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John Austin

Nonresident Senior Fellow, Global Midwest

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Council expert John Austin

About John C. Austin

John Austin directs the Michigan Economic Center and serves as a nonresident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and the Upjohn Institute, where he leads these organizations' efforts to support economic transformation in the American Midwest. Austin also lectures on Economy at the University of Michigan and served 16 years as a statewide elected official on the Michigan State Board of Education, including six years as President.

In 2020, he organized the Transforming Industrial Heartland Regions Initiative, a partnership between the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Georgetown University’s BMW Center for German and European Studies, the Michigan Economic Center, Policy@Manchester at the University of Manchester, the Ruhr-Konferenz, the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Chicago, and the European Commission’s Directorate of Regional and Urban Policy. The initiative seeks to foster economic development in industrial heartland regions to diminish support for populist movements in Western democracies.

In 2020 the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released Austin’s report A Vital Midwest: The Path to a New Prosperity, which provides an updated analysis of the Great Lakes/Midwest economy from the seminal Brookings 2006 publication The Vital Center, also authored by Austin.

He was the founding Director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, a $100 million effort 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’s work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Economist, Foreign Policy Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, the BBC, Voice of America, Financial Times, Nikkei News, Politico, and The Hill, as well as other local, national, and international media.

Austin received his Master’s in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor's from Swarthmore College in economics & political science with high honors and Phi Beta Kappa.

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