State needs to push economic recovery plans

As we begin 2021, the importance of the working together — across all levels of government and community — has never been more clear if we are to speed an economic recovery that is more equitable and more resilient than it was before the pandemic. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation has been committed to this work throughout the crisis and seeks to build a better economy where a path to a good job is clear and available to every Michigander.

That is why the MEDC is continuing to work closely with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her administration to lead additional small business relief efforts. We’re getting relief quickly into the hands of our restaurants, retailers and more — while staying focused on creating opportunities to attract and grow businesses and build resilient communities across the state.

It remains vital that we continue efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic because we will not have a healthy economy unless and until we address this public health crisis. Through the Governor’s recently announced MI COVID Recovery Plan, the state is at the same time working to speed vaccine distribution and to stimulate our economy, which will be critical to helping Michiganders get back on their feet.

Whitmer’s plan includes a call for an additional $225 million for small business support. These funds will provide additional operational relief for some our hardest-hit industries — such as restaurants — while recognizing that we need to start looking once again at longer term recovery and shore up those businesses and industries — such as high-tech startups — that provide the best opportunities for jobs growth in Michigan.

The economic recovery initiatives built into the MI COVID Recovery Plan address existing gaps in the COVID-19 relief efforts at both the federal and state levels. By filling these gaps, we can ensure that businesses with nine employees or less, businesses in rural areas and tech startups all have a path toward recovery in the coming year.

In the meantime, critical small business relief continues to be deployed statewide.

Through the Michigan Small Business Survival Grant Program, we are working with 15 local economic development organizations, including The Right Place, Lakeshore Advantage and Southwest Michigan First in West Michigan, to provide $55 million in relief funds for small businesses that have experienced a significant financial hardship. Funding for this program, as well as the Michigan Stages Survival Grant Program and the Pure Michigan Small Business Relief Program, will be fully deployed by the end of the month to continue to address the immediate needs of businesses with continuing impact from the pandemic.

This relief is important to stabilize our economy. At the same time, we are also looking ahead by building the runway for long-term economic recovery, working closely with colleagues across state government as well as our local partners on initiatives and projects big and small that will protect, grow and create more jobs in sectors ranging from manufacturing and mobility to tech and clean energy.

We also continue to stand in support of the Governor’s call to renew the Good Jobs for Michigan Program, which has been proven as a transparent and accountable tool in securing the type of growth and expansion that can have a transformational impact on our communities and workforce.

This program played a vital role in securing a commitment from Acrisure to relocate and build its global headquarters in downtown Grand Rapids, where it’s investing $33 million and creating 400 jobs that pay 125% of the regional area wages. This program also was a key factor in securing Pfizer’s new sterile processing facility planned for its global manufacturing campus in Portage.

As we set a course for economic recovery, key initiatives that will stabilize, recover and ultimately grow our economy — like the Good Jobs for Michigan Program and the MI COVID Recovery Plan — are needed to build on the foundation of more than $240 million in small business relief the MEDC already has deployed statewide and continue making a difference for Michigan workers and businesses.

Michiganders across our state work hard every single day. That ethic and spirit is what will help us get through this crisis and will strengthen our resolve in building a better Michigan in the future. We are proud of the work we’ve done together over the past year and look forward to partnering with more businesses and more communities in the weeks and months ahead for a brighter 2021.

Mark Burton is CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

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