As Michigan’s senior U.S. Senator, Debbie Stabenow plans to continue focusing on issues pertaining to small businesses, manufacturing and agriculture. Going into 2017, Stabenow expects to work on legislation that would improve tax credits for small manufacturers, as well as prepare to draft the upcoming Farm Bill. Stabenow spoke with MiBiz about her priorities and outlook for the upcoming year.
What key policies are you championing in 2017?
For me, it’s all about jobs and the economy. My focus is on making things and growing things because I don’t think we have an economy unless we do that. Small business, manufacturing and agriculture are the things I’m focusing on. If you want to be encouraged and enthused, talk with small business owners who are working hard and providing terrific services and products to people in their local communities.
Your focus on jobs and the economy seems to put you right in line with the president-elect, whom you’ve been critical of in the past. Where might your views mesh with his?
I’ve said since his election that if he wants to focus on fair trade and bringing jobs home from other countries, then I’m certainly willing to work with him. I have legislation called the Bring Jobs Home Act that I have been trying to get passed for over six years. The Republicans have filibustered it every time. If we’re talking about bringing jobs home or fair trade, I think the new president will have more challenges on the Republican side than the Democrat side. For me, it’s about getting things done, grow the economy and help people in Michigan. Anybody who wants to do that in a sincere way, I’m willing to work with.
We’ve heard local economic developers express concern over Trump’s meddling in state-level affairs such as when he took on Carrier Corp. in Indiana. If he were to turn his attention to a Michigan company, what would your reaction be?
First, let me say that there are many areas where I disagree with what the president-elect has said and done. But I am hopeful that he will be willing to do things in a more thoughtful way and focus on policies. I certainly want jobs to be in Michigan, but I think there is an effective way to do it and then there is an ineffective way to do it. I would encourage him to listen and to work with our businesses as well as our workers to do things in a way that really will be effective in the long run, not just something for show.
What have you been hearing from manufacturers as far as what they need going into 2017?
One of the biggest challenges I hear is qualified workers. Workforce development, education, having the ability to hire people with the skills for the jobs available is a top priority for manufacturers. There are over 600,000 job openings across America right now, according to the National Association of Manufacturers, that aren’t being filled because of the inability to match the right skills to the right jobs.
Do you think we can expect to see more funding on that front in 2017?
I hope so. If the new Republican majority and the new president want to focus on something that will make a real difference, focusing on education and job training is absolutely at the top of the list.