Blog: Keith W. Cooley

Keith W. Cooley is the director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth. Before that Keith was the COO and then CEO of Focus: HOPE. He is a University of Michigan graduate with degrees in engineering physics and nuclear engineering and founded the school's Minority Engineering Programs Office. Keith will be writing about how Michigan can improve its workforce and business opportunities and environment.

Post No. 3

Business is the foundation of a successful economy. Facilitating the smooth functioning of industry and making sure business can progress unhindered are responsibilities state government employees take seriously. Often, however, the business community sees us as an obstacle, forcing them (as Alice was) through ever smaller doors using keys that don’t quite fit.

Unfortunately, in this case, perception is often truth. When one company has a difficult experience with state government, everyone knows about it.  Newspaper articles are written and consumer advocates descend. But the twenty, thirty or 100 thousand successful, efficient transactions are nullified by that one complaint. A problem at any level of government stains the efforts of all government in the minds of those not discerning of the distinctions. At a certain level, we become powerless to control our own destiny in the minds of our constituency.

At another level, however, we can and are moving forward to address a primary area of concern for businesses and individuals who must register or license with the state. A One Stop system, or as we call it the Michigan Business Services improvement initiative (MBSii) is an effort that crosses all areas of state government to provide business with one stop “shopping” for information on the “what’s required” and the “how to’s” of licensing and regulation.  Private sector efficiency in a public sector program, one governmental source for information for whatever your business needs are. 

State government has a myriad of functions and many departments to fulfill those functions. Unless you’re in the system, it’s difficult to know the next direction to turn to start or grow your business. Working with industry, our goal is to change the face of the beast, to provide one, easy entry point for business. Believe me, this is no small task, but it is absolutely crucial as we move into our new economy. Governments everywhere, like private industry, must become and remain competitive … on the cutting edge… or be replaced by that which is “better”.

I’m very excited with the opportunity to be part of this “quantum leap” in customer service. The implementation of these types of innovative private industry techniques represents a step in merging our efforts, and our goals, into one cohesive dynamic. I truly believe that this effort will have unforeseen benefits and strategic advantages for Michigan industry beyond my tenure.