Whitmer signs $1.5B business incentive plan alongside GOP leaders

Gov. also signs $843M spending plan

By: and - December 20, 2021 4:33 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during business and jobs bill signing in Detroit on Dec. 20, 2021 | Ken Coleman

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday signed a bipartisan set of bills creating new business incentives aimed at attracting jobs from companies like General Motors that flew through the Legislature in its final days of the year.

The signing for the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) package was held at Wayne County Community College District’s Eastern campus in Detroit. She was joined by state House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare), Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans.  

Whitmer signed House Bill 4603, sponsored by state Rep. Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe), creating a $1 billion economic development fund. Supporters said it will ensure the state can compete for big investment projects and attract tens of thousands of jobs. 

In addition, Whitmer signed Senate Bill 771, sponsored by Sen. Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville), that creates a $500 million fund to make our economy more adaptable to the rapid pace of technological change, supporting small businesses, and creating or retaining good-paying jobs. She also signed Senate Bill 769, sponsored by state Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Twp.) that provides a financing mechanism for both programs and Senate Bill 85, sponsored by state Sen. Ken Horn  (R-Frankenmuth), that provides funding for the effort. The legislation will also provide direct assistance to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sen. Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) with House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a business and jobs bill signing in Detroit on Dec. 20, 2021 | Ken Coleman

“Thanks to the effective collaboration between legislative leadership, my administration, and community and business leaders, I signed bills that will back small businesses and empower Michigan to grow and attract billions in investment and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs,” said Whitmer. 

It was a rare event that Whitmer appeared alongside GOP leaders who have clashed with her on most of her agenda, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to step in and provide a shot in the arm that will lead to new opportunities for everyone. That is exactly what these bills do,” said Wentworth. “With this plan, we are giving small businesses a way to create new jobs in every corner of the state. We are helping large employers keep more opportunities here at home where they belong. And we are providing certainty, stability and opportunity to people worried about making ends meet when they sit down to pay their monthly bills. Those are the kind of results hard-working families need to see from their state government.” 

Shirkey said the legislation places Michigan “in the game” and “[establishes] our seat at the table, side by side with investors who recognize the value of Michigan and its unique assets.

“This first significant step must be accompanied by a disciplined commitment to improving and leading in every category, and, most importantly, friendly to moms and dads and families,” said Shirkey. 

Jim Holcomb, incoming president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, agreed with elected officials.

“This bipartisan legislation sets a new and transparent foundation for economic development that helps boost our state’s competitiveness and is open to job providers of all sizes and industries,” said Holcomb. 

Quentin Messer, Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO, said the legislation would “position Michigan for large-scale investments that accelerate growth in high-paying jobs, retain large customers for our small businesses and remain at the center of technological change for decades to come.” 

Michigan added 145,000 jobs in 2021, including 67,000 in the last three months, rounding out seven straight months of job growth and bolstering economic momentum, Whitmer stated. The legislation, she said, will help to increase the jobs figure.

House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a business and jobs bill signing in Detroit on Dec. 20, 2021 | Ken Coleman

Whitmer signs $843M supplemental

Whitmer on Monday also signed the other major pieces of legislation passed on the final voting day of the 2021 year, an $842.6 million spending plan.

House Bill 4398 sponsored by Rep. Greg VanWoerkom (R-Norton Shores) uses federal COVID relief dollars for COVID-19 testing and a long list of other priorities, including mental health programs, airport projects and snowmobile trail and maintenance. 

“Today, I signed a bipartisan supplemental bill that will help keep our kids safe and learning in-person, help families stay in their homes, and cut taxes for small businesses,” said  Whitmer. “For months, legislative leaders and I have been working together in good faith to find the most effective way to spend the federal dollars sent to Michigan by the American Rescue Plan. Today, we took another big step forward when I signed a nearly $1 billion investment that will help kids safe and learning in school, recruit and retain more teachers, protect seniors in nursing homes, help communities tackle lead in their drinking water, and get vaccines out the door even faster.”

Some of the programs funded by the bill:

  • $36.3 million to combat environmental health threats with a focus on lead
  • $150 million for school COVID-19 testing kits
  • $3.5 million for snowmobile trail development and maintenance
  • $100,000 for a mental health services in Oxford
  • $190,000 for the horse racing advisory commission
  • $1 million for a St. Clair County convention center
  • $2.5 million for pediatric autism treatment beds in Kalamazoo County
  • $168.9 million for airport response grants 
  • $47.1 million for substance abuse prevention and treatment block grants
  • $9 million for the North American International Auto Show 
  • $10 million for a teacher talent pipeline 
  • $140,000 for emergency and disaster response and mitigation
  • $4.4 million for a Michigan State Police criminal justice information center 
  • $5 million for a pediatric psychiatric unit in the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital 
  • $150 million for school safety programs that include COVID-19 testing and screening 
  • $140 million for emergency rental assistance

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.

Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.