Whitmer: Michigan Is Counting On Economic Development Plan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office praised several pieces of the economic development proposal that cleared the Senate on Tuesday but didn’t directly address the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund bill that would move up to $250 million toward community-focused projects.

The Senate in a late night session on what was the last voting day before a two-week spring recess moved legislation that would create a research and development tax credit, revamp an income tax capture program created under former Governor Rick Snyder and create the Michigan 360 program under SOAR with up to 50 percent of the funds in the large economic development program set to go toward local improvements like infrastructure and child care.

Whitmer Press Secretary Stacey LaRouche in a statement said the governor has rebuilt the state’s “economic strategy from the ground up, creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs and bringing billions of dollars of investment to cities across the state.”

“This has helped drive unemployment to record lows, while also increasing take home pay so Michiganders can get ahead,” LaRouche said. “But if we are going to continue to outcompete other states for this investment, we need the ability to support both big companies and small startups, invest in urban areas and small towns, attract new businesses and help existing hometown employers grow, and make sure that every Michigander has an opportunity to make it in Michigan. That’s why the governor supports a comprehensive economic development package – including HIRE Michigan, an R&D tax credit, Renaissance Zones, and other proven programs – that create good-paying jobs.”

LaRouche said Republicans and Democrats need to come together to pass the proposals to ensure the state has a full set of resources to compete for more jobs and investments.

Otie McKinley, spokesperson for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, said it looks forward to continuing conversations on the legislation passed.

“We are encouraged by the ongoing and forward-looking discussions with our legislative partners to evolve a toolkit that allows Michigan to deliver investment and job creation opportunities on behalf of all 10-plus million Michiganders and create a brighter, more prosperous future for all,” McKinley said in a statement.

While the research and development tax credit bills had some Republican support, the other proposals passed with only Democratic votes. Many of the bills need concurrence votes in the House, which is on spring recess, and will be tied 54-54 until late April or early May.

Rep. Greg VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores), who sponsored a portion of the research and development tax credit, praised the plan in a statement following the Senate’s action.

“The goal is to keep good-paying jobs in Michigan and bring in new, long-standing opportunities in the fields of the future – that’s what this plan will do,” he said. “Not only will it strengthen our local economy today; it will also help create new jobs in our community for years to come. I’m pleased my Senate counterparts see the value in this plan.”

Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), one of the sponsors of the SOAR plan, said it would allow more investment to go to communities rather than relying heavily on incentives for big companies.

The legislation passed Tuesday was a significant escalation from McMorrow’s original proposal to dedicate 20 percent of incentives awarded through the Critical Industries Program and Strategic Site Readiness Program. The governor’s view of the 20 percent concept was tepid at best. The 50 percent of SOAR funds is likely a nonstarter even if no one from the Whitmer administration was willing to say so.

“Since 2021, a total of $3.7 Billion has been allocated to the SOAR fund. To date, the major recipients of SOAR awards have been large-scale manufacturing projects,” she said in a statement. “But recent analysis shows that a significant portion of incentives in Michigan are going towards low-wage jobs at a moment when our state’s per capita income has fallen to 39th in the nation, down from 16th in 1999.”

She said the SOAR changes ensure funds are spent on transformational community investments like transit, housing, education, child care and placemaking.

On social media, McMorrow called for individuals to encourage the House members to vote yes, “so we can stop spending big on corporate giveaways and start investing in ourselves.”

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