Did you know Grand Rapids is among the fastest-growing local economies in the country? If you spent time with me or The Right Place recently, you certainly did. We’re beaming with pride about the collaboration happening to build and ensure a vibrant, growing city and region with opportunity for everyone. A rebounding business climate and strong placemaking has allowed diverse companies to flourish and find success here, while employing local residents in critical, good-paying jobs.
Michigan is undergoing a period of sustained success too. Just a few years ago, Michigan was struggling with a downtrodden economy; however, the state displayed tremendous resolve to recover. There is a reason Michigan is called the Comeback State.
Unfortunately, we still have more to do and our progress here and statewide is in jeopardy of being slowed or halted altogether.
That’s because the climates and economies of other communities and states have improved too. And they are aggressively recruiting our homegrown businesses with robust tax incentives to relocate or expand elsewhere. They’re outinvesting and outhustling us.
Michigan and Alaska are the only two states in the country with a corporate income tax and zero tax credits or other similar type of incentives for larger projects. We have to recognize that Alaska is not exactly a top competitor like our neighboring states of Indiana and Ohio or southern states like Kentucky and South Carolina. Meanwhile, these other states are successfully leveraging these tools to bring large-scale projects with hundreds or thousands of jobs each.
It’s simple. This is a jobs issue. We need to be able to compete and win. We can’t afford to let other states lure away businesses that should be growing in or coming to Grand Rapids or other communities across Michigan.
Beyond creating more and better jobs, committed businesses and growing tax revenues are indispensable to ensuring a strong quality of life. This is how we can help bolster our neighborhoods and communities, schools, infrastructure, public safety and other essential services.
Grand Rapids and the West Michigan region have shown how successful an attractive business climate alongside simple, transparent and performance-based incentives can be to growing jobs and strengthening our community and quality of life. For example, the Switch data center — a $5 billion project projected to generate 1,000 new jobs within the next 10 years — is well on its way to becoming an innovative powerhouse and a tremendous provider of local, good-paying jobs. And if those jobs don’t all materialize, neither does the incentive. That’s smart and fair public policy.
As president and CEO of The Right Place, I regularly meet with current and prospective businesses seeking opportunities to expand or come to the area. The same can be said for others in communities across Michigan. Unfortunately, Michigan is often hamstrung when it comes to competing for larger scale projects – if it’s not taken off the list completely as we too often hear site selectors tell us.
Strategic growth and abundant opportunity are two things that our city and region take very seriously. In fact, it’s heartening to be involved with these efforts and see the hard work so many are doing (and marketing us nationally and internationally) every day. It’s making a real difference and putting Grand Rapids on the map.
But the economic development game is changing and our state can’t afford to be on the sidelines. It's imperative that our tax incentive and economic development policies continually develop and evolve to meet reality and the needs of the jobs and opportunities of tomorrow.
We know that Grand Rapids, West Michigan and the Great Lakes State have what it takes otherwise to compete and win – we just need a level playing field and the right job attraction tools. The job growth and continued vibrancy of our city, region and the state depends on it.
A simple Personal Income Tax-based incentive like in the Good Jobs for Michigan legislation would be a major step toward ensuring long-term prosperity across the state. It would help foster a competitive business environment with a plethora of job opportunities in diverse industries. Every community in the state would be able to rely on this strategic asset to leverage growth opportunities. Michigan would be able to clearly show prospective companies that we are open for business.
Are we prepared to let states like Ohio and Indiana capitalize on these opportunities while Michigan sits idly by? I and The Right Place hope the answer is a resounding no. We need to grow more good jobs in Grand Rapids, the region and throughout Michigan. It’s time we put our state, our economy and communities, and our workers and families first. It’s time to pass the Good Jobs for Michigan legislation.
Birgit Klohs is president & CEO of The Right Place, which is proud member of the Good Jobs for Michigan coalition, www.goodjobsformichigan.com.