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Chamber Priorities for Small Business and Education Featured in Gov’s $2.1 Billion Economic Development Proposal

On Monday, Aug. 23, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer laid out a $2.1 billion proposal to grow Michigan’s middle class, support small businesses, and invest in communities by tackling several underlying issues. As Michigan’s economic jumpstart continues, Gov. Whitmer’s proposals will tackle underlying issues faced by families, communities, and small businesses and take advantage of the historic influx in federal resources to deliver meaningful change that makes a real difference in people’s lives. The money would come from the American Rescue Plan, and needs support from the legislature before it can start to be allocated.

Gov. Whitmer’s plan would allocate $651 million to support small businesses, $722 million “to grow the middle class”, and $800 million to build community housing. The Chamber advocated hard for the small business support and educational programs to increase talent and education programs that will make our state more competitive in a global marketplace. The proposal provides further support and funding for Detroit Regional Chamber priorities, including:

  • Using ARP funds to invest in a better data system that links education data with labor market outcomes.
  • Expanding access to the Michigan and Detroit Reconnect programs by lowering the participation age from 25 to 21. 
  • Providing grants that could cover wrap-around supports to Reconnectors for non-tuition needs.
  • Creating a “Comebacker” scholarship for those who stopped out of four-year institutions but want to return.
  • Allocating grants to higher education institutions that would allow them to ensure their programs are better aligned with labor market needs.

“A thriving Michigan requires a transformational economic development strategy to advance our state’s competitiveness in a global marketplace,” said Sandy K. Baruah, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “The Chamber continues to advocate for strategically investing American Rescue Plan funds to create the growth-oriented business climate necessary to be leaders in talent development and attraction, small business support, and innovation.”

Support for Small Businesses

To support small businesses and create better jobs, the plan is building on her $300 million Michigan Mainstreet Initiative, which offers grants to restaurants, place-based businesses, and microenterprises with further dollars to attract more start-ups. She outlined a $200 million investment to create a more conducive business environment for high-tech, high-growth start-ups and create jobs of the future in Michigan. The Governor put forward $40 million to speed up electric vehicle charging infrastructure and $100 million to prepare manufacturers and the workforce for opportunities of the future. Finally, she proposed an $11 million investment into the STEM Forward program, which places STEM students in internships in Michigan and improves talent attraction and retention.

Educational Programs

To grow the middle class and educate workers, the plan calls for a $215 million expansion of Michigan Reconnect and Future for Frontliners, $70 million investment to growing the pipeline of talented workers to industry, a $100 million influx for the Going Pro credential program, and further investments in programs that offer work experience to Michiganders earning their GEDs and help those reentering society after incarceration transition into the workforce.

Community Development

To invest in our communities, the proposal expanded on her previous proposal to put $100 million towards building 2,000 units, create 1,600 jobs, and house 6,000 Michiganders. She’s proposing a further $50 million to create healthier, cleaner, and more energy-efficient homes, $100 million to rehabilitate vacant buildings, and $200 million to redevelop brownfield sites. She also proposed $100 million to build development-ready sites conducive to business investment.

“Since day one, I have been laser-focused on putting Michiganders first and tackling kitchen-table issues with real, tangible solutions,” said Gov. Whitmer. “As we emerge from the once-in-a-century pandemic, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to use billions in federal resources to grow Michigan’s middle class, support small businesses, and invest in our communities. With the $2.1 billion in proposals I have laid out, we can raise wages, give people paths to high-skill jobs, grow start-ups, build clean energy infrastructure, and do so much more. I’m utilizing every resource and ensuring that we continue to take bold action to help families, communities and small businesses thrive. Together, we can usher in new era of prosperity for Michigan.”