Our Focus in 2016
Michigan Autonomous Vehicle Legislation
Innovative and exciting legislation was signed into law that will position Saginaw as a lead source for technological innovation in the emerging autonomous vehicle industry.
A package of senate bills, sponsored by Senators Mike Kowall, Rebekah Warren and Ken Horn will create a competitive advantage for Michigan to be at the forefront of the next major transition in the automotive industry and could serve as a national model for other states to emulate. It provides the proper regulatory approach and tools to introduce autonomous vehicles and technologies in a safe and publicly accepted manner - and allows Michigan, the birthplace of the automotive industry, to redefine the future of transportation.
Saginaw County and the Great Lakes Bay Region can be one of the major benefactors of this legislation with the presence of Nexteer Automotive and other automotive technology companies, as this quickly emerging technology moves forward.
As the transportation industry evolves, Michigan must stay ahead of the curve (and competition) from across the globe. This legislation places Michigan well-positioned to grow the advancing automotive industry and remain a global leader in research and development.
The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce supported the legislation and participated in the public hearing of the Senate Economic Development and International Development Committee at Nexteer Automotive on August 31. The legislation passed unanimously out of committee and out of the Michigan Senate. The Governor signed the legislation in December.
Since the legislation passed, Governor Snyder announced that UBER
- Uber Technologies Inc. will open a facility in metro Detroit to help it collaborate with automakers and suppliers in the area.
The move is the latest convergence of Silicon Valley and the Motor City
as partnerships grow in connection to companies competing to test and produce fleets of self-driving vehicles.
Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Legislation - Transformational Brownfield Plan
Legislation to assist "Transformational Projects"
(those big projects that can change the vitality of an urban area) was introduced in the Michigan Senate as the State competes nationally to retain and attract young people to the next generation jobs.
Currently, Michigan ranks 46
th in the nation in the percentage of 25-34 year olds in our population, despite having one of the great university systems in the nation. We know that we continue to lose far too many of our best and brightest college graduates and that it is important for us to keep this talent in order for Michigan to remain competitive.
However, urban areas, where young people gravitate for jobs and housing, are the most difficult to redevelop. It is especially difficult in a city like Saginaw which used foundry sand to construct building and housing. The entire city is a Brownfield.
Federal EPA regulations on Brownfield clean-up are a major hindrance in redevelopment and one of the biggest reasons developers run away from urban redevelopment projects.
This legislation will add a new category to the Brownfield TIF Act for large-scale, transformational projects. It allows for capture of
part of the incremental sales tax and residential income tax generated from within the footprint of the project in order to make the development possible. It applies only to mixed-use projects and requires a strict minimum investment threshold with strict caps limiting both eligibility and number of projects that can be approved.
With the current redevelopment occurring in Saginaw (new Delta College Downtown campus, new Farmer's Market, CMU Medical School, FirstMerit Bank Event Park and the Bancroft and Eddy apartments), a transformational project could be the catalyst to a vibrant downtown and city and help mitigate the risk/cost a developer faces.
The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce fully supported the legislation. However, Speaker Kevin Cotter would not take the legislation up for a vote. We fully expect this important legislation to be introduced in January, 2017.
Michigan Energy Legislation
The Michigan Legislature ended the 2015-2016 legislative session on a high note with passage of critical legislation to ensure Michigan's energy future. Revising and updating Michigan's energy policy to strengthen the state's competitiveness was a top legislative priority for the Michigan Chamber.
Job providers and residents alike need energy laws that ensure a reliable system at cost effective rates. SB 437 is a fair and balanced compromise that successfully addresses three key issues: sustaining customer choice; implementing meaningful competitive bidding; and improving reliability for all Michigan ratepayers.
Saginaw County Chamber members had differing perspectives on individual aspects of the Energy Legislation, however, the Chamber supported the final compromise package which included some valuable energy savings for those members. The Chamber will continue to work to find competitive rates for large industrial users and support legislation that holds down energy costs for all of our members.
We appreciate and applaud the leadership of Governor Snyder, State Senator Mike Nofs, Senator Ken Horn, and State Representative Aric Nesbitt whose tireless efforts led to the formulation of a bi-partisan solution to Michigan's energy needs.
In mid-December, Energy Legislation passed the House and was signed into law by Governor Snyder.
Suburban Employer Income Tax Withholding
Thanks to the Chamber's tireless advocacy, lawmakers were
to garner the necessary votes to mandate that employers become tax collectors for cities.
Senate Bill 1127 and House Bill 4829 were proposed in response to complaints by cities that levy an income tax. The cities complained that they were losing revenue due to ineffective collections or taxpayer fraud. The solution legislators sought was to shift tax collecting responsibilities to businesses, even if businesses were not connected in any fashion to the city at issue.
While the Saginaw County Chamber joined with a coalition, including the Michigan Chamber to successfully kill the legislation this session, we fully expect this issue to return in 2017.
Deep Water Port Study
The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Saginaw Future Inc., successfully obtained $225,000, in addition to $50,000 obtained earlier this year, to continue its efforts with Saginaw County Government and the US Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a feasibility study to make the Saginaw River a Deep Water Port.
A first draft of the study is expected to be released in October 2017.