabetics,
and others that clean-up oil spills by
consuming the petroleum.
The biotechnology industry grew
frantically several years ago, when
firms like Genentech of San Francisco
began selling stock. Growth has slowed
somewhat since then, but is expected to
continue over several decades.
At the center of the state's plan to
attract high tech business are its two
largest research universities.
The University of Michigan has taken
the lead in robotics with the new In-
dustrial Technology Institute (ITI)
based in Ann Arbor, while Michigan
State is clearing a path in genetics and
molecular biology.
WORKING OFF corporate grants,
and some state funding, Ann Arbor's
non-profit technology institute is expec-
ted to become the link between
University researchers and companies
looking for ideas to apply to production.
ITI will be sponsoring some $68 million
in research grants.
The institute is also looked on as a
''spawner of entrepreneurs," says Arch
Naylor, its former director and a
University engineering professor. He
hopes that at least some of the 20 or 30
researchers currently working there
will come up with ideas they want to
market, and form companies of their
own. He also says the institute should
function as a magnet for firms that sell
computer software and robotics
equipment.
At Michigan State University the em-
phasis is on agricultural applications of

molecular genetics. This type of
research could result in rows of iden-
tical, cloned pine trees or entirely new
chemicals from a substance in wood
called lignon, researchers say. But it
can also have much wider applications
such as designing proteins that could
replace micro-chips used to store in-
formation in computers.
Michigan's prospects for success in its
high tech gamble, however, have not
always been forecast well. Leaders in
the high tech industry say that a state
has to possess certain attributes to at-
tract firms. Despite the tax incen-
tives, start up funds, and offers to train
workers, Michigan does not have those
attributes, some say.
Part of the problem, they say, is
Michigan's reputation as a cold, heavy-
industry state, controlled largely by

labor unions. A state where gover-
nment is hostile towards business.
THE STATE also has a "stone age"
product liability law, and a single
business tax that pushes companies
that are in trouble farther in the same
direction, according to the head of a
large Michigan robotics firm.
Some robotics firms that have
already located in the state, however,
say the business climate here is not that
bad. Comparitively inexpensive
housing, and strong universities may,
in fact, give Michigan the best chance
of success among midwestern states,
they say.
But even if Michigan can succeed in
attracting firms, its most pressing
problem - unemployment - may still
remain unsolved.
CRITICS OF the state's high tech

drive say the use of robots will replace
more workers than the new industry
can employ, and that the industry will
not create jobs for the heart of the
state's unemployed, the auto workers.
And those critics have statistics to
base their fears on. A study by the W. E.
Upjohn Institute for Employment
Research estimates that Michigan's
robotics industry will create up to 18,000
jobs, but could displace from 13,000 to
24,000 workers - the vast majority
from the auto industry.
Because the task of retraining
displaced auto workers for jobs in high
technology industries may be almost
impossible, it is likely that the move to
high tech will not address the state's
unemployment problem, critics say.
Even those who back the high tech
move say that new jobs may be a long

Daily Photos by MARK GINDIN
time in coming. The high tech
revolution does not appear to be a short
range solution to Michigan's problems.
Even if the state attracts a solid base of
high tech firms in the next few years,
the impact on unemployment would not
be felt until the next decade, many say.
The high tech gamble has paid off big
for some cities. When unemployment
skyrocketed nine years ago in the
Boston area, the city solved part of its
problem with a booming high
technology industry.
Stanford University professor's
dream to create "a community of
technical scholars" resulted in the suc-
cessful silicon valley in California.
With the highest unemployment rate
in the nation, and a faltering economy,
Michigan needs a boost and continues
to look for high tech to provide it.

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