On January 31, 2023, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks, Speaker of the House Joe Tate, and members of the Michigan Legislature to sign a bill into law that will invest in building affordable housing, revitalizing communities, and supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Today, Michigan is taking a step forward to grow our economy, invest in our communities, and build a bright future,” said Governor Whitmer. “This supplemental bill will build thousands more affordable housing units across the state, revitalize our communities, empower entrepreneurs, and support workers. I’m proud of my partners in the Michigan Legislature for getting this done, and I look forward to seeing what else we accomplish this year.”
The new law invests $150 million in the state’s Housing and Community Development Fund, $100 million in Revitalization and Placemaking Grants, $75 million in SmartZones to expands business apprenticeships.
“I’m thrilled that this supplemental will lower costs and make a real difference for Michigan families, communities, and small businesses,” said Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist II. “This funding will help us revitalize communities where people want to live and work, remove barriers for people looking for a job, and lower start-up costs for entrepreneurs as they build and grow high-tech businesses here in Michigan. Let’s keep working together to make a difference for Michiganders.”
The supplemental invests $150 million in the Housing and Community Development Fund to build and refurbish housing and revitalize downtown areas across the state.
“Today, we’re making meaningful investments in housing, veterans services, water shutoff prevention, small business supports and apprenticeship programs, food assistance, behavioral health, and more. If these issues sound familiar, they should: We’ve been calling for more focused investment in efforts that get roofs over heads, meals on tables, and workers in jobs for years. By coming together and keeping Michigan families at the center of our conversations, we’ve delivered a bill that’s going to make a real impact in people’s lives,” said Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks. “Michiganders can expect similar pragmatic, solutions-oriented, and swift action from Democratic leadership in the weeks and months ahead. We’re just getting started.”
This funding will also allow Michigan to build or refurbish 2,000 housing units, house 6,000 Michiganders, and create 1,600 good-paying construction jobs. Further, it will fund the Missing Middle Housing Program which specifically aims to build and rehabilitate properties for middle class families.
“Increased funding for affordable housing helps support diverse and thriving communities and is necessary to help achieve economic stability. Whether you live in Metro Detroit, Up North or in the U.P., housing and community development are priorities for the people of Michigan. Michigan cannot attract and retain a highly skilled and talented workforce without affordable living options for workers to raise their families. And we know that housing is necessary to help parents provide a stable home for their children,” said House Speaker Joe Tate. “The investment we make today has generational impact. The more we can do to help support our workers, the greater the potential for economic development and expansion in our communities. It’s not only our current workforce that benefits. Generations of Michiganders will thrive because of this investment.”
This bill will provide $100 million in Revitalization and Placemaking Grants to turn underutilized office, commercial, and community space into places for people to enjoy, including affordable housing, outdoor dining areas, or other place-based spaces.
“As the sponsor of SB 7, I am proud that Governor Whitmer has signed this bipartisan law as the first public act of the new legislative session,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Sarah Anthony. “For years, we have heard from Michiganders that there hasn’t been nearly enough action at the state level to address the housing crisis, invest in our small businesses, and support workers–today that changes. These investments are just the beginning of creating a better future for all Michiganders, and I look forward to continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get things done for Michigan.”
The supplemental delivers $75 million to SmartZones, 20 regions across our state where technology companies, entrepreneurs, and researchers are in close proximity to one another and organizations that help them succeed.
“Economic development and job growth is about attracting investment. By leveraging available resources, we are better able to compete for the companies and capital that our state needs to grow, diversify and thrive. We want Michigan to be a top contender for business investment opportunities because it is our residents who reap the benefits of that growth,” said House Appropriations Chair Angela Witwer. “This legislation is a thoughtful plan to use available dollars to support local businesses and provide workforce development services, while at the same time making clear that Michigan is open for business and ready to get to work.”
The Escanaba paper mill will receive $200 million to expand production and retain hundreds of jobs in the Upper Peninsula. The transformation of the mill is planned to be the cornerstone of Billerud’s expansion into North America.
“We thank Governor Whitmer, the legislature, and the MEDC for their investment support for Billerud’s planned transformation of our Escanaba Mill into a world-class paperboard production facility,” said Billerud America’s President Rob Kreizenbeck. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate with our partners in government to facilitate our investments for the benefit of the Escanaba community, Upper Peninsula and the State of Michigan.”
The project is expected to support hundreds of high paying jobs and require a significant number of contractors during the construction period.
“This historic investment will allow us to retain jobs, make our economy more competitive and combat climate change all at the same time,” said Jenn Hill, D-Marquette, 109 State House Representative. “I was proud to cast my vote supporting the bill on behalf of the Upper Peninsula’s working families. Our unions, universities, and businesses are all very excited by the new opportunities that are coming.”
The bill will also fund training for law enforcement to keep communities safe and $75 million in grants for blight removal.
“Make no mistake, this is truly a historic opportunity for the Upper Peninsula. Never before has the U.P. experienced a State of Michigan award of this magnitude, let alone one that will serve to anchor the largest private sector investment ever made in the region,” said Marty Fittante, CEO of InvestUP.
This supplemental addresses proposals that Governor Whitmer laid out in her State of the State address by removing barriers for workers like access to child care, transportation, and other basic career services and providing $25 million for apprenticeships.
“This is truly a transformative investment as it will result in a world-class mill that will deploy leading-edge technology that will serve new, emerging markets. As the Upper Peninsula’s regional economic development organization, InvestUP gives voice to families, businesses and communities from across the U.P. who will dramatically benefit from this investment to express our appreciation to Billerud for its consideration in making this generational investment in Escanaba, and its leadership, partnership, and persistence in helping secure this critical incentive from the State to anchor the investment here. The depth of our gratitude to Billerud owes to the realities that the mill when transformed will not only benefit the region’s economy and the environment with its best-in-class sustainability standards but provide notice that the U.P. can and will compete in attracting advanced technology opportunities,” he explained.
“The Michigan legislature’s recent passing of up to $200 million earmarked for the historic transformation of our Escanaba paper mill will help ensure its continued prosperity for generations to come. The mill has stood as an economic keystone in Delta County for more than a century providing stability for countless Upper Peninsula residents and their communities,” said Gerald Kell, President USW Local 21. “As President of Local 21, and on behalf of our 650 proud USW union members, I want to thank Governor Whitmer and her administration for their commitment to UP working people. Additional thanks to USW District 1 Leadership and Rapid Response department for working diligently to garner support from our legislators.”
“With the bipartisan support and backing of the governor, Senate Bill 7 will bring about a positive and major transformation for the Billerud Paper Mill in Escanaba,” said George Edwardsen, President of the Upper Peninsula Building Trades Council. “This transformation will provide good paying jobs during construction and operations for many years to come. This is a major win for working people, Delta County, and for the Upper Peninsula as a whole.”
This signing marked the earliest a bill has been signed in a new term since 1947.
Photo courtesy of the Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.