Busy Legislative Season Brings Opportunities for Economic Development
Posted by Lake Superior Community Partnership on December 15, 2021In one of Lansing’s holiday traditions, there’s been a flurry of bills and movement in Lansing around some big issues this month, including economic development. As a member of influential economic development groups like the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance (NMCA), the Economic Development Leaders of Michigan (EDLM), and the Community and Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM), the Lake Superior Community Partnership has been working throughout this busy season to promote our region’s economic development priorities. Our participation in these groups is critical, especially as the state weighs how to spend billions of surplus dollars from federal rescue acts. These funds could be transformative, addressing the roots of complex challenges our communities have faced for decades, and could dramatically change the economic development game in Michigan. Since October, when Ford announced its decision to make a historic investment in Tennessee, there’s been a strong focus on making Michigan more competitive for large projects and economic development in general. With these discussions in mind, a group of economic development professionals like the LSCP, known as the Winning Michigan Jobs Coalition, has targeted four key areas that Michigan must address to be competitive nationally for new projects: investing in sites to make them ready for large projects; using state incentives to compete for new jobs; ensuring the Michigan Economic Development is able to respond effectively to economic development opportunities; and workforce development that will align with new jobs and investment. Ford’s October announcement has built momentum around these ideas, along with support for several new bills that are moving quickly through the legislature to allocate funding for the build-out of new industrial projects. But there’s more at stake than just big projects like these. With the potential for new, transformative projects in the works for Marquette County, we’re hopeful that these investments bode well for investment in the U.P. And ultimately, the coalition’s goal is for a broader, more comprehensive strategy to make Michigan more competitive for economic development. That comprehensive economic development vision is a primary concern for the LSCP. In the U.P., we know that economic growth and prosperity require strong communities and a robust workforce, and have advocated for statewide action to address our region’s needs – like the housing, childcare, broadband, and other infrastructure improvements that will create opportunities for business and community growth. Those needs are factors in initiatives like those championed by Winning Michigan Jobs: many decision-makers recognize that if we’re creating new jobs, we also need to ensure that there are workers for those jobs, and housing for them as well. So, as decision-makers in Lansing take action on economic development bills, they’re also considering proposals to provide significant amounts of funding for different housing types. In a housing policy discussion at the LSCP’s Marquette County Housing Solutions Summit this month, we learned more about the opportunities in front of us – and the pressing need for legislators to catch up with other states by making decisions on surplus funds and programs that will address issues like housing and the workforce. There are a lot of opportunities and a lot at stake with these proposals. We need a continued sense of urgency to ensure decisive action on the types of programs that will most benefit Marquette County communities. Because of advocacy from organizations like the LSCP, InvestUP, and our partners like the NMCA, EDLM, and CEDAM, the issues that are facing the UP and Marquette County have risen to the top of discussions on the part of decision-makers – and we’ll keep working to keep them there, even after the busy legislative holiday season is behind us. Sarah Lucas, CEO, writes a bi-weekly column for the Mining Journal.