Business Advocate Header
Issue No. 4
Jan 2017
The Business Advocate
 
Dear Members,

Of the three core promises we make to you...

Connect,
Communicate,
Influence...

it's our promise of
Influence that really becomes important in an election year, and what a year it was!
 
The nation, the State of Michigan and even Saginaw County certainly saw change in the November, 2016 elections.

The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce supports candidates who share our free-market philosophy and who work to create an economic environment that helps businesses prosper.

We endorse candidates for state, county and Saginaw City Council positions.  This year, we are pleased to share that we endorsed 13 out of the 14 candidates elected; a notable record!  Supporting these elected officials helps us maintain and strengthen our relationships with them as they work on legislation that affects our members.

In this final wrap-up issue for 2016, we take a look at our accomplishments and legislation we worked on.  We are also providing you with a glimpse of what we'll be working on in 2017.

There are many good things happening in Saginaw County.  Know that we will continue to advocate on your behalf and will partner with organizations like Saginaw Future Inc., the Great Lakes Bay Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, other Chambers across the state, and business organizations that share our vision.

Our Board of Directors believes that the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce has a responsibility to our members and our community to advocate for issues and elected officials that will make this community a better place to conduct business, generate jobs and build careers.

Sincerely,
 
Bob Van Deventer
President/CEO, Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce
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  Novi  - 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  not able  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.
 
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2016 Legislative 
Wrap-Up

In addition to preparing yearly legislative priorities and conducting candidate interviews for various state and county offices in preparation for the Board's endorsement, over the past year, the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce actively participated in a number of legislative and community issues on behalf of our nearly 1,000 members. Several of them are ongoing projects that will carry over into 2017.

In this edition of the Business Advocate, we'll provide you with an overview of each of the projects we've been working on and the results of each.
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Our Focus in 2017

Transformational Project - TIF Legislation

Over the past 6 years, incentives to attract and retain businesses in Michigan have been eliminated. This creative legislation would incentivize large economic development projects that would not happen "but for" some help through reducing the risk that a developer takes on a project this large.
 
The Transformation legislation would allow a developer to capture a portion of any  new  taxes created as new residents and/or businesses locate in the development.  In addition, the investment must qualify according to the population of its location (Saginaw would require a minimum $25 million investment/project).  The legislation also limits the number of projects allowed each year.
 
The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce supports this legislation and expects it to be introduced in the Opening Legislative Session.
 
FirstMerit Bank Event Park

The FirstMerit Bank Event Park is a first-class outdoor venue, built in 2013.  It has attracted national events and continues to provide family entertainment to this region and beyond.  Festival and concert attendees have come from virtually every county in Michigan.  This facility has exceeded all expectations!

Quality of Life assets are one of the most important things we can offer residents in and around the Great Lakes Bay Region, and the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce continues through partnerships to assist in improving those assets.
 
In the case of The Dow Event Center and the FirstMerit Bank Event Park, accommodations are necessary to attract and book national acts, and some improvements are needed to enhance the performers' and the attendees' experience. The FirstMerit Bank Event Park staff successfully applied for a grant and were awarded $37,000.
 
The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce, are working in partnership with Saginaw Future Inc, Dow Event Center/FirstMerit Bank Event Park Staff and the County of Saginaw to access the final $92,000 in funds to complete Phase IV of the project.
 
We are optimistic that we can help secure the funding needed for this great community venue!
 
Legislative Policy Statements

Every two years, the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce develops broad policy statements addressing our positions on tax policy, regulatory climate in Michigan, energy policy, legal reform and technology.
 
The Saginaw County Chamber's Board of Directors ratifies these policy statements which allows the Chamber to take positions on issues and join coalitions around the state that share our pro-business; pro-growth policies.
 
The Policy Document will be available to members in early 2017.
 
Legislative Events

The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce hosts several legislative events throughout the year.
 
The first of these was on Friday, January 20 th, when the chamber hosted  The First 100 days of the Trump Administration - A look at what our members can expect from President-Elect Trump.  This breakfast event featured presenter Ben Taylor, Public Affairs/Executive Director from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
 
State of County, State of City
A tradition each year, the  February Percolator Breakfast is dedicated to looking at the local governments in Saginaw County.  The Annual State of the City/State of the County will take place at 7:30 a.m. at The Dow Event Center on Thursday, February 2 featuring Saginaw Mayor Dennis Browning and Saginaw County Board of Commissioners Chair Carl Ruth.


Two additional legislative events complete the Chamber's Public Policy Bites series in 2017. On the Record for Breakfast  on April 28 brings in a top legislative leader who will update our members on a topic important to business and to our region, and  Out of the Frying Pan: A Legislative Luncheon  provides a speaker, panel or political commentator to discuss legislative concerns and current political issues of the day.



Questions?

As you can see, 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 Bob@SaginawChamber.org .