State Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, will chair the House Commerce Committee for the next two years, a time that he sees as an economic crossroads for
Examining the state’s regulatory environment, tax structure, and economic and work-force development are all on the table in the new legislative session that began last week, said Huizenga, whose chairmanship of the House Commerce Committee puts him in a position to steer the debate toward many issues in
While offering no answers for now, Huizenga comes to the job with a litany of questions and a goal to improve the state’s business climate and encourage business expansion and job growth.
“We need to do this now. We can’t afford to wait a year or two while the rest of the nation starts to heat up and create jobs and create those new businesses. If we do, we’re behind the eight ball,” said Huizenga, a second-term lawmaker and third-generation co-owner of Huizenga Gravel Co. in
“We just need to ask the hard question: Why the heck can’t
Rather than “picking winners and losers” for targeted tax breaks and economic incentives for new business investments and job creation, he said he believes the state needs to create a better overall business environment that lures new investment, particularly in technology and advanced manufacturing.
The first step is to convene legislative hearings to identify problems, their scope and the potential solutions.
Huizenga, 34, said he wants the House Commerce Committee to hear from not just the usual business groups and advocates but from labor unions and other parties as well.
“We need to have a good, solid understanding of what we’re getting ourselves into and what we need to get ourselves out of,” Huizenga said.
As the year unfolds, Huizenga will coordinate his panel’s legislative agenda with his Senate counterpart, Sen. Jason Allen,
In appointing Huizenga late last month to chair the House Commerce Committee, new House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, cited his background as a small business owner and his “commitment to public service.”
“For too long, our state has faced tough economic challenges and job losses. As a result, the leadership of our Commerce Committee in the House must be solid, experienced and focused on bringing
Huizenga takes over as chair of the House Commerce Committee as many economists are forecasting moderate job growth for
Economist George Erickcek of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research forecasts flat employment in
In seeking to improve the state’s business climate, the House Commerce Committee will examine the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the state’s lead economic development agency.
Huizenga wants to gauge how efficiently and effectively the MEDC operates and “are they doing their job correctly?” Huizenga believes the state needs to tool its economic-development efforts more toward attracting, supporting and growing high-tech businesses and advanced manufacturers.
“Do they have the right tools as it is and do we just need to look at a whole new paradigm?” he asked.
Huizenga also wants to examine the role and use of venture capital and angel investors in stimulating new businesses and job growth in
As lawmakers examine issues surrounding the state’s business climate, the Legislature will likely take up the issue of tax reform this year, including the state’s Single Business Tax and unemployment tax.
Those debates will also occur amid the backdrop of the state’s ongoing budget crisis with which the GOP-controlled Legislature continues to grapple, trying to come to some kind of consensus with Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
The continued budget problems lend a sense of urgency for lawmakers to examine the broader issues of the state’s business climate and how best to stimulate job growth, Huizenga said.
“The height of insanity is to do the same thing and expect different results,” he said. “So let’s do things differently.”