Central U.P. economic district up for vote

ESCANABA – Delta and Marquette counties may be in for a great Christmas present this year if legislation works out today that would establish an economic development district in the Central Upper Peninsula.

Designation of a “micropolitan district” in the two-county area is moving forward in Lansing, said Escanaba City Manager Jim O’Toole who addressed several municipal leaders Wednesday during a joint governmental meeting at Escanaba City Hall.

House Bill 4782 and Senate Bill 397 support creation of a “Next Michigan Development District” in the Central U.P. to promote economic growth via state funding and tax incentives.

There are currently five “micropolitan” districts downstate.

Legislation for creating such a district in the U.P. have been moving on a fast track in Lansing where today is the last day of the legislators’ session for 2013.

The House version of the bill was passed in the Senate on Wednesday and the Senate version was passed in the House Wednesday.

Each bill must pass in its respective chamber, noted O’Toole, hoping that will take place today so they can be sent to the Gov. Rick Snyder who has 14 days to sign the bills into law.

“Since both of these pieces of legislation were given ‘immediate effect,’ once the governor signs these into law they take immediate effect rather than having to wait 90 days from the end of the legislation session,” explained O’Toole.

“If the governor does not sign the bills or veto them within the 14-day period, they will automatically be enacted into law,” he added.

During a Senate hearing on creation of a “micropolitan district” in the Central U.P., held in Escanaba in August, Gov. Snyder expressed his support for expanding economic opportunities in Michigan, specifically mentioning mining, timber production, agriculture and manufacturing.

Though today is the final day of the legislator’s session for 2013, the governor typically signs several pieces of legislation before Christmas, noted O’Toole.

Escanaba representatives are expected to be invited to Lansing to witness the governor’s signing, he added.

In anticipation of the bills being approved by legislators and the governor, leaders in Delta and Marquette counties have been working with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to be ready to move forward with the program.

In other discussion during Wednesday’s meeting, David Nyberg from the governor’s Northern Michigan Office presented an update on the future of the Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette where operations are being affected by the Cliffs Natural Resources’ switch to another power provider to serve its mines in Marquette County.

The power plant’s joint venture with another power provider is expected to make the major customer loss more adaptable, affordable and reliable, explained Nyberg. He added, in the long term, the loss of Cliffs as a customer could significantly increase rates for remaining customers.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net