MACKINAC ISLAND — Looking to juice up Michigan’s still-soft economy, Gov. Rick Snyder rolled out what he called $3-billion worth of actions Thursday to help businesses raise capital, boost exports and do more of their buying from in-state companies.
At the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference, Snyder announced a half-dozen initiatives, some new and others not-so-new, bundled under the banner of Pure Michigan Business Connect.
New commitments include:
• A pledge of $2 billion in lending over four years from Ohio-based Huntington National Bank to Michigan commercial and small-business customers.
• A promise from DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, the state’s largest utilities, to boost purchases of goods and services from Michigan-based suppliers by $250 million during the next five years.
• The U.S. Export-Import Bank’s pledge to more than double the dollar value of its investment deals with Michigan-based small businesses to $187 million by 2015, up from $75 million in 2009. Ex-Im Bank also is planning a global-access forum in Michigan to help small businesses begin or expand exporting.
Also under the Pure Michigan Business Connect umbrella are previously announced plans, including a budget of $100 million for economic development incentives next year that will cover projects previously backed by historic or brownfield tax credits. The Michigan Economic Development Corp., through its collateral support program, is offering $80 million to help generate an additional $800 million in loans from private banks.
Thursday’s announcement also covered a $100-million fund launched last week by Stage 2 Innovations to help second-stage companies accelerate growth and commercialize innovative technologies. Stage 2 was co-founded by former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda and Manoj Bhargava, an Oakland County investor behind the 5-hour Energy drink and other companies.
One aim of bundling these various activities into one announcement was obviously to dispel concern that Snyder’s curtailment of tax incentives would hurt Michigan’s ability to attract and retain companies.
“Are we unilaterally disarming and hurting our ability to be competitive? No, we are not,” MEDC President Mike Finney declared at a news conference on the porch of the Grand Hotel.
Huntington CEO Stephen Steinour would not reveal total numbers for the bank’s lending in Michigan, but said the $2-billion commitment is an “incremental” increase over 2010. That amounts to a projected growth of 15% a year in Michigan business lending between now and 2014. The bank’s employment in Michigan has grown more than 40% in the last 18 months, from about 1,000 people to nearly 1,500.
In an interview with the Free Press earlier Thursday, Snyder said, “A lot of people view Michigan as a tough credit state.
“There’s a perception that a lot of banks either moved out of Michigan or don’t want to do business in Michigan,” he added. “The more we can show that we really do have financial institutions interested in making a commitment to Michigan because they see the value proposition now in our state, we want to be proactive about positioning that.”
Fred Hochberg, chairman of the Ex-Im Bank, told the Free Press that the bank’s collaboration with Michigan accelerated after he met Snyder last month in Washington, D.C.
“He’s a very forward-thinking businessman who wants to build on Michigan’s status as the nation’s eighth-largest exporting state,” Hochberg said.
The state will work with the Ex-Im Bank to make insurance more affordable, so that small businesses can ensure that they will be paid if they court foreign customers, Hochberg said.
By Tom Walsh, Detroit Free Press