Leaders Must Lead

Dome Magazine

Rich Robinson

It would be a great understatement to say Lansing interest groups are sharply divided over the ballot questions Michigan voters will decide in November.

Using crude shorthand, you could say that Proposals 1, 2 & 4 pit labor against business. Using the same overly simplified kind of description, Proposal 3 is a contest of environmentalists against the utilities and their industrial customers.

Of course, shorthand papers over nuance and alliances, but the issues in Proposals 1-4 are mostly pretty clear. We’ll see which campaigns succeed in persuading the electorate.

Proposals 5 and 6 are utterly different. Almost no interest group with a stake in a well-functioning state supports either of them. According to what has been reported, the financial empire of Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel J. “Matty” Moroun is the sole source of all funding for both proposals. But outside the political class in Lansing, almost no one knows that.

Over the 20 months preceding the approval of Proposal 6 for the ballot, the Detroit International Bridge Company spent $10 million on a television ad campaign to persuade Michiganders that a new publicly owned bridge between Detroit and Windsor was not needed and a bad idea.

That’s not to mention the $880,000 the Moroun family –MJ, Nora, Matthew and Lindsay– has given to officeholders, their PACs and parties over the last two election cycles, including a $100,000 contribution from Matthew Moroun to the Michigan Republican Party three weeks before enabling legislation for a new bridge was killed in the Senate Economic Development Committee.

The Morouns are pursuing their interests –monopoly rents, in perpetuity– loudly and proudly.

On the other hand, Business Leaders for Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Grand Rapids Regional Chamber, the Michigan Chamber, Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, agricultural producers and a host of unions that would benefit from the jobs created in building a new bridge, all say they support a new publicly owned bridge. The evidence of that support, so far, is a paltry $300,000 TV ad flight that ran in some media markets in June.

It may be that Gov. Snyder’s deal with Prime Minister Stephen Harper really is bullet-proof and the fate of a new bridge doesn’t depend on the outcome of Proposal 6. But what if it does? Or, what if we need a new train tunnel under the Detroit River to realize a regional transportation hub? Or, what if we need a new bridge at the Sault sometime after you and I are dead? It would be insane to leave Matty’s Revenge embedded in the Michigan Constitution.

Leaders of business and labor, Republicans and Democrats, from west Michigan and southeast Michigan, need to speak out against the duplicitous garbage coming out of Moroun’s propaganda shop, to help the confused citizens beyond Lansing understand that our shared economic future must not be surrendered to one man’s insatiable greed. Matty Moroun will never land a new bridge in Canada. That shouldn’t thwart the interests of two nations.

Proposal 5 –call it Matty’s Revenge II, in recognition of Liberty Bell Agency’s funding– seems to be even harder for our leadership class to confront than Prop 6. Its effect would be more destructive than Prop 6, but it has a populist following in TEA Party Nation. It will take more courage, and probably more money, to defeat Proposal 5. But the stakes are enormous, and Prop 5 will not be defeated without courageous and outspoken leadership.

Requiring a supermajority for any tax increase is the policy innovation that has made California ungovernable. It is the trademark of the most economically squalid states in the nation. Already, our legislators can’t find the courage to raise a gas tax that would allow us to redeem our state’s full share of federal highway funds. Can you imagine our roads if it took a supermajority? Can you imagine trying to broaden the base of sales taxes to cut the rate? Can you imagine ever raising the beer tax by a penny to clean up the effects of alcohol abuse?

Interest groups need to call a truce in their pyric Spy vs. Spy warfare and demonstrate to skeptical voters that we do have shared interests in defeating Proposal 5. Leaders need to find their voice and lead.

When you think of the good he could do, there is probably no more tragic figure in Michigan than Matty Moroun. He has chosen a role of enemy of the State. He must not be allowed to succeed.

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah talks with WDET about the new Detroit-Windsor bridge

Listen to the entire podcast here:

VIDEO: Sandy Baruah of the Detroit Regional Chamber explains what the New International Trade Crossing means for Michigan and Detroit

More jobs, more prosperity, and a better link to the international marketplace. Sandy Baruah of the Detroit Regional Chamber explains what the New International Trade Crossing means for Michigan and Detroit. Watch the video below.

New study estimates the New International Trade Crossing will add thousands of jobs to Michigan’s economy

ANN ARBOR, Mich., June 14, 2012 – The construction of a new bridge connecting Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario will provide an estimated 12,000 jobs per year for each of the four years of the construction phase according to a recently released analysis published by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit research organization. Furthermore, the analysis concludes that once the bridge is operational, more than 8,000 permanent jobs will be created in Southeast Michigan.

The study, “Analysis of the Economic Contribution of Constructing the New International Trade Crossing: A New Bridge Linking Detroit and Windsor,” indicates numerous opportunities will be generated from both the construction and operation of the bridge, the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

“Initially the construction of the bridge itself  will serve as an economic stimulus, providing jobs and tax revenues. Once construction is completed and bridge operations have begun, the region’s additional freight shipping capability could attract private-sector investment, augmenting the gross regional product and creating more employment opportunities,” said Kim Hill, director of Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies at CAR and the study’s lead.

“Additionally, the bridge project will make Michigan eligible to receive Federal matching funds that can be used on other highway infrastructure projects throughout the state, helping to improve Michigan’s highway system and supporting the state’s transportation employment. Clearly, a project of this scale, along with the federal matching funds, will have employment and economic effects that will impact many diverse industries throughout the state,” said Hill.

CAR has significant experience conducting economic impact analyses and has carried out the majority of national level automotive economic contribution studies completed in the United States since 1992.

