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Published in Economic Development
Michigan State Capitol. Michigan State Capitol.

Michigan Legislature approves $846.1M to support economic development projects

BY Wednesday, September 28, 2022 09:50pm

State lawmakers have steered another $846.1 million into a state fund to support major economic development projects in Michigan.

The new funding for the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) Fund is part of a $1.11 billion supplemental spending bill for the state’s present and coming fiscal years that was worked out between legislators and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The approval comes as Gotion Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of large Chinese battery manufacturer Guoxuan High-Tech Co., considers a site in Mecosta County for a new battery plant, a potential $3.6 billion project that could create 2,000 jobs.

“The governor and legislature’s agreement to invest nearly $1 billion in business growth and job creation is a win for all Michiganders,” Business Leaders for Michigan CEO Jeff Donofrio said in a statement. “This legislation will help communities in every corner of our state develop shovel-ready sites primed for investments and will attract new jobs in growth industries, including EV and battery plants, semiconductor manufacturing facilities and research centers.”

Jennifer Owens, president of Zeeland-based economic development organization Lakeshore Advantage and chair of the group Economic Development Leaders for Michigan, in a statement issued by the governor’s office called the SOAR Fund money “a critical bi-partisan stride forward that will provide the transformational dollars needed to secure the economic future of communities across Michigan.”

The state Legislature created the SOAR Fund and appropriated $1 billion in late 2021 to assist corporations planning major projects. The fund has since supported projects by General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. for electric vehicle manufacturing in the state.

“I am proud that we have reached a bipartisan deal empowering Michigan to compete for huge economic development projects, support students pursuing higher education with scholarships, and increase funding for first responders,” Gov. Whitmer said in a statement on the supplemental spending bill. “This bipartisan package will help us attract transformational projects bringing billions in investment and creating thousands of jobs to Michigan.”

Of the money the supplemental spending bill appropriates to the SOAR Fund, $250 million will go to the state’s Michigan Strategic Site Readiness Program. The funding includes $25 million for grants to regional and local economic development organizations, $100 million for improving project sites when a potential user has not been identified, and $75 million for the assessment and development of so-called “mega-strategic sites,” and $50 million for improving sites for a planned project by a specific user. Another $100 million will go to remediate or redevelop landfills.

The appropriation for the SOAR Fund “will enhance Michigan’s ability to compete for and retain jobs while simultaneously ensuring transparency, legislative oversight and efficiency,” Michigan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jim Holcomb said in the statement the governor’s office issued. “Michigan will be positioned to attract some of the largest projects in our state’s history, which will benefit businesses of all sizes across all industries in urban and rural areas and strengthen communities statewide.”

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