The comeback state

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Sen. Wayne Schmidt

Our state has made wonderful strides since emerging from the treacherous recession of the early 2000s. Seven years ago, Michigan had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country; residents had lost their jobs, families had lost their homes, and businesses were closing or leaving the state.

Since then, the Legislature has focused on reinventing Michigan as a state with a thriving economy and one that is attractive to job creators. Now, as we enter the final months of 2017, people are getting back to work and the unemployment rate continues to hover around record lows.

In their most recent jobs report, the Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) announced that the state’s unemployment rate for August came in at 3.9 percent. The August rate is just 0.2 percent above Michigan’s July unemployment rate and down 1.2 percent since July of 2016. During the month of August, Michigan outpaced the national average of 4.4 percent.

These figures are a dramatic change from the double-digit unemployment we were facing in the midst of the recession. We need to continue advancing reforms that attract job providers, but also those that expand educational diversity and continue drawing new talent to our state.

As more and more people return to Michigan in search of work, we must be cognizant of the limited real estate available to these folks. Many areas of the country have seen their cost of living increase while wages remain stagnant or have even declined.

In early 2017, I introduced legislation that would help curb this issue. Senate Bill 110 clarifies existing state law to allow local governments to offer incentives to developers who build housing focused on the needs of working families. Incentives are at the discretion of the local body and can include expedited permitting and deferred fees, among other measures.

These incentives can benefit both contractors in charge of building such properties and residents alike. Contractors are able to save money and time, allowing them to hire more workers and complete the development more efficiently, while residents have an opportunity to raise their family in a quality, affordable home.

We have made significant progress in recent years, but we cannot lose momentum; there is much that remains to be done. There are still families struggling — especially here in Northern Michigan.

We need to continue reducing the financial burdens faced by our residents and the regulatory burdens faced by employers who wish to expand their business and create jobs. People are once again returning to Michigan and calling our state home. When they arrive, we need to make sure they have an affordable place to raise their family, and a job to help pay for it.

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.