Economic district a reality

ESCANABA – A new economic development district in the Upper Peninsula officially became law in Michigan when Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation during the holidays.

The law amends Public Act 275 to include a sixth Next Michigan Development Corporation in Delta and Marquette counties. Five such districts exist downstate and are eligible for state funding and tax incentives.

Escanaba City Manager Jim O’Toole said Thursday that the collaborative effort between governmental units in Delta and Marquette counties paid off with the recent passage of the bill amendment.

“This will enable us as a region to contribute to the economic rebound in the state of Michigan,” he commented following Thursday’s regular council meeting.

As an economic development corporation, the two counties will be eligible for incentives to encourage investment, job creation, job retention, and related economic growth, explained O’Toole.

O’Toole anticipates discussion on developing an organizational structure will begin at the Jan. 15 monthly joint governmental meeting of Delta County officials. More meetings will take place with Marquette County officials to form the corporation.

Last spring, Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) sponsored a bill in the Senate for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to add the sixth district. Rep. John Kivela (D-Marquette) sponsored a similar bill in the House.

A Senate hearing on the legislation was held in Escanaba in August with Gov. Rick Snyder attending and presenting comments in favor of economic growth.

Following adjustments in committee meetings, House Bill 4782 was passed in the Senate on Dec. 11 and Senate Bill 397 was passed in the House later that day. The two bills were approved in their respective chambers the following day.

The Governor signed the legislation into law on Dec. 21, officially authorizing Public Act 238 and Public Act 239. The laws went into effect on Dec. 26.

Kivela said in a recent news release, “The addition of a zone in the Upper Peninsula will aid in job creation and spur economic growth in the area. I am proud to have once again worked with Sen. Casperson to improve the lives of Michigan’s U.P. residents.”

Casperson stated in the news release that the corporation designation provides a real economic development opportunity for the U.P. and also shows “the power and opportunity behind local and bipartisan partnerships that are focused on good policy.”

Casperson praised Rep. Kivela for his role throughout the legislative process.

Casperson also applauded “the extraordinary efforts and partnerships between Escanaba and Marquette and Delta County and Marquette County, all of whom should be commended for their willingness to look past geographical boundaries and, instead, focus on a broad economic development vision that is sure to benefit the Upper Peninsula by aligning economic policies for the region.”

Marquette City Manager Bill Vajda stated, “Marquette and Delta Counties have been economically connected for 155 years. The opportunity to establish a Next Michigan zone will allow the U.P. to benefit from the same modern development building blocks as used by other areas throughout the state. We deeply appreciate the efforts of Sen. Casperson, Rep. Kivela, Gov. Snyder, their staff and our colleagues in both counties for the sustained effort enabling this historic opportunity.”

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,