when something goes right
Well it's likely to lose me
It's apt to confuse me
because it's such an unusual sight.
That’s a familiar feeling in Michigan these days. But last week, something did go right. Two somethings, in fact.
On Friday, General Motors announced it would build a new small, fuel-efficient car at a plant in Oakland County’s Orion Township. That means twelve hundred jobs were saved that would have been lost. Michigan was competing against Tennessee and Wisconsin, and we won. Nobody knows exactly why GM made that choice, but this much is clear: Michigan officials pulled together and worked hard and creatively in order to make it happen.
Originally, a factory in Spring Hill, Tennessee appeared to have all the advantages. As the Detroit Free Press’s Katherine Yung noted last weekend, Spring Hill is a more modern plant.
It also has a paint shop. The factory in Orion Township didn’t have a paint shop, and you might have figured that was that. Especially since it costs around $180 million to build one. But spurred by pressure from Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation went to work.
The MEDC set up what amounted to a war room, where staffers monitored what the other states were offering. Eventually, they cobbled together a bunch of business tax incentives and offered GM a tax credit package worth $779 million.
The governor lobbied GM intensely, and in the end, it all paid off. Now, there are those who think this whole decision may have been political. After all, the government now owns most of General Motors. Michigan has the nation’s highest jobless rate, and state Democrats could use a break before next year’s elections.
Tennessee, on the other hand, is hopelessly Republican. Did the President intervene here? People in the know say not. The governor was told flatly that this would be a business decision, and Obama’s auto task force would not be involved.
The day before that welcome auto news, the state scored another coup that could have even greater potential implications.
General Electric announced it would hire more than a thousand workers for an operation in western Wayne County that will focus heavily on renewable energy, especially the form the governor is most passionate about: wind technology. In this case, there is evidence that the President pushed GE to consider Michigan. What matters, however, is not how we got the project, but that we did.
The governor has long had a vision of the state turning to wind power, not only as a source of energy, but as a major source of new jobs making the components that make wind energy possible.
We simply don’t know how much long-term economic potential this will have. But it seems clear that it ought to position Michigan as a national leader in wind energy technology.
We aren’t out of the hole yet, by any means. But this may have been Jennifer Granholm‘s best week in office. And this time, she deserves considerable credit for making both things happen.