State Rep. Sarah Lightner today voted to approve a new economic incentive tool that will make Michigan communities more attractive for job growth.
Michigan was recently passed over by the homegrown Ford Motor Company for a large multi-billion-dollar investment in manufacturing, with state officials admitting the state “was not actively involved” in a bid to host the new developments. Experts have since highlighted the lack of job-ready sites in the state when discussing the failure, and Ford itself pointed to a new selection method that takes far more factors into account than in previous decisions.
Lightner, of Springport, said the plan approved by the House will allow the state to invest in site-preparation projects and economic development projects that diversify and strengthen the economy.
“Our old economic development strategies simply are not helping us compete for jobs any longer,” Lightner said. “As new and expanding businesses decide where to invest money and jobs, they’re being heavily recruited by other states with more to offer. We need tools that help our local communities get vacant sites ready for development and incentives that attract interest from investors.”
House Bills 5602-04 create the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund, which the Legislature will be able to utilize to create incentives that help Michigan communities remain competitive in the modern economy.
The Legislature will set money aside in the SOAR Fund to illustrate its commitment to remaining competitive for economic development projects. In addition to economic assistance for critical industries, the fund could be used to get future job sites ready for development and create workforce training opportunities in local communities.
State leaders would then negotiate with job providers and move forward only with opportunities that include strong protections for Michigan taxpayers. The Legislature would control when and how the SOAR fund gets used – creating transparency and giving the people of Michigan a voice in the process. All project agreements would include clear benchmarks. Safeguards like in-depth reporting requirements and claw-back provisions would hold bad actors accountable if they don’t create the jobs they promise.
House Bills 5602-04 were approved with bipartisan support, advancing them to the Senate for further consideration.