This article appeared in the March 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Q: Congratulations on being named the Senate Majority Leader for the 2019-2020 Legislative Session. How has your background prepared you to help lead Michigan forward?
Senator Shirkey: My experience as an engineer and a business owner is what motivated me to become involved in politics. I was initially motivated by frustration over what I viewed as government overreach into the private sector. I truly felt government was deterring business growth and investment. I ran for office to tackle overregulation of business by the state. Government needed to get out of the way so our economy could grow. My perspective as a business owner has informed nearly all my decision making when it comes to considering legislation that will have an impact on our state’s economy.
Q: What are your top priorities for the first few months of Michigan’s 100th Legislative Session?
Senator Shirkey: The first bill introduced in the Senate for the 100th Legislature is one to reduce the cost of car insurance. We heard from our constituents across the state that their car insurance bills eat up too much of their household budget. We know the legislature has made little progress in reforming car insurance over the past several years, but my caucus is prepared to meet the challenge head on.
Our caucus has identified a number of priorities, including ensuring we maximize the dollars going toward improving our roads. We want every child to have access to an education that makes them career-ready. We want to ensure government is working for its citizens and that means delivering a responsible budget ahead of schedule and limiting the impact of government on the lives of our constituents.
Q: Manufacturers have created more than 190,800 new industry jobs since June 2009, however talent remains a challenge for employers of all sizes. What are your plans for continuing that impressive job growth and ensuring Michigan manufacturers can continue to locate, train and retain skilled talent?
Senator Shirkey: Ensuring career readiness is critical to maintain our economic growth trajectory. Just a few short years ago, a college degree was thought to be a necessity for every student. We now recognize that preparing students for a career path and the education and training necessary to accomplish their career goals is more important than a “one size fits all” approach to education. We have made strides to support diverse education paths through adjustments in curriculum expectations, more funding for technical training, more robust support for school choice, and more flexibility for schools to offer challenging course work.
Q: Looking ahead at the next two years, how does your vision of Michigan’s future help ensure the state’s manufacturing sector will remain a global hub for manufacturing?
Senator Shirkey: We must be dynamic. Michigan has made tremendous progress over the past eight years. Unemployment is down, housing values are up, and we have seen years of population growth where before our state was experiencing a steady decline. We cannot be satisfied with our progress to date, we must continually evolve to meet the changes in our state and the same is true for every sector of our economy.