Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 15, 2013

George Weeks: Engler takes another Michigan role

By George Weeks
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — 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.

They wrote: “Business and elected officials agree that the United States needs tax reform. But we must be cautious that reform implemented will truly benefit American companies, both large and small, and actually help to grow the economy.”

While they did not outline a detailed solution, they said: “Should Congress consider limiting interest deductibility as part of tax reform, every business will be impacted. Companies will have less capital, make fewer investments and contribute less to economic welfare. Fewer jobs will be created and business may be forced to close their doors.”

Granholm touts Dem prospects (bf)

Former 2003-2010 Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm is now affiliated with the University of California at Berkeley but is still a voice in Michigan and national politics.

She’s pushing Hillary Rodham Clinton as a 2016 candidate for president, declaring:

“I’m not just ready for Hillary—I’m ready to get going in her campaign.”

In promoting U.S. Rep Gary Peters of Oakland County, the Democratic consensus 2014 contender to replace retiring Sen. Carl Levin, she said:

“Whether it meant taking on special interests to advocate for Michigan manufacturers or stop restrictions to women’s health care, Gary has proven to us that he is the kind of progressive champion we need in Washington.

It might seem early, but Gary’s race is already tight. Michigan could very well be the firewall to protect a Democratic Majority in the U.S. Senate. So with pollsters showing the race in a “dead heat,” we can’t afford to waste any time showing our support for Gary.

Honors for Chuck Yob

For four decades Republican activist Chuck Yob has served his party in a variety of ways starting as Kent County chairman and later as Michigan’s 1989-2008 Republican National Committeman. Currently he is chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission.

The Kent County party scheduled a Sept. 17 party for Gov. Rick Snyder and others to honor Yob and highlight creation of a Chuck Yob Scholarship Fund in recognition of his years of working to recruit and elect Republicans in every corner of Michigan.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Fall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing Bureau Chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.