As we work to combat the economic challenges across the state brought on by this global pandemic, we need bold and creative solutions to help us build a more equitable and resilient economy in Michigan. Here at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), we are committed to growing businesses and building resilient communities across the state and doing so in a way that ensures all Michiganders have a path to a better economic future.
These efforts — guided by our five-year strategic plan — already are paying off, with the recent announcement from leading global provider of self-care products Perrigo that it plans to establish its North American corporate headquarters in the heart of Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile district. Perrigo will create 170 well-paying professional and entry-level jobs for the region’s workforce, while providing its employees a clear pathway to upward mobility, encouraging personal and professional development, and offering tuition reimbursement and support.
Perrigo’s continued investment in Michigan and its workforce is a clear example of our efforts to support projects in key industries that enable long-term prosperity for Michiganders. Developments like this also create economic resiliency here in the state to help us recover from major crises like COVID-19. And company executives’ belief that Grand Rapids has the potential to become the “Silicon Valley of self-care” speaks to the value proposition our state brings to a company like Perrigo, which can find the workforce it needs for manufacturing, R&D and headquarter operations all within one region in the state.
Even as we continue to keep our eye on future growth here in Michigan, we are committed to ensuring our small businesses have critical relief to not only survive the current crisis, but thrive on the other side. MEDC is proud to have deployed 19 programs in response to COVID-19, working in collaboration with local economic development partners and governmental units at every level. As a result, we have been able to address the most pressing concerns of business owners and employees — from cash flow challenges to workforce safety concerns — to help them weather this crisis and come out in a position to thrive on the other side.
These programs included efforts like the Michigan Small Business Restart Program that utilized $100 million in federal CARES Act funding to support the needs of those small businesses, startups and nonprofits directly impacted by the virus. This program also featured a key requirement that 30% of all grants awarded go to women-, veteran- and minority-owned businesses, many of whom have been hit hardest by COVID-19.
In West Michigan, we partnered with The Right Place to distribute more than $9 million of these Restart grants to 1,060 small businesses, with 66% of the funds being awarded to women-, veteran- and minority-owned businesses. Businesses like Wear Your Curls in Grand Rapids were able to hire additional staff to help shift their sales strategy and better utilize digital media for increasing their brand awareness, demonstrating the continued resilience and innovation of Michigan small businesses.
As we move forward, we know that the programs MEDC creates, administers and supports must enable economic opportunity for all Michiganders and will prove more important and necessary than ever before. With an economic development budget signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that reflects these values, we remain focused on getting Michigan back to work and fulfilling our five-year strategic plan by enabling long-term economic opportunities for all. This includes programs to develop vibrant communities, continue strengthening our entrepreneurial ecosystem, and support the tourism industry here in Michigan — which has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19 — through renewed funding of the Pure Michigan campaign.
We recognize Michigan can only be a successful state if we are a state of successful people. That is why we are laser focused on having the greatest impact possible for our businesses, communities and job creation efforts here in the state.
As we look to the year ahead of us, our team at MEDC remains passionate and committed to helping attract and support businesses and communities across our great state of Michigan. We know that Michigan’s businesses and 10 million people are looking for us to set a course for the future — and we are up for the task.
Mark Burton is CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.