Leadership Needed For Frightening Times

While economic forecasts, hiring surveys, employment levels and new economy jobs continue to favor West Michigan when compared to the rest of the state, it is alarmingly clear that what base has been or might be built is threatened by the governor and state legislators.

These same “leaders” proclaimed that Michigan would be a significant player in the life sciences industries just a half-dozen years ago. And they did so based on the strength of the Life Sciences Corridor “crown jewel,” the Van Andel Institute. West Michigan can physically see the domino effect in the growth of health care and medical manufacturing (even if one only looked at the Michigan Street hill upon which the VAI is expanding its research labs and Spectrum Health is building multi-million dollar treatment centers).

So it is all the more shocking to review recent legislation regarding issues that erode Michigan’s ability to be taken seriously as a state vested and investing in the life sciences.

The governor in most recent months spent much time in aimless politicking under the guise of “town hall meetings.” She then flew to Germany to attempt to recruit businesses to this state, though she cannot define the state tax structure or how onerous it might be to those recruits. Hell, no, they won’t go.

Republican legislators in early March were still clowning for the cameras in “event” press conferences to call attention to “their” proposals. And then one of Michigan’s oldest business citizens, Comerica, announced its new headquarters are being built in Dallas.

None of them get it. Legislators must lock down and resolve the issues, without creating new issues.

In that regard, Anne Bond Emrich reports in this issue that Granholm two months ago vetoed a $5 million expenditure from the 21st Century Jobs Trust Fund to pay for a statewide network of umbilical cord blood banks. The Jobs Fund was created to support the development and commercialization of technologies in the life sciences, among others. Emrich reports that the cord blood banks, now under the auspices of Michigan Department of Public Health, are currently beseeching the Jobs Fund parent, the Strategic Economic Investment and Commercialization board, to reconsider funding, and basically going door-to-door for donations.

Mental midgets are aplenty in Lansing, where the state House in March introduced and passed legislation which would repeal Michigan’s 1995 law which gives drug manufacturers and sellers immunity from lawsuits if the drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In fact, the House legislation allows the repeal to be retroactive to January of 1996 when the law took effect. Nearly 20 Republicans supported that legislation. State Senate Majority leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, at press time was content to bury the House legislative package promising it would not make the Senate agenda.

These are indeed frightening times, not because of Michigan’s economic malaise or certainly not West Michigan’s bright spot in this state’s economy, but because of the stunning incompetence that would erode what has been built.

State legislators must begin the real work of budgets and taxes. Rather than business continuing to leave Michigan, it would be well instead for business leaders to lock the doors to the Capitol, assuming the governor and legislators are inside.

—Carole Valade

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