Guest Column

Local stock exchanges give communities the opportunity to prosper

March 14, 2014
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Recent research makes it clear that in order to have a prosperous economy with high per capita income, we must have thriving places that attract talent. 

To compete economically, our communities should possess the critical assets that draw and entice people. One of those essential assets is fostering entrepreneurial opportunities. Having the framework in place that attracts talented entrepreneurs and gives them an opportunity to grow new ideas and businesses is a key place-based strategy. 

Fortunately for Michigan communities and entrepreneurs, we are on the doorstep of opportunity for investment and growth like no other state in the country.

Recently, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill into law, the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption, which allows local businesses to raise the funds they need to grow their business locally by enabling investment crowdfunding. The crowdfunding concept gives everyday residents an opportunity to support local entrepreneurs by helping fund their initial efforts, in exchange for some sort of return investment. 

This new opportunity is the most innovative in the country, and allows people to take control of their community development by engaging directly in the process of supporting the businesses in which they believe. It allows citizens to invest in Main Street rather than Wall Street. This supports entrepreneurs and communities in a way that will evoke pride and excitement among Michiganders. 

In addition to the Michigan Invests Locally Exemption, there is a complementary bill now in the Legislature that would further put Michigan out in front of the local investment trend by permitting in-state stock exchanges. This bill, HB 5273, sponsored by Rep. Nancy Jenkins, R-Clayton, would allow small businesses the chance to make these local investments more flexible, increasing the likelihood of success in crowdfunding efforts. 

Michigan could be the first state to implement this proposal. 

The legislation would create the legal framework under which Michigan stock exchanges would register and operate. Once an exchange’s structure and rules are approved and registered, it would be able to function as a central marketplace for Michigan businesses and residents — a place where investors and entrepreneurs alike could connect to buy, sell, trade and resell in-state stocks. 

The liquidity and confidence an exchange would provide to participants within Michigan’s local investment realm would be immeasurable, and the state’s economy would be the ultimate beneficiary. 

Making these cutting-edge local investment opportunities a reality would send an amazing “Michigan is pro-business” message to entrepreneurs throughout the world. This is a game-changing chance to grow prosperity and develop a sense of place in our communities that will further propel and enhance our economy. 

We hope the Legislature and the governor continue supporting the investment in communities and small businesses by making HB 5273 law.

Dan Gilmartin is CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League in Ann Arbor. He can be reached at (734) 669-6302 or dpg@mml.org.

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