Governor travels to Niles

Published 6:26 am Monday, April 17, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Governor Jennifer Granholm has not shied away from traveling during her time in office.
Since Granholm was sworn into office on the first day of 2003, she has made trips to Germany and Japan, as well as some of Michigan's neighbors including Chicago and Indiana.
Saturday afternoon at a stop at the American Legion Post 26 in Niles, the governor made it clear she plans to continue soliciting foreign companies to choose Michigan as a place to expand.
The governor spent most of Saturday making stops around Southwest Michigan to outline an economic plan to revive Michigan's struggling economy.
The idea behind attracting more large businesses to Michigan, Granholm said, is to pursue companies that focus on advanced technology and manufacturing, alternative energy, life sciences and homeland security and defense.
The governor met with Daimler Chrysler AG executives during a 2004 trip to Germany that was paid for by the Michigan Economic Development Fund, which is not tied to public dollars, and with the heads of Toyota on a trip to Japan in the summer of 2005. The goal of both visits was to attract high-tech companies involved in the automotive industry to move to or expand in Michigan with hopes of creating more jobs.
Making visits to top international companies in their home territory is simply a necessity of Granholm's position, Cass County Commissioner and Howard Township resident, Johnie Rodebush said.
Rodebush also pointed out Granholm's trips are specifically intended to create jobs.
Michigan's current chief is not the first to travel internationally in attempts to improve the state's economy. Granholm's predecessor, John Engler, made economic development trips to Japan, China, Europe, Canada and Mexico while holding the top job in Michigan.
Shortly after Granholm's visit to Japan, a major manufacturer, researcher and developer of automobile switches, locks and keys and seatbelts, Tokai Rika, announced plans to expand its operations in Battle Creek, Jackson and Plymouth. Tokai Rika, a division of Toyota Motor Company, estimated in July of 2005 the $50 million investment would create 230 jobs by 2009.
More plans from Toyota have begun to surface closer to Southwest Michigan with the possibility of a new assembly and engine plant in Benton Harbor. Granholm said she has not received final confirmation from Toyota but has encouraged the Japanese auto maker to “build in the auto capitol of the world.”
Granholm said she expected Toyota would make the decision within the next nine months.
Granholm acknowledged Michigan's economy is struggling, but said her Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow plan will continue to improve upon the success already produced since its inception in 2005.
Granholm pointed to the 331,000 jobs her administration has created or retained and the 28,000 unemployed who are now working because of the MI Opportunity Partnership, which partners with the Michigan Works! System of job placement.
Whether or not the economy improves on Granholm's watch will be determined by voters Nov. 7.
Shelley Thomson, co-chair of the event with Edie, was also excited to have the Governor in Niles. “I am thrilled with the way it went,” she added. They sold 150 tickets and more at the door for a standing room only crowd.
One man who was honored to shake Granholm's hand, Gary Karch of Niles, said he was inspired. “it was an excellent message … to create jobs. That's where the future lies.”