Economic investment is crucial to recovery

At the heart of economic development is the well-being of people and communities. We, the co-authors, are the CEOs of 12 regional economic development organizations and founding members of Economic Development Leaders for Michigan (EDLM). Together we have over 350 years of economic development experience. Our organizations represent 84% of Michigan’s population and 89% of state gross domestic product (GDP).

We lead efforts that drive Michigan’s economic engine, generate revenue, and create quality jobs through business retention, expansion and attraction. We connect businesses with the resources they need to grow by strengthening supply chains, supporting infrastructure improvements, launching entrepreneurs, linking talent and employers, and coordinating state and local incentives that encourage business growth. In partnership with local and state stakeholders, the results we achieve help communities prosper. Our work puts Michigan on the map.

The impact of COVID-19 across the regions and communities our organizations serve is unquestionable. Above all, we are saddened by the loss of life in our state and nation due to the pandemic. Additionally, countless businesses and employees have suffered devastating economic hardship, further impacting Michigan families. And, we still expect our state budget may fall short by up to $4 billion over the next two years. To assist our communities, EDLM members partnered with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to administer $100 million in relief grants to help small businesses keep their doors open and their employees on payroll. We are pleased to expand our role to support the short-term recovery strategy that will aid businesses and families through uncertain times.

The priority of EDLM remains to drive long-term economic growth and keep Michigan competitive. We are pleased the legislature and governor agreed upon funding for economic development priorities in the recently passed 2021 state budget. Our need for economic action has not ended. While we must pull together in difficult circumstances, our state’s long-term economic health is on the line. Other states have created attractive incentive packages that outpace Michigan, and they actively attempt to lure our companies to relocate production and jobs. Supply chain manufacturing facilities are returning to North America in the wake of COVID-19. In an aggressive and rapidly shifting environment, Michigan must be positioned to maintain existing businesses and attract new companies to bring quality job growth, development and sustained investment to our state.

Keeping Michigan on the map will require decision-makers in Lansing to continue to invest in economic development. Future budgets must maximize funding for business retention, expansion and attraction strategies, as well as support for startups which contribute to GDP. Maintaining GoingPro will allow employees whose service jobs have disappeared to acquire new skills and remain self-sufficient. We must restore Good Jobs for Michigan, which incentivized companies to create lasting, good-paying jobs at no up-front cost to the state. MEDC must streamline grant and incentive decisions for businesses that want to stay in or relocate to Michigan. Existing Tax Increment Finance (TIF) tools that create local opportunity should have overwhelming support from the legislature and administration. These investments and priorities, or lack thereof, demonstrate whether Michigan values economic opportunity and smart business growth.

If we are dedicated to the well-being of Michigan’s residents, economic development initiatives that connect businesses, develop talent and help build our economy are indispensable at this crucial moment. Inaction will stunt our economic growth potential while other states get ahead. EDLM’s CEOs and our organizations are committed to providing businesses the tools they need to accelerate Michigan’s economy, in turn supporting our communities, and ensuring residents live healthy, high-quality lives. We hope the state will join us.

Rob Cleveland, Cornerstone Alliance; Amy Clickner, Lake Superior Partnership; JoAnn Crary, Saginaw Future Inc.; Marty Fittante, Invest UP; Kevin Johnson, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation; Ron Kitchens, Southwest Michigan First; Birgit Klohs, The Right Place Inc.; Maureen Donohue Krauss, Detroit Regional Partnership; Paul Krutko, Ann Arbor SPARK; James McBryde, Middle Michigan Development Corporation; Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage; Bob Trezise, LEAP

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