This article appeared in the January 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Q: Congratulations on your election as Michigan’s next Governor. What do you see as the top policy issue facing manufacturers heading into 2019?
Governor Whitmer: We’ve got to close the skills gap here in Michigan. Even with 20-year lows in the State’s unemployment rate, too many working age Michiganders have left the labor market, and employers are struggling to fill open positions. We also have to prepare for an auto industry where domestic sales have started to peak and decline. I’m ready to get to work ensuring students of all ages in Michigan can get a great education that gets them on a path to a high wage career. We’re also going to work on strong and enforceable Buy American and Buy Michigan policies for state contracting and procurement, to ensure our tax dollars are going to American and Michigan businesses. While we’ll be focused on helping Michigan manufacturers expand exports, we also need Washington to adopt trade agreements that focus on exporting Michigan products, not Michigan jobs.
Q: The next two years will see a Democratic administration and Republican legislature. Where do you see room for these two sides to work together to grow Michigan’s economy?
Governor Whitmer: I have a real record of working across the aisle to get things done for the people of Michigan. As Senate Democratic Leader, I negotiated with Governor Snyder to expand Medicaid to more than 680,000 Michiganders. As Governor, I am committed to leading and working across the aisle with everyone who wants to solve the problems now facing Michiganders. That is what the people of Michigan want and expect in their elected officials. We need to focus on common-ground issues that actually make a difference in people’s lives, like improving education and skills training, repealing the retirement tax, making health care more affordable, fixing the roads, and cleaning up our drinking water.
Q: Talent is one of manufacturing’s top business challenges. How can manufacturers, the Whitmer Administration and Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature work together to address this important issue?
Governor Whitmer: We’ve got to fill thousands of jobs in the skilled trades here in Michigan. That starts by making sure every Michigander has a path to a high wage career. Manufacturers can help by partnering with the Michigan Works! System, school districts, higher education institutions and apprenticeship programs to develop training programs that lead directly to in-demand jobs. I also would invite the Legislature to come to the table to strengthen our public education system and bring down the cost of post-secondary education.
Q: Eighty-five percent of MMA member companies have fewer than 100 employees and Michigan has a high concentration of small tool & die companies. What is your administration’s plan to support small businesses?
Governor Whitmer: Small businesses are vital to Michigan’s economy. Most job growth in the state is generated by small and medium sized business expansion. My administration will be focused on helping small businesses grow and attract the talent they need. We’re also going to support these members by fixing our infrastructure, because assembly lines start with good roads, clean water, lower utility costs and access to high-speed Internet.