Snyder challenges business to stand up for new bridge

Crain’s Detroit Business

By Nancy Kaffer

Gov. Rick Snyder has given few details on how he plans to advance his agenda in 2012, but he has made one thing clear: He’ll need support from business leaders and local governments.

Snyder was in the public eye last week, delivering his second annual State of the State address on Wednesday, holding an online town hall meeting Thursday, addressing the business community at a Detroit Regional Chamber-sponsored event Friday morning, and participating in a second town hall Friday night on Detroit Public Television.

A few priorities emerged last week, among them moving forward with the New International Trade Crossing, — a second bridge over the Detroit River — and reforming the state’s personal property tax. A proposal to move forward with the second span died in the Legislature last year.

At Friday’s chamber event, Snyder challenged the business community to support the bridge.

“Everything says building this is straightforward,” Snyder said. Detroit is positioned between Montreal and Chicago, making it a natural logistical hub, he said.

“When you look at the map of the United States and you’re a peninsula, it’s not great for logistics,” he said — until you throw Canada into the mix.

The new bridge, Snyder said, has the potential to create temporary and permanent jobs and is a sound infrastructure investment that can be paid for without taxpayer dollars.

“It would be a massive construction project in Detroit. That would be very helpful,” he said.

Still, he said, “a single special interest” — Detroit International Bridge Co. owner Manuel Moroun and his family — “has spent over $5 million on misleading ads.”

Snyder said he has heard from many people in the business community who support the new bridge — but said that hasn’t translated into public support.

“It didn’t trigger a passionate enough response to get people to take action,” he said.
For business owners who want to take action, Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said, it’s simple.

“The governor’s message was “Speak out or speak up,’ ” he said. “My suggestion, building on the governor’s direction is to a) contact your elected (state) representative, Democratic, Republican, House, Senate; contact your representative and say you support this new infrastructure project that will not cost Michigan taxpayers a dime. Legislators need to hear from folks who care about this issue but haven’t engaged on this issue.”

Moroun has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to state lawmakers.

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