LANSING — The Michigan Senate today passed a trio of bills that would create new state funds to support major corporate economic development projects in the state.
The move follows the passage earlier this week of a similar package in the state House to create two funds to support large projects.
Funded annually through legislative appropriations, the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund in the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity would have two separate funds. One would be the Michigan Strategic Site Readiness Fund to provide grants, loans, and other assistance to companies planning projects at investment-ready sites. The other Critical Industry Investment Fund would back qualified projects by paying costs such as gap financing, deal-closing or worker training.
Lawmakers now need to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions, which is expected to occur next week.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce called the bills “broad, diverse and inclusive” that benefit urban and rural areas of the state and businesses large and small. The benefit for small businesses comes through a separate bill that would raise the personal property tax exemption from $80,000 to $160,000.
“The package is different from economic development bills passed in the past; they were crafted to put Michigan in a more competitive position as it relates to job creation and retention, but balance that with transparency, legislative oversight and efficiency,” the Michigan Chamber said in a statement.
The chamber added that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is “fully expected to sign the measures.”
The Michigan Chamber also called the bills “timely, given there are a few transformational projects in the pipeline that Michigan would like to secure, projects that may be announced as early as January. But the bills are broader than just these projects and create a framework for the state to use to help lock in other opportunities in the future.”
Business Leaders for Michigan, a roundtable of corporate CEOs in the state, said this afternoon that it was “pleased with the progress on the economic development bills that have passed the House and Senate.”
“The strong bipartisan support for these packages shows the sense of urgency around economic development and a recognition that Michigan has struggled to be competitive,” Business Leaders for Michigan President and CEO Jeff Donofrio said in a statement. “Our recent survey showed broad public support for a comprehensive economic development policy that will provide the tools needed to win more projects and create more jobs in Michigan. These bills are a positive step, and we look forward to working with our state leaders on additional steps to strengthen our state’s future prosperity.”
Each of the Senate bills passed today on separate 27-10 votes.
Sen. Roger Victory, R-Hudsonville, said in a statement that the so-called “Make it in Michigan Plan” would create a “responsible and accountable system for winning the competition for new opportunities and investment for the good people of our state.”
“Unlike past programs, every dollar in this plan is budgeted in advance, businesses must make written commitments to create long-term jobs in our state before they receive any funding, and companies that fail to fulfill their agreement would be held accountable with strict repayment provisions,” Victory said.
Economic development and business leaders in the state called on lawmakers to enact ways to attract major projects after Ford Motor Co. in September said it would join partner SK Innovation Co. to invest $11.4 billion and create 11,000 jobs in Tennessee and Kentucky to build facilities that manufacture both electric vehicles and batteries.
MiBiz reported this week that advanced automotive battery suppliers are considering Holland and Big Rapids for new or expanded manufacturing facilities.
In testimony this week to the House Operations Committee, Michigan Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Quentin Messer Jr. told lawmakers that the state has 11 projects in the pipeline that represent more than $74 billion in capital investments and more than 27,000 direct jobs “that require programs like the ones in these bills to secure.”
Messer urged lawmakers to use federal pandemic relief funding “to strengthen the toolbox that will allow Michigan to retain and win the transformational projects to secure long-term economic strength.”
“Let there be no doubt: Now is the time for Michigan to make strategic investments in our economy by building the tools that will secure transformational projects here in our state,” Messer said. “We can choose to lead the charge, or we can choose to cede generational investments to our competitors — but we must choose now. And I think we must choose to lead, and to win.”
The bills moved quickly this week through the Republican-controlled Legislature.
A coalition of 27 corporations and nonprofits that advocate for investments in clean energy vehicles and infrastructure praised today’s passage in the Senate.
“Clean mobility solutions like electric and alternative fuel vehicles offer a tremendous opportunity to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic, protect public health and invest in local economies,” Jane McCurry, executive director of Clean Fuels Michigan, said in a statement. “Michigan has the know-how to meet the moment and rebuild stronger by doubling down on our automotive prowess and investing in the next generation of the mobility workforce, and this is a significant step in the right direction.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with testimony from Michigan Economic Development Corp. CEO Quentin Messer Jr.