John C. Austin

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Nonresident Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program

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John Austin, 51, directs the Michigan Economic Center at Prima Civitas Foundation, a center for ideas and network-building to advance Michigan’s economic transformation. Austin was elected in 2000, and re-elected in 2008, by the people of Michigan to the State Board of Education, and unanimously elected President by his peers. He also serves as a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution.

With the Michigan Economic Center, Austin is spearheading the “Michigan Dream Restored” initiative to develop citizen-informed strategies for better supporting  Michigan’s foundational assets – the “public goods” 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, to support stakeholders and the Michigan Governor’s Office to develop a State Water Strategy, that builds on 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 26 years to his wife Terese. They and their three children reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.