The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 15, 2005

Building trades to benefit from Granholm's jobs plan

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING - Striking back at critics blaming her for the state's unemployment rate - which leads the nation - Gov. Jennifer Granhom on March 28 unveiled the "Jobs Today Initiative," a plan to jumpstart Michigan's economy.

And it appears as if the state's lagging construction industry will be the prime beneficiary of the boost.

First announced in the governor's State of the State address, the Job Today Initiative is a three-year program designed to accelerate the pace of state and local infrastructure projects that were scheduled to begin over the next decade. The initiative will also create new tools and incentives to encourage local and private investment.

"Every year in Michigan, we invest thousands of hours and millions of dollars to fix roads, improve schools and build community resources that citizens share," said Granholm. "This work is critical and necessary - and it requires scores of Michigan women and men working in a variety of jobs from the skilled trades to service and sales. This is a plan to create new opportunities for economic development around the state that will put shovels in the ground and paychecks in workers' pockets this construction season."

Granholm's plan will:

  • Accelerate $800 million in state infrastructure projects that boost economic development;
  • Create new incentives for local governments to accelerate their own infrastructure improvements; and
  • Encourage private development and investment in important community resources, such as affordable housing and improved living centers for seniors.

As part of the 2005 budget agreement, legislative approval was given to $220 million in projects to upgrade universities and $38 million worth of pollution clean-up projects. In addition, Granholm said $400 million in accelerated road projects will also begin this year.

Granholm said she will ask the state legislature to approve two key changes in the law to create incentives for local governments to accelerate their own infrastructure improvements. The first is a change in the state's School Bond Loan Fund to make it easier for Michigan school districts to renovate aging school buildings without raising taxes. The second is a new provision to allow cities to expand the boundaries of their downtown development zones in order to spur new job creation and development projects.

Granholm also outlined new incentive programs her administration has created to encourage pollution clean-up, housing construction and long-term care facility improvement projects. She said her administration is taking on increased outreach to ensure that developers are taking advantage of the new incentives to start construction now.

The governor said the Jobs Today Initiative will create jobs in seven key areas, and building trades workers are the prime beneficiaries: affordable housing construction and renovation; school improvement and repair; pollution cleanup; road improvements; long-term care facility construction and renovation; downtown development; and university campus improvements.

"Jobs must be the first order of business for everyone in Michigan today," Granholm said. "Contractors, engineers, architects and construction personnel across Michigan are eager to get to work."