MEGA Expansion Is The Right Idea

June 26, 2006
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State Rep. Bill Huizenga’s successful guidance of the Michigan Economic Growth Authority Act funding expansion offers more than incentives for Michigan businesses; it also is symbolic for a number of reasons. What should not be lost in the gubernatorial race rhetoric is that there are signs of an economic turnaround in the state, and those indications should be celebrated and spurred. Huizenga’s legislation provides one of those spurs.

It was not just a recession that created the extended economic hardships for the state of Michigan; it has been the evolution — worldwide — into the “tech age,” the “information age,” the “creative class,” in the most manufacturing intensive state in the union. The pronouncements of such an economic turn were plentiful a decade ago, and those businesses and politicians that paid no heed were destined to suffer. Many business owners in West Michigan saw the big picture and proactively planned the links and partnerships that inevitably assisted their stability. This week’s Business Journal provides many examples. The far-sighted understanding of the economic impact of life sciences and health care issues were certainly understood by Van Andel Institute founder, Jay Van Andel.

Huizenga’s legislation provides that high tech investments can receive SBT credits, not just high tech businesses. Huizenga, R-Holland, expects that the Big Three and their suppliers will take advantage of the change. “We changed the law to reflect the contribution the Big Three make to research and development. On the whole, a facility like the proving grounds is as big of an investment as many other companies make over a lifetime,” he said.

The West Michigan legislator obviously understands that enabling the economy in Eastern Michigan has direct impact on every other region, and on the state as a whole.

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell in his January State of the City speech suggested that he would work with legislators to create additional incentives for life sciences and high tech companies. The suggestion continues to be given the discussion of creation. Michigan Economic Development Corp. President and CEO James Epolito told the Business Journal, “I think (Heartwell) is a leader in this area, and that it makes a lot of sense. Diversifying the economy and focusing on the strengths are key.” Epolito also is optimistic that Michigan, as the “automotive capital of the world,” is the state of choice for Chinese automakers, considered world-wide to be the country “in the rear-view mirror” of Toyota and the Big Three. (See the story on page 1.)

Partnerships in government are necessary for the potential for growth in Michigan. The gubernatorial candidates would do well to note the opportunities presented and the economic rebuilding that gives Michigan residents hope rather than the continued perception of doom. Solid platforms to steady that growth are necessary.    

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