This report is the product of research performed by the Sustainability & Economic Development Strategies and the Transportation Systems Analysis groups at the Center for Automotive Research. The report was written by Hill, Richard Wallace, director of Transportation Systems Analysis, Deb Menk, senior project manager and Joshua Cregger, industry analyst. Financial support for this study was provided by the Michigan Manufacturers Association and the Consulate General of Canada in Detroit.  Additional support was provided by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The complete study is available at www.cargroup.org.

The Center for Automotive Research’s mission is to conduct research on significant issues related to the future direction of the global automotive industry, as well as organize and conduct forums of value to the automotive community. CAR performs numerous studies for federal, state and local governments, corporations, and foundations. The Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies group offers objective analysis and advice while encouraging collaboration between the automotive sector, academia, and communities, with the goal of long-term sustainability of both the industry and communities.

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Center for Automotive Research to Release Study on Job Creation, Economic Impact of New International Trade Crossing

Representatives of the statewide coalition in support of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) will gather across the state this Thursday as the Center for Automotive Research releases a study outlining the job creation and economic impact of building the new bridge. The study, “Analysis of the Economic Contribution of Constructing the New International Trade Crossing: A New Bridge Linking Detroit and Windsor,” which will be available for the first time, highlights the opportunities that will be generated from both the construction and operation of the NITC.

DETROIT

Who: International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324, General Vice President and Business Manager John Hamilton; Center for Automotive Research Director of Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies and Associate Research Director Kim Hill; Ford North America Manager of Supply Chain Management, Material Planning and Logistics Bill Storves; and Detroit Regional Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Brad Williams.

When: 9:30 a.m.

Where: Detroit Regional Chamber, One Woodward Ave., Suite 1900, Detroit, MI

LANSING

Who: Michigan Manufacturers Association Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Johnston; Center for Automotive Research Director of Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies and Associate Research Director Kim Hill; and Ford North America Manager of Supply Chain Management, Material Planning and Logistics Bill Storves. International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324, General Vice President and Business Manager John Hamilton.

When: 12:30 p.m.

Where: Michigan Manufacturers Association, 620 S. Capitol, Ave., Lansing, MI

GRAND RAPIDS

Who: Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Baker; International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324, General Vice President and Business Manager John Hamilton; and Center for Automotive Research Director of Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies and Associate Research Director Kim Hill.

When: 2:30 p.m.

Where: Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, 111 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI

Michigan profits from Snyder’s long view

By Phil Power | Bridge Magazine

Broad agreement has been reached on the last of the budget bills, and the Legislature will soon adjourn. The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Mackinac Island policy conference has come and gone. Summer, in other words, is almost here, a blessed pause before the noisy chaos of the fall’s political campaigns.

So this may be a good moment to step back and reflect on Gov. Rick Snyder’s first 18 months in office.

Conventional wisdom says his first year was a terrific success: Balanced budgets, delivered on time. He changed the tax environment; got a tougher new emergency manager system approved, together with a raft of reforms in local government. The business climate improved. This year, however, the same “wisdom” holds that things were different, that the governor had lessened momentum and increased difficulties in dealing with the Legislature.

That perception is understandable. But the difficulty with conventional wisdom is that it’s very often focused on the news of the day. There often is a big difference between today’s headline and a long-term trend. This is aggravated by the remorseless short-term of two groups: politicians, whose planning horizons are typically about 18 minutes; and the media, which are generally preoccupied with the next edition, broadcast or, worst of all, this moment’s  “tweet.”

In my mind, what distinguishes Snyder’s time in office so far is his emphasis on putting long-term thinking over the daily hurly-burly.

Take just two examples:

First, the drive to build a new Detroit River bridge. The New International Trade Crossing is generally regarded as one of Snyder’s failures, with Ambassador Bridge monopoly owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun scattering millions in campaign donations far and wide, and, so far, preventing legislative approval.

But it now looks as though the governor will get his bridge through a device called an “interlocal agreement,” which will enable him to get around legislators unwilling to vote against Moroun’s hand that has been feeding them.

Snyder has never wavered in his focus on the bridge (and, more generally, Michigan’s infrastructure) as a long-term game changer for our state. A new bridge, coupled with ideas to make Southeast Michigan into a multimodal logistics powerhouse, will, over the years, generate thousands and thousands of jobs and help diversify our manufacturing-based economy.

If this all comes together, it will be hard to overstate how significant these developments will be to our state’s future.

The governor hasn’t prevailed yet. But he already deserves credit for understanding that fundamental changes don’t happen overnight and take careful, consistent effort.

Click here to read the full column.

Chamber Committed to Continuing NITC Support

Following a legislative setback to the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), the Detroit Regional Chamber remains committed to working in support of a new border crossing until this crucial infrastructure project becomes reality. Despite the fact that legislation to authorize the NITC failed to garner the votes needed to be reported to the full Senate for a vote, the Chamber supports efforts to move the project forward.

The Chamber’s President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah released the following statement after the legislation was voted down in the Senate Economic Development Committee:

“Expanding capacity over our border with Canada has been one of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s top priorities for over a decade, there have been numerous ups and downs throughout this process. The actions of the Senate Economic Development Committee certainly represents a setback, but the Chamber and our members continue to believe in the vital economic impact of the NITC and encourage the Senate to act favorably on this project on behalf of their constituents and job providers. The opponents of this crossing have effectively spent millions in an attempt to hold back progress for our region and state, but no amount of money will change the truth that the NITC is crucial for the short, medium and long-term health of Michigan.”