Granholm Mulhern Associates

A Governor’s Story

The economic hurt that happened across America happened first, and most brutally, in America’s manufacturing heartland: Michigan. Jennifer Granholm, the state’s first female governor, tells how one state struggled and pioneered ways out of a perfect economic storm—and offers proven advice for a nation desperate to create jobs. 

In January, 2002, Jennifer Granholm was the first woman ever to be sworn in as governor of Michigan—the eighth largest state in the nation, home to America’s auto industry with an economy bigger than that of Saudi Arabia or Greece.  She swept into office armed with energy, optimism, and a determination to jump-start progress on several fronts, from diversifying the state’s economy to reforming its educational system.

Then reality struck—in the form of an inherited fiscal crisis, economic collapse, and infrastructure breakdowns from hospital systems to the energy grid.

A Governor’s Story is a first-hand account from the front lines of a series of battles that exploded first in Michigan and that now are sweeping across all America: the battle to create jobs, to repair health care, educational, and infrastructure systems suffering from decades of neglect; to rebuild a manufacturing base crippled by dramatic technological changes and unfair foreign competition; and the battle to restore hope and fairness to an economic system in which the few prosper even as the many suffer.

A Governor’s Story is also a frank exploration of what happens when ideology and political gamesmanship collide with human needs.  Michigan’s efforts to solve problems like devastating unemployment and out-of-control budget deficits demonstrated the bankruptcy of such traditional responses as “lower taxes,” “less regulation,” and “smaller government”—all of which accelerated, rather than reversed, the state’s decline.

Only after eight years of experimentation did Granholm discover a formula for renewed growth and prosperity in the hyper-competitive twenty-first century.  She steered Michigan toward unprecedented private-public partnerships with clean energy businesses and the auto industry in a way to revolutionize its entire manufacturing base. She completely restructured workforce training through the No Worker Left Behind program.

Granholm’s efforts spurred more than $57 billion in private investment. More than 147,000 adults went back to school for retraining and community college enrollment jumped 35 percent. By the year 2020, new companies are expected to create nearly 90,000 jobs. In 2010, jobs grew at the fastest rate of any state in the nation.

Filled with revealing stories about politics, economics, and the often-misunderstood connections between them, A Governor’s Story offers vital lessons not just for policy makers and business leaders but for anyone seeking insight into the challenges facing America today.



“Governor Jennifer Granholm faced extraordinary challenges with grace, intelligence, and tenacity. In a weak economy, no state was hit harder than hers. She embraced the challenge of rebuilding Michigan’s economy for the 21st century with new ideas, new jobs, and new businesses. In 2010, Michigan had the largest drop in unemployment in the U.S., thanks in large measure to her tireless effort. A Governor’s Story is a remarkable narrative. Everyone who wants to revive the American economy and restore the American dream should read it.”

The Honorable Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States of America


“Jennifer Granholm spent eight years fighting for Michigan, and now the rest of the nation can benefit from the hard lessons she and her team learned as they positioned Michigan for recovery. A Governor’s Story offers a dramatic inside political story and an urgent call to recognize that our industry is competing not just with foreign companies but with the governments supporting them. It also offers a candid and moving personal story of a governor who is forced to devote her ‘all’ to turn around her state’s seemingly unyielding bad economy, with the resulting family pressures she faced as a loving wife and mother.”

The Honorable Carl Levin, U.S. Senator from Michigan


“During her tenure as governor, Jennifer Granholm had to grapple with unprecedented economic crises that foreshadowed what other leaders around the world would eventually experience. A Governor’s Story is one leader’s recounting of what it’s like and what it takes to lead in the crucible of challenge and change. It is an engagingly personal, absolutely riveting, and completely honest story. As you walk in Jennifer Granholm’s shoes through the pages of this gripping narrative, you understand more fully the resilience, optimism, and grit it takes to lead in challenging times. Every executive, every politician, every student of leadership, and every citizen needs to read this book. There is hope here. A Governor’s Story gets my vote for the best leadership book of the year.”

Jim Kouzes, coauthor of the bestselling The Leadership Challenge and Credibility