He Said That

January 12, 2004
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No, that was indeed not an economist standing before the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce the other day advocating a tax increase.

But the Upjohn Institute’s GeorgeErickcek did raise a few eyebrows when he said that the state needs to get serious about shoring up sagging tax revenues and changing its tax structure. Doing so, he argues, is good for business.

Huh?

Erickcek’s take is that two critical areas in the economic development field — state support for work force development and for higher education — have suffered as a result of the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis, which in the year ahead is going to be “just as bad as the one we just went through.” Without strong support for both, Michigan will lose any advantage it may have over southern states that can lure employers with lower tax rates and labor costs.

“What type of position are we leading ourselves into?” Erickcek said after delivering his annual employment outlook to the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce.

His suggestion is to rework state tax laws to ensure a revenue threshold that would allow the state, even in difficult times, to maintain a base support for work force development, higher education and other economic development incentives.

A mere low-cost tax environment “may not be as attractive to all firms, especially those on the fence,” and may find strong state support for higher education and work force development network to their liking.

“This is the time we have to worry about education,” he said. “We can’t do that with the current fiscal situation we’re facing.”

  • So is action out of Lansing last week a step in that direction? Maybe, but not toward the areas with which Erickcek is concerned.

Gov. JenniferGranholm announced Monday that the Michigan Economic Development Corp. will now be responsible for administering all brownfield Single Business Tax credits.

The MEDC previously administered only brownfield projects of more than $10 million in private investment while the Michigan Department of Treasury administered brownfield SBT credit requests for projects under $10 million.

The MEDC will now make decisions on all brownfield applications through the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA).

According to the governor’s office, the change was needed for better coordination of brownfield credits with other economic development efforts.

“Because of the increased popularity of the brownfield program, we had to re-examine its administration and application requirements to make sure we get the best value for the state’s investment,” Granholm said.

“In putting all of the brownfield tax credits into one complete program, we can better ensure that the state’s economic goals of community revitalization and job creation remain top priorities.”

Under the program, SBT credits are awarded to projects that best meet the following criteria:

  • The host community must make a reasonable contribution to the project through local funding sources, including tax increment financing and property tax abatements.

  • The project supports the development of “cool cities,” promoting redevelopment in core communities and downtown areas.

  • The project reuses existing facilities and preserves and creates new jobs.

  • The project must demonstrate the critical need for the SBT credit and prove all other financing options have been exhausted.

DonJakeway, MEDC president and CEO, said given the state’s current budget crisis, the MEDC has to make sure that all other financing options have been explored before the agency can approve an SBT credit.

“The new brownfield administration process will also help prioritize the projects that will do the most good in a community,” he said.

  • The death last week of former Kent County Commissioner GeorgeTerHorst sent a ripple through the community. But during his heyday, Mr. TerHorst’s actions made a splash on the local scene.

As a former aide to President Gerald R. Ford, the two West Michigan men grabbed Washington by both ears and turned D.C.’s power structure toward this area.

“He was mainly a Grand Rapidian,” his sister, Meridith, was quoted as saying, and truer words were never spoken.

Mr. TerHorst was one of the first local champions to make it to Washington in 1969, and he took that responsibility seriously. That he could return home and win election to the county board in 1979 was icing on the cake. He moved easily in social circles as well as backrooms and could be termed a forerunner to what the players at Grand Action and the like do today.

Mr. TerHorst had just turned 56 years old 10 days before his death.

  • New Year’s day means college football around these parts. But for wordsmiths, the fun comes from a different source.

Lake Superior State University annually releases its list of words that should be banished from the English language. This year, there were more than 5,000 nominations.

Here’s how they opened their announcement: “Hardly looking ‘metrosexual,’ a ‘shocked and awed’ Lake Superior State University Word Banishment selection committee emerged from its ‘spider hole’ with its annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.”

Here are some of the words and phrases (and comments):

  • “Place Stamp Here.” Can we legitimately claim to be a superpower if we need to be reminded to put a stamp on an envelope?

  • “Companion Animals.” They’re called pets.

  • “Bling-Bling.” This once street slang for items of luxury has now become so overused and abused that everyone has incorporated it into their vocabularies. Yes, your mom might say it. Nothing could kill the mystique of a word faster.

  • “Embedded Journalist.” The next time I hear it used by the media, I’m going to embed my foot in the TV.

  • “Sweat Like A Pig.” Pigs do not have sweat glands; that’s why they roll in the mud to cool themselves.

Lastly, here’s one West Michigan teenage girls are using in the wake of the BritneySpearsMadonna lip lock, after which the teen idol claimed to be totally “heterosexual.” The phrase for such a chance encounter is “heteroflexible.”      

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