Traverse City Record-Eagle


September 15, 2013

George Weeks: Engler takes another Michigan role

In politics, ex-leaders don’t always fade away. Some pop back up to tout current issues.

So it was last week with 1991-2002 GOP Gov. John Engler; 1989-92 House Speaker Lew Dodak, D-Birch Run; and 2001-04 House Speaker Rick Johnson, R-LeRoy.

--Since leaving office, Engler has been a prominent national figure on the issue of the business climate, first as head of the National Manufacturers’ Association and currently as president of the Business Roundtable, an influential Washington, D.C.-based association of bosses of big corporations.

Last week in Grand Rapids, Engler plunged back in his old gig of promoting Michigan’s business by taking on the additional chore of chairing the advisory group for a private equity fund, Blackford Capital’s Michigan Prosperity Fund.

The $20-million fund, according to the Detroit Free Press, was created in 2012, targets Michigan’s companies with revenues of about $120 million and profits of $2 million to $10 million.

Engler said: “I think you’d have to say the Michigan business climate is very much on the mend. If…we can get our work-force trained, there is no stopping us.” He’s especially upbeat on the auto industry.

In a telephone interview with The Detroit News, Engler said: “I think there’s an opportunity for (an investment fund) that is based in Michigan … that wants to see the growth take place here. One from Illinois or the East Coast or the West Coast may not have the same appreciation for Michigan.”

--Former speakers Democrat Dodak, from the Flint area, and Republican Johnson, from Osceola County south of Cadillac, might be seen as odd fellows to advocate a national tax break for corporations.

But they did just that last week in a joint Detroit News column supporting the effort of Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to find bipartisan reform.

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