Leaders see sustainable economic incentives as key to winning jobs, investment

Jennifer Owens, CEO of Lakeshore Advantage, was part of a broad coalition of regional economic development leaders from across the state who recently testified in support of legislation to establish the Michigan Employment Opportunity Program, intended to win new jobs and investments for communities across the state. 

The bipartisan effort to establish a sustainable incentive program addresses one of the main concerns identified by industry leaders who have chosen other states over Michigan recently: the lack of a competitive, consistent economic development structure that includes incentives for establishing new, well-paying jobs. 

The Michigan Employment Opportunity Program would provide financial support for the creation of certified new jobs through capture of income tax from those jobs, the economic leaders told the House Committee on Commerce and Tourism.

‘A new chapter’

“It’s a new year and a new chapter in Michigan’s jobs story. We get to choose our next headline,” Owens says. “Will our leaders show their commitment to truly revamping our approach to economic development and earning new jobs for this state? If we stop now, we will continue to suffer the headlines that show Ohio, Indiana and our southern competitors growing while we fall further behind. We need this program in place to keep Michigan in the running for new jobs and future growth.” 

The bills approved at the end of last year are a great start, but we’re far from the finish line, adds Maureen Krauss, CEO of the Detroit Regional Partnership.

“Other states still hold significant advantages over us in terms of competitive resources, the largest one being our lack of a competitive, consistent incentive structure that can put us within reach of the jobs of the future," she says.

Under the proposal, if a company does not create the number of jobs specified, it would receive no funding. The bill creates three tiers for income tax capture, depending on the community’s population, the number of jobs created, and the average wage offered for newly created positions. The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency says this approach likely would result in a fiscal gain to the state. 

“Our strategic reserves are shored up to help cement investments that were already in the development pipeline and begin site preparation for future projects,” says James McBryde, President and CEO of Middle Michigan Development Corporation. “And yet, one smart bill package will not get us to a sound competitive position. To get back on the national radar and attract the kind of investment we need to grow our industry base, the Michigan Employment Opportunity Program must be approved.”

The legislation is House Bills 5425-5426.
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