By JENNY LANCOUR
For The Daily News
ESCANABA - Gov. Rick Snyder is scheduled to attend a Senate committee hearing in Escanaba next week when input will be received on legislation to create an economic development region in the central Upper Peninsula.
Officials from municipalities in Escanaba and Marquette counties have been working together to promote passage of amendments to designate at least one "Next Michigan Development District" in the U.P. Currently there are five such "micropolitan" districts - all downstate - which are eligible for economic development incentives like tax abatements.
Escanaba City Manager Jim O'Toole said the Senate hearing is a great opportunity for the local area, especially with the governor in attendance.
"Normally these hearings are conducted in Lansing but we were successful in getting it moved to the U.P.," O'Toole noted.
The Senate Economic Development Committee will be conducting a hearing on two Senate bills at 8:30 a.m. (Eastern time) Thursday at Escanaba City Hall. The Snyder will be in town for Governor's Day at the U.P. State Fair on Wednesday.
Senate bills 397 and 398 propose to amend the law to allow the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to add a micropolitan district tailored for the Central U.P. to receive government funding for economic development projects.
The legislation was the result of work between local officials and state representative, as well as letters of support from 32 municipalities from throughout the two-county area.
O'Toole encourages these units of government to send representatives to Thursday's meeting to show how the two counties' "historic collaboration" is working to amend the Next Michigan Development Act to include a sixth district in the U.P.
Once such a district is designated, a development corporation would be formed of participating units of government from the two counties. The corporation would have the business base of its combined population, workforce, resources, and transportation services to seek economic development opportunities through the state, explained O'Toole.
Gov. Snyder is scheduled to speak followed by a presentation by Dan Wyant, director of the Department of Environmental Quality.
State Sen. Tom Casperson will present information on the two Senate bills followed by discussion on the economic impact, opportunities and needs of the U.P.