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Issue No. 6
November 2017
The Business Advocate
A Letter from the President

Let's try an experiment. Head over to your next-door neighbor and ask them this question:

Do you think public works projects, paid for by taxpayers, should use American-made goods whenever possible?
Now, ask them another:

Do you want your tax dollars shipped to another country to buy goods, when those goods are already made in America at a comparable price and quality?

I bet you already know the answers you'd get. As president and CEO of the Saginaw County Chamber, it's my job to make sure the diverse businesses in our region receive equal consideration and support when taxpayers' dollars are being spent and policies are being made. That includes domestic and Michigan-made steel.

Saginaw County is proud to be a manufacturing community and is home to automotive, aerospace, high-tech manufacturing, tool and dye companies and others that use steel. Producing steel here creates jobs that provide a great living wage for families and helps solidify our middle class. And beyond the local economic benefits, supporting domestically made steel means a more secure region, state and nation.

Fighter jets, tanks and ships all require materials like steel and aluminum to be built, and we need a strong industrial base to create those materials. Right now, though, Michigan and American industries like these are at risk.

For the past several years, China's government-owned companies have produced more steel and aluminum than the country can possibly use. In 2015 alone, China's steel overcapacity hit 336 million metric tons. China needs to do something with all that extra product, so it ships it to the United States and prices it far below fair market value.

For too many Michigan businesses, this is not an unfamiliar story. China is seeking to dominate the market, and it's putting American steel and aluminum companies out of business. Sadly, it's been a successful strategy - dozens of U.S. steel plants have closed and tens of thousands of steelworkers have faced layoffs. Meanwhile, there's only one American smelter left to produce aerospace-quality aluminum.

A federal national security investigation into these practices and steel and aluminum imports has been launched. If that investigation concludes that these imports are indeed a threat, the president could respond.

One thing is clear: If Michigan and American steel and aluminum makers - and the countless manufacturers and companies they serve who rely on those products - continue to face this onslaught of imports, more American jobs will be lost and more American companies will go out of business. That means we might be forced to rely on nations like China or Russia for the steel and aluminum we need to make our fighter jets, tanks, ships and more.

At the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, we are working to make sure our local employers have the best opportunity to make quality, Michigan-made products that support our region and nation.  It is important that the Trump administration act to support the domestic steel industry. It is crucial for our region and all those who live, work and do business here, and it is important for the security of our nation.

Bob Van Deventer
President/CEO, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce

Saginaw River Deep Water Feasibility Study
Work continues in anticipation of the release of the first public draft of the Saginaw River Deep Water Port Feasibility Study.
To recap: The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce is leading a team including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE), Saginaw Future Inc., the Counties of Saginaw and Bay, the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance and the private sector. All parties are involved in a feasibility study to deepen the Saginaw River shipping channel.

Saginaw County is the official partner of record with the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USCOE). The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce and Saginaw Future Inc, have been the drivers in identifying matching funds required by the federal government (50% match from another source.)  With the help of Senators Ken Horn and (retired) Senator Roger Kahn, we have successfully raised over $225,000 towards the local match requirement. We are keeping our federal legislators up to speed on our efforts and will enlist their support for this project.

One critical component of the study is to demonstrate the potential return on investment for a project of this size.  In other words, how much economic development or increased shipping can be expected if the Saginaw River is deepened? The Chamber has been working to identify companies that might consider transporting their goods utilizing shipping as an option over rail or truck. We connect them with the USACOE to demonstrate the potential cost benefit of deepening the Saginaw River.  Important area economic sectors that seem promising for utilizing shipping options are agribusiness and manufacturing.
Governor Signs Transformational Legislation Bill in Bearinger Building in Downtown Saginaw

The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce is at the forefront of all things legislative, policy and political. Please  feel free to contact Bob Van Deventer, President & CEO at 989-752-7161 or email him at .
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The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce is a leader in the Saginaw County Community when it comes to community betterment projects, and legislation that can positively impact the economic health of Saginaw County and the State of Michigan.
Because of this focus, we work with our elected officials - developing and maintaining relationships with them so that they understand the kinds of positions we support to move our community and state forward.  For many years, the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has undertaken a process to evaluate and interview candidates for public office. 
Our process includes a written questionnaire, with questions that are relevant to economic viability, small and large business interests and job creation.  In addition, we conduct fact-to-face interviews with candidates and then endorse candidates that most closely align with our principles.

The Saginaw County Chamber Board of Directors determined that to have the greatest influence for offices, we will focus our efforts on candidate races for Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives, elections on the county level (Saginaw) and Saginaw City Council races.

In 2018, the following offices will be up for election.  The office holder is listed next to the District Number.  Since the deadline to file is April 24, 2018 at 4 pm, we will not know who has filed for reelection until then.

State Senate in Michigan - all Michigan Senate seats are up for election.  We will consider endorsements for the Saginaw County Seat.
  • 32nd - Ken Horn eligible for another term
Michigan House of Representatives - all 110 Michigan House of Representative seats are up.  We will consider endorsements for the following 3 seats that cover portions of Saginaw County:
  • 94th - Open Seat - Tim Kelly termed out
  • 95th - Vanessa Guerra eligible for 3rd Term
  • 85th - Ben Frederick eligible for 2 more Terms
Saginaw County Board of Commissioners - All 11 Seats are up - NO Term Limits
Current Commissioners include:
  • District 1 - Kathy Dwan
  • District 2 - Chuck Stack
  • District 3 - Kirk Kilpatrick
  • District 4 - Susan McInerney
  • District 5 - Jim Theisen
  • District 6 - Kyle Harris
  • District 7 - Cheryl Hadsall
  • District 8 - Dennis Krafft
  • District 9 - Amos O'Neal
  • District 10 - Carl Ruth
  • District 11 - Michael Webster
Ballot Proposals
There are over 70 active ballot committees on the Michigan Secretary of State Web Site.  They are all positioned to raise money to support or oppose ballot questions.

Of those committees, generally a few successfully advance their idea and gather the necessary valid signatures within the allotted time period to end up on the ballot in November of an election year.

Here is a list of those ballot proposals that appear most likely to appear on the ballot in 2018. If the Chamber's position is not indicated, the board has not reviewed the issue as of the date of this publication.
  • Part Time Legislature - A group known as the Clean Michigan Government is driving this potential ballot proposal.  If passed, it would make the Michigan Legislature part-time. It would limit the legislature to meeting for 90 session days, served consecutively rather than at various times throughout the year, cut legislator salaries in half and tie their compensation to teacher pay.
  • Elimination of the Prevailing Wage Law (Chamber stayed neutral on this issue)
  • Legalization of Recreational Use of Marijuana
  • Minimum Wage Increase (Chamber opposes)
  • Paid Sick Time (Chamber opposes)
  • Statutory Initiative to Shut Down Line 5 (Enbridge)
  • Change in the Reapportionment Process (Gerrymandering)  
Local Millages
  • Saginaw County Senior Citizens Millage renewal.  Currently .43 mills.  Unknown if they will ask for an increase.
The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce will be monitoring these initiatives closely and working with our partners at the Michigan Chamber and other business organizations.  Our board of directors will determine both our position on ballot initiatives and the level of effort the Chamber will take to support or oppose those initiatives in the 2018 election.