John Austin, 53, is President of the Michigan State Board of Education where he leads the Board and Michigan’s work to improve student achievement and put Michigan back where it belongs among the top education states. Austin also directs the Michigan Economic Center www.MiEconomicCenter.org a center for ideas and network-building to advance Michigan’s economic transformation. He also Lectures on the Economy at the University of Michigan.
In 2015 Austin brought together the state’s business, labor, education, higher education and bi-partisan legislators to forge a new broadly-supported roadmap to reduce higher education cost, help more citizens young and old access this path to a better life, and put Michigan where it belongs among the best educated states in the country (www.MiTalentGoal2025.org ) Austin is also spearheading efforts to transform Michigan’s economy, and make Michigan a leader in the coming “Green and Blue” sustainable economy of the future—harnessing our expertise to create new products, jobs and services in New Agriculture, Clean Energy, Smart Water, and New Mobility–all fast growing, globally pressing areas of work and market opportunity. Austin spearheaded the “Michigan Dream Restored” initiative (http://themichigandream.org/ ) to develop citizen-informed strategies for better supporting Michigan’s foundational assets that drive Michigan’s economy: strong education and higher education institutions, improved transportation and communications infrastructure, vital and attractive cities and communities; protection of our lakes, waters and outdoor recreation assets. He also coined the term “Blue Economy” to describe the way our waters, and water innovation contribute to economic growth, and is leading a “Growing Michigan’s Blue Economy” Initiative, (http://michiganblueeconomy.org/ )to support stakeholders in leveraging Michigan’s natural water, and water research, education and innovation assets for economic development and new business and job growth.
In 2006 Austin created and directed the Great Lakes Economic Initiative for the Brookings Institution where he authored key Brookings reports that directly shaped the region’s economic development agenda: “The Vital Center: A Federal-State Compact to Renew the Great Lakes Region;” “The Vital Connection: Reclaiming Great Lakes Economic Leadership in the Bi-National Great Lakes Region;” and “Healthy Waters, Strong Economy” which led to federal support for Great Lakes clean-up and restoration, and regional understanding and actions to build on our Great Lakes and water resources as an economic asset.
Mr. Austin also served in 2004 as Policy Director for Michigan’s Governor-appointed Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth, and was principal author of the Commission’s influential report.
He was the founding Director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan—a $100 million effort by the region’s philanthropies to aid in the area’s economic transformation, and initiated the Global Detroit program to welcome immigrants as a source of economic strength and renewal.
Austin received his Masters in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a Bachelors from Swarthmore College in Economics & Political Science, with High Honors and Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Austin has been married 28 years to his wife Terese. They and their three children reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.