Stepping Up When the Economy is Down – Greg Main Looks to the Future

    Greg Main will focus his energy on diversifying industry and attracting new jobs to Michigan.

    By Lynne R. Zacharias
    May/June 2009

    Greg Main, named to lead the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has a daunting challenge before him. Still, he is invigorated by the countless opportunities that Michigan has at the ready. Main’s last post was leading i2E Inc., a technology commercialization business in Oklahoma City. A venture capitalist, Main worked in Michigan’s Department of Commerce and was Oklahoma’s Secretary of Commerce. Governor Jennifer Granholm says the Belding, Mich. native’s experience is impressive. “Greg Main brings a successful record of taking new technologies into the marketplace, and has deep experience in economic development. This is an ideal match that promises to grow our momentum.”

    Corp!: What are some of your goals for the MEDC?
    Main: The job loss in Michigan presents a tremendous challenge. My foremost goal is to increase the pace of private investment and job creation in the state. I want to maintain the programs that we have in place and focus on diversifying industry and attracting new jobs to Michigan.

    Corp!: What do see as the biggest challenges?
    Main: There are a lot of negative perceptions about Michigan, both in and out of the state. On the ground our companies are having a hard time accessing capital, both credit and venture capital. However, there is some positive news out there, including the recent success of the billion dollar expansion of Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation in Midland, Mich.

    Corp!: How will you utilize your venture capital experience to draw business to Michigan?
    Main: Gaining access to early capital is an inefficient process here. There are investors and venture capitalists looking for opportunities. We need to help businesses in the early stage of development find funding. We need to help connect the dots.

    Corp!: What will future business look like here?
    Main: There will be significantly more green businesses. Many companies will be focused on alternative energies like wind turbines, solar energy, car battery production and components for these products. Other opportunities will include biofuel and water management. A lot of our auto suppliers will be diversifying into these areas. The auto industry will always be important, but we will have a much more diverse economic base.

    Corp!: What is the best advice you can offer to businesses?
    Main: Businesses need to hunker down and try to make their cash go as far as it can. It is a challenge that everyone faces.

    Corp!: What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?
    Main: You have to have a sense of urgency and focus on making a difference in whatever you are doing.

    Corp!: What is the best thing about being back in Michigan?
    Main: It has been great re-establishing business relationships and friendships from before. I have had a great welcome from everyone.

    Corp!: What is your favorite cause?
    Main: I have two: KIVA, a micro-lending Web site that empowers individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the world. The other is the Southern Poverty Law Center, known for its legal victories against white supremacists and its tracking of hate groups.

    Corp!: What are your favorite summer Michigan destinations?
    Main: Mackinac Island, Pictured Rocks and Isle Royale. I definitely plan on going to Mackinac Island this summer and I am hoping to go hiking with my sons on Isle Royale.