MEDC CEO applauds SOAR legislation

$1.5B in economic development incentives expected to provide broad boost to the state over time.
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The bipartisan $1.5 billion Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) package is expected to provide a flexible economic development framework that will broadly support all sectors across the state, including the furniture industry, according to Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Quentin L. Messer Jr. Courtesy Steelcase

The current head of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation said the bipartisan $1.5 billion Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) package will help secure transformational projects and long-term economic opportunity throughout the state.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Courtesy state of Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Dec. 20 signed House Bill 4603 to create a $1 billion economic development fund to ensure the state can compete for billions of dollars in investment and attract tens of thousands of jobs to bolster the economy. The governor signed Senate Bill 771 to create a $500 million fund to make the state’s economy more adaptable to the rapid pace of technological change, supporting small businesses, and creating or retaining good-paying jobs. 

Additionally, the governor signed Senate Bill 769 to create a financing mechanism for both programs and Senate Bill 85 to provide full funding to start delivering for Michiganders right away. SB 85 also will provide direct assistance to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This economic development package will build on Michigan’s economic momentum, Whitmer said.

“Thanks to the effective collaboration between legislative leadership, my administration, and community and business leaders, I signed bills that will back small businesses and empower Michigan to grow and attract billions in investment and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs,” Whitmer said. “Because both parties in the Legislature came together, our state will be able win huge, transformational projects and compete effectively for every dollar and every job for decades to come.

“The critical economic development fund we have set up will pay massive dividends as we continue staying focused on growing our economy, creating good-paying jobs and lowering costs for families.

“We also delivered resources directly to new and existing small businesses … building on work we have been doing since March 2020 to ensure they can thrive. Our work over the past few months proves when we come to the table in good faith and put Michiganders first, we are capable of extraordinary progress. I will continue working with anyone to deliver meaningful change on the kitchen-table priorities that make a difference in people’s lives.”

Quentin L. Messer Jr. Courtesy MEDC

Quentin L. Messer Jr., CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), called the legislation “an important beginning.”

“We appreciate the incredible diligence, hard work and collaborative approach to position Michigan for large-scale investments that accelerate growth in high-paying jobs, retain large customers for our small businesses and remain at the center of technological change for decades to come,” he said.

“Michigan’s globally recognized talent base, long-standing heritage in manufacturing, innovation and affordable cost of living, combined with a Pure Michigan quality of place, already put Michigan in a strong position to win. These bills … provide competitive programs that are responding to the market and invest in business retention and attraction to complement Michigan’s already undeniable strengths as a state.”

Although Messer said he cannot share specific details due to nondisclosure agreements, he said the MEDC has several transformational projects in its pipeline that would invest billions of dollars into Michigan, create tens of thousands of high-paying jobs for Michiganders and continue the state’s strong economic growth.

“We feel really good about the work that is happening in the Grand Rapids region,” Messer said. “In West Michigan, there are three really exceptional regional economic development organizations — Cornerstone Alliance, Lakeshore Advantage and The Right Place — and they have aggressive teams that are doing really exciting work.”

The programs funded by SOAR are expected to support business retention and attraction efforts across regions through improved site readiness efforts and create a new “home court” advantage for automotive, electric vehicle and advanced manufacturing growth in the state.

Messer said he believes the SOAR legislation “changes the narrative that Michigan is comfortable or complacent and not willing to be aggressive to retain its historic advantage in the mobility and other advanced manufacturing sectors.”

He added it also is designed to have broader impact than just mobility and advanced manufacturing.

“The framework of this legislation allows us to be competitive in the life sciences, which is of tremendous import in West Michigan; it allows us to retain our tremendous design and office furniture (sectors), because it’s not industry specific,” he said. “It basically talks about critical industries, those industries that have transformative impact from a job creation or a capital investment (standpoint), and so that’s the real beauty of this that it really allows us to be flexible and nimble, given the evolution of technology.”

Messer also said it’s important to note that the legislation applies to all of Michigan — not just east or west or the Lower Peninsula, but to the whole state — and to small businesses as well as big ones.

He added more work will need to be done in the Legislature in January to continue building on this first step.

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