Amid what she called an "economic hurricane in Michigan," Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Wednesday touted her jobs plan to dozens of community members at a downtown restaurant.
"This is my opportunity to hear from my employers," she told the crowd of about 75 gathered at Shrank's Cafeteria. "We need all hands on deck."
The governor's Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow plan might benefit students the most. It suggests offering $4,000, two-year scholarships to everyone who graduates from high school. The scholarship would be in the form of a forgivable student loan, provided the recipient completes two years of higher education.
Susan Berry, a Battle Creek resident and participant in Granholm's "round table" discussion, thanked the Democrat for her own educational opportunities and said she supported the governor's proposed plan.
"I was downsized from Eaton's. I didn't know what to do," said Berry, who used a state-funded training program and now works as a lab technician in Kalamazoo. "My family said I had to get an education and I agreed. I felt manufacturing wasn't going to be around, I had to find something else."
Granholm's visit to the Cereal City marked day two in a series of "community conversations" that will take the governor to seven cities this week.
"We need to properly train our young people, our state's future work force," Granholm said. "It shouldn't be a question of if they continue their education, but where."
In addition to educational incentives, the governor's proposed plan includes tax cuts for business owners and tax incentives for manufacturers, infrastructure improvements that could create thousands of new jobs, improvements to the current worker training and placement program and investing up to $2 billion in Michigan's economy over the next decade, potentially creating 72,000 jobs in a variety of industries.
"Michigan is falling behind because we're so tied to one industry (automotive)," Granholm said. "We are the state most affected by globalization."
Not everyone agrees, however.
Republican Jase Bolger of Marshall, a Calhoun County commissioner and small business owner, said the governor's words contradict her actions.
"As a small business owner, I have a full understanding of the importance of marketing," he said in a written statement issued before Granholm's visit. "While I appreciate that Governor Granholm has talked about marketing our state, I am frustrated by her administration's attacks on our local businesses. It is clear to me that she is saying one thing and doing another."
The governor said she has visited Battle Creek several times recently because the city is an example of a successful collaborative effort.
"It means that the community - the business community, the education community, the economic developers - are all working in sync," she said. "Battle Creek is an example of a community that has it together and that's why we're excited by the projects that are coming here."
Stacy Hanna covers business. She can be reached at 966-0468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published October 13, 2005
Stacy Hanna The Enquirer