Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is getting a little tired of talking about fixing the roads. But she won’t stop talking about it until the problem is solved. During a presentation to the Great Lakes Bay Economic Club, Whitmer said road improvements are one key to improving Michigan’s economy and quality of life.
Before the meeting began, Magen Samyn, club president, asked for a moment of silence for Alan W. Ott, who died on January 12 after serving on numerous area boards for years.
“We have many of our friends who are unable to make it today because they are honoring the late Alan Ott. As many of you know, Alan was very impactful for our region for many, many decades.”
Whitmer also spoke briefly about Ott’s impact on the region. “It is a terrible loss and I certainly offer my condolences to his family and to the community.”
Whitmer promised her Friday, January 17 speech at Saginaw Valley State University would touch on many of the points she’ll emphasize during her State of the State Address Jan. 29 at 7:00 p.m.
At SVSU, she touched on two main issues – roads and education. She argued that addressing the state’s declining roads and providing additional education funding will led to economic growth.
Road Improvements Remain a Priority
The poor condition of roads in the state creates safety hazards and is an obstacle to economic development, Whitmer said. She told the audience about a conversation she had with a Chemical Bank employee during the luncheon before her speech. The employee told her about a recent merger that nearly lead to moving the bank’s headquarters to Minnesota. Whitmer said one argument for the move was the condition of Michigan’s roads. In the end, the bank’s headquarters remained in Michigan, but Whitmer said she often hears similar stories.
“This is just one example salient to the people in this room of why this infrastructure crisis is bad for our economy,” Whitmer said.
“I gotta tell you, I am getting tired of saying the same thing over and over again. But I’m saying it because it’s important. I’m saying it because we have work to do. I wouldn’t repeat myself if it wasn’t absolutely critical. Our failing infrastructure is the number 1 crisis facing Michigan. It is a threat to our public safety, our business bottom lines, and the future of our state. It is only going to get worse if we don’t take action now.”
Education Funding Remains a Focus
Throughout the presentation, Whitmer specifically addressed a group of third graders in the audience. She also talked about funding changes that could help schools in low-income areas meet student needs and an increase in the number of literacy coaches.
“We took a step in the right direction, but we need to take many more,” Whitmer said. “Our schools still don’t have the resources they need to pay teachers or to upgrade technology and to reduce class sizes.”
She also reminded the audience that education doesn’t stop after high school. Whitmer said Michigan has a talent gap. Skilled jobs exist, but people don’t have the skills to fill them. She has proposed Michigan Reconnect to provide a tuition-free pathway to people 25 and older pursuing an in-demand certification.
“When Michiganders have skills, they make more money, and when they make more money, our economy is stronger,” Whitmer said.
During 2019, she traveled the state encouraging high school seniors to make concrete plans for learning skills that lead to careers. At SVSU, she specifically mentioned encouraging the students to pursue education through the skilled trades, community colleges, and universities.
Finally, Whitmer encouraged everyone, not just legislators, to stay involved in efforts to bolster Michigan’s roads, schools, and economy. She also promised more detail on her plans in the upcoming State of the State address.
“I certainly will go into a lot more detail when I give the State of the State, so I hope that you still stay tuned,” Whitmer said.