Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 24, 2013

Forum: Education funding top business priority

BY DOUG DeYOUNG
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---- — Michigan's business sector continues to turn the corner toward recovery, and in 2013 it will be critical to build on the momentum of the past two years.

Businesses across Northern Michigan benefitted from elimination of the onerous Michigan Business Tax in favor of a corporate business tax. By last fall, our region's jobless numbers had improved to pre-recession levels, and our region's employment base is finally starting to grow again.

In an effort to continue these positive trends, a group of business men and women from eight area Chambers of Commerce spread across northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula gathered here in Traverse City in December. They mapped out the 2013 Legislative Agenda for the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance.

The Alliance is made up of a wide range of business owners and operators in our area, plus their chamber staffs. They are people who know the challenges of running a business, meeting a payroll and keeping up with a never-ending stream of regulations. The Alliance partners also know the importance of speaking with a collective voice on legislative issues and worked hard to create a concise set of priorities for our region. Those include:

n Equitable state funding for northern Michigan schools and continued curriculum reforms. Our northern Michigan schools can't compete on a global level with per-pupil funding levels well below other areas of the state. Plus, our region needs top-tier public education to attract and retain young professionals to our area. But most importantly, our business community knows that building a strong and diverse work force to drive our future economy is reliant on a solid public education system.

n Infrastructure investment in areas of transportation, broadband and energy transmission. The Alliance supports additional transportation funding for our roads and bridges. A safe and reliable transportation network is needed to ship goods and services in and out of Northern Michigan. It's also critical to our area's tourism trade. Much of our business community will also benefit from better broadband connectivity and improved infrastructure for energy transmission.

n Completing the review of various state regulations through the Office of Regulatory Reform. Significant work in this area remains, including the review of antiquated liquor control rules and improvements to state permitting and approval processes.

The Alliance's legislative priorities go deeper. We want to help our business sector remain strong and create jobs by strengthening manufacturing production, expanding regional farming efforts and continuing funding for tourism promotion. Better workforce training and Early Childhood Development funding also are needed.

Our approach is working. The Alliance is becoming a go-to resource for our state and federal legislators.We meet with them regularly and they reach out to us for input on a wide range of public policy issues.

A consistent voice from our partners helps our lawmakers better understand our regional needs.

About the author: Doug DeYoung heads up Government Relations and Business Advocacy for the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by e-mailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.