Focus should be on solutions

October 26, 2009
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I am writing to respond to the Oct. 12, 2009, Grand Rapids Business Journal editorial, "Tax incentives posturing a distraction from policy goals."

I commend the GRBJ for acknowledging the importance of the top five policy goals set by the Regional Policy Conference (RPC) for creating jobs and opportunities in Michigan. However, I disagree with any conclusion that regional discussion generated by recent news coverage, including a Wall Street Journal article on whether tax incentives help or hurt our state, detracts from our goals. If anything, real talk with the public is beginning to provoke and engage business leaders in how to actually fix our state's budget and ultimately attract and retain more business.

The RPC is an initiative of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with eight other West Michigan chambers and economic development organizations across the state. We have specific goals and a report card aimed at making Michigan more business friendly. Each goal is designed to put Michigan into a much more competitive position and create a business climate that will attract and retain jobs. The current Band-Aid approach of luring companies to the state with short term tax incentives is just that, a Band-Aid. We don't need Band-Aids; we need major surgery. We need to move Michigan forward by changing the entire budgeting process, allowing Michigan to be open for business — all business.

Changing our tax model by first eliminating the Michigan Business Tax with corresponding budget cuts will be tough medicine. But tough medicine is exactly what we need. Michigan is rich with strong education institutions, great engineering minds and well-skilled workers, but we still lead the nation in unemployment. Something has to change.

The RPC has a new vision for Michigan. It will require everyone from Traverse City to Kalamazoo to help us engage the grassroots and provide a platform for all ideas and discussion for any real change to happen. We see our efforts as long-term, systemic change and applaud the economic development organizations in the state for the incredible success they've had in this tough climate combined with a bad business tax platform. Our goals are not mutually exclusive, nor should they be viewed that way.

Change of this magnitude is not easy or quick. We urge your readers to join with us and send a message that our state's focus has to be creating jobs and opportunities. Visit the "Action Alert" Web site at www.grandrapids.org  to e-mail your state legislators. We are ready to take risks, try new approaches, move the ball down the field and win! I encourage everyone to join in the movement to put Michigan back to work.


Jeanne Englehart
President and CEO
Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

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