Preserving our state’s history

Since 1837, Michigan has been the home of several sites that are relevant to either the state’s or our nation’s history. For 180 years, the state has worked to maintain such sites and make sure we keep them alive to serve as a visual, tangible avenue into our past.

Because of their age, many of these facilities are in poor condition, and it is often very costly and involved to repair them. This is due to the fact that when maintenance is done on such facilities, the company performing the job typically seeks to rehabilitate the site versus repairing it. The goal is to return the building or location to as close to its original state as possible, while also addressing structural problems or other potential hazards.

History is one of the most important pillars of education, and if we are able to preserve pieces of our state’s and nation’s history, we ought to do it for the benefit of our children. Visiting these sites can be much more invigorating for a child or young adult than reading about them in a book or on the internet.

At the beginning of the summer, I introduced legislation that would help maintain our state’s historical sites by offering incentives to those who redevelop them. Developers typically shy away from such projects because of the cost involved and the state and federal regulations that govern such sites. Senate Bill 469 would allow developers to receive a tax credit for a portion of eligible costs associated with the development.

To be eligible for tax credits under SB 469, it must be determined that the building or site in question contributes to the significance of the historic district in which it is located and the project meets federal and state requirements.

Not only do these incentives benefit communities and residents, but they are also beneficial to those in construction and other skilled trades. Data from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) shows that from 1999 to 2011, an annual average of 3,300 jobs stemmed from historical rehabilitations.

In addition, because Michigan’s historic credits are tied legislatively to a similar federal historic credit, the Michigan credits are responsible for bringing in roughly $250 million in federal funds — that’s federal money returning to Michigan and going straight to communities across the state.

These tax credits make rehabilitation projects feasible when other avenues do not. These credits are not specific to any geographic location; they benefit the entire state. From Flint to Traverse City, we are looking to improve and revitalize sites and keep Michigan’s history alive.

Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District, which includes Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties.