Michigan jobs: Reform is a state of mindPublished 10:44am Friday, February 19, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
This week the Star has taken a closer look at a recent report released by the Michigan House Republican Jobs Task Force that focuses on jobs in Michigan – how the state can put its unemployed back to work and keep the workers and struggling business owners that they have.
Those business owners have discussed their frustration with taxes, fees and paperwork and the increasing allure of neighboring states without as many tedious hurdles.
The report’s third central focus is on reform. Its objectives include everything from expanding energy capabilities to taking a harder line in preventing unemployment insurance fraud – something business owners say is becoming an increasing problem – to limiting regulation and providing better customer service.
Even with more than a year’s worth of research done by members of the task force, with a closer look at objectives and even a few favorable opinions by Gov. Granholm for a few of the report’s initiatives, questions remain.
Specifically, will these initiatives be put into action – and how long before business owners feel relief and the jobless find jobs?
“It’s been a real eye opener,” said Judy Machalleck of Coloma, who has been working with Michigan Works in her search for unemployment. “I mean I have never been without a job.”
Machalleck was laid off in June. An employee for a company based out of Auburn, Ind. with two plants in Michigan, Machalleck’s work was in Information Technology and she said the layoff came as a surprise.
Between nine and 11 of Machalleck’s coworkers lost their jobs that day.
“I was just amazed that I was let go. Maybe that was just arrogance on my part,” she said. “I knew things were slowing down at the plants, I knew what the plants were going through.
“I was very surprised that it happened to me,” Machalleck said.
Now Machalleck splits her time between job searching online and some part time work she recently found in retail.
She doesn’t blame her employer.
“It’s not only in Michigan it’s all over the US,” she said. “But we have to bring the jobs back home. Let’s face it, we have to quit outsourcing.”
State Rep. John Proos, R- St. Joseph, chairman of the Jobs Task Force says the state must look at what he calls “economic gardening rather than economic hunting,” essentially focusing on those industries and businesses Michigan already has.
Putting renewed focus on certain industries including agriculture, alleviating some of the pressure on owners by cutting taxes and reducing unemployment liability may help – but it will also take time.
And almost more importantly, it seems, reform will have to come in a change of the state’s overall mindset.
Proos said just this week he was informed of a southwest Michigan company who approached the Michigan Economic Development Corporation with an opportunity to acquire a significant contract that would immediately open 35 Michigan jobs. That company asked the MEDC what it could do to help them and were turned away, Proos said.
“The MEDC point blank said to these business owners, ‘you’re not expecting 50 employees, we can’t talk to you about it,’” Proos said.
“There are artificial barriers that exist for Michigan companies that already exist,” he added. “Who are we as Michigan government to say that a company whose five to 10 employees couldn’t be tomorrow’s 50 to 100?”
It’s a thought that might frighten those business owners who are trying hard to keep doors open in Michigan.
The effort is coming from both Proos fellow house republicans and legislators on the other side of the political line.
A spokesperson for Sen. Debbie Stabenow told the Star, that the Democratic senator is “working to eliminate the capital gains tax on small businesses, help community and local banks resume lending to business owners, and improve access to Small Business Administration loans and resources. These efforts are creating new jobs across Michigan today and are just a few provisions that Stabenow is working on that will help businesses in Niles make additional investments in the community and put people back to work.”
In the meantime, folks like Machalleck search job banks online and get help from organizations like Michigan Works, who also eagerly await reform.
“Michigan has led the country in outward migration for at least four years,” said Todd Gustafson, executive director at Michigan Works. “Youth flight and brain drain are a concern for us and the employers we serve, but what we see on the ground level is that many job-seekers we serve want to stay in this area if they can find employment. We’re anticipating a future demand for “middle-skills” jobs in this area and we’re aggressively training local residents for these types of jobs.”
For people across the state like Machalleck, reform can’t come soon enough.
“It’s very discouraging,” she said. “It’s very discouraging to look for a job.”
To see the full report visit www.gophouse.com.