It’s time to double down on economic development efforts to attract future businesses

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Sometimes we look away from the ball, then we have a collective seminal moment where the consequences explode in our face and we breathe deeply and feel the fear. But it also provides a moment that can rally us, line up, and do great things, all without ever taking their eyes off that ball.

The state of Michigan is experiencing such a moment with Ford’s recent announcement of its $ 11 billion, 11,000 job multiple Blue Oval battery and electric car factories to be located in Tennessee and Kentucky. , not here in Michigan. It’s a shock. There is no other way to water it down, as the future auto industry is still crucial to our entire Michigan economy.

Every business has the right and indeed the duty to analyze its own needs and what is best for its product and its investors, in order to make the best choice for itself. Their bottom line.

Choice. This word is basically what economic development is. Increase the likelihood that our hometown will become a great choice, if not the best, and beat all others.

Incentives. This word is how, when all other factors are roughly equal across sites, states, and countries, we tilt the playing field just enough in our direction, allowing a business to make its best decision and to select us rather than another.

When a company chooses to select us, when a company accepts a carefully presented incentive package, the magic of life happens for the people of a community: good direct jobs of all kinds and construction work flourish. , populations increase with their need for business services and goods, small main street retail outlets get customers with the disposable income they need to survive and thrive, charities receive new donations, neighborhoods are filled with families, homes bought and repaired, and these empty schools reopen and fill with children and teachers. The revenues go to the government, providing the quality services we all want and expect: parks, roads, police, firefighters, schools, arts and culture.

I say the following in a spirit of optimism, not criticism, so that we can learn and come together: Over the past 10 years, Michigan’s leaders – including people on both sides of the aisle – have sometimes looked away from economic development. , reducing our incentive toolbox and tying our excellent economic development agency and collective local efforts to a node of overcompliance and red tape. I could argue that, as a result, as a state, we are sometimes less aggressive in doing everything possible to win big projects.

However, the game is not over. Not by far.

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LEAP, our regional partners in Greater Lansing and, yes, Michigan as a whole can and will unite and land electric car battery factories, assembly plants and other major non-auto businesses through actions of aggressive and intelligent incentive.

Our collective work to establish a better global environment – that of education, skills training, small business development, entrepreneurship, diversity equity and inclusion programs and place creation – also goes hand in hand with this most needed incentive toolkit. Neither works well without the other. But this incentive toolkit needs special attention now.

LEAP understood this holistic approach, coordinating well for 10 years. But, as a state, we need to do better, especially with so much federal bailout money available, to double our economic development efforts. I am convinced that we can and will do this together.

Bob Trezise is President and CEO of Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP).


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