Chamber Alliance details legislative agenda

Kent Wood

TRAVERSE CITY — The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance this week released details of the legislative agenda it plans to use through the next two years to lobby for rural business development, talent attraction, housing development and access to child care. The group calls the agenda the "Four Pillars of Rural Prosperity."

Chamber Alliance Government Relations Director Kent Wood said in a release that the agenda will guide the group's efforts to influence Michigan lawmakers and administrators.

The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance represents 14 counties, including nearly 8,000 members of Northern Michigan’s business community. The alliance is composed of the Chambers of Commerce in Alpena, Benzie County, Cadillac, Charlevoix, Gaylord, Manistee, Petoskey, Traverse City and the Lake Superior Community Partnership in Marquette County. Associate members include the chambers in the Boyne Area, Cheboygan, East Jordan, Elk Rapids, Harbor Springs and Sault Ste. Marie.

The agenda is intended to help the group focus efforts on increasing economic development tools that will address four major barriers to sustainable economic growth, the release stated.

Specific goals of the agenda for the next two years include:

— Rural Business Development: Seek parity for state business incentives to help rural areas compete with larger population centers; research and development tax credit programs specific to rural areas; rural tax credits that incentivize new jobs and investments in emerging industries; and address rural infrastructure needs including high-speed internet and air service growth.

— Talent Attraction to Rural Areas: Create tools to attract top professional and skilled employees including intern and apprentice tax credits; rural relocation incentives to draw in talent from other states/overseas; and improve rural health care services as a quality of life indicator and recruiting tool, especially for younger families.

— Rural and Small City Housing Development: Create incentives for rural employers to offset housing costs through new development, building rehabilitation, vouchers or down payment programs; and create PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) programs allowing rural areas and small cities to work directly with developers to incentivize workforce housing.

— Access to Quality Child Care: Advocate for ways to make opening and maintain child care centers more achievable; increase technical assistance to new child care providers and create an ombudsman role to assess compliance and regulatory inconsistencies across the state; and incentivize options for employers to provide on-site child care or through multi-employer cooperatives.

The Alliance plans to promote common sense solutions to these challenges that could be effective not only in northern Michigan, but in rural areas and small cities throughout the state.

Wood said in the release that Alliance members hope to leverage growth in traditional industries like tourism and agriculture to help nurture industries like health care, technology, advanced manufacturing and environmental research.

More information is available at