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State hopes to recruit national businesses

April 5, 2001

Michigan is attempting to keep the lights on for new businesses.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is using big dollars to urge big businesses from California to relocate to the state. The corporation has spent $260 million on its campaign to bring businesses into the fold.

Glow-in-the-dark mouse pads with the slogan, “Michigan. We never leave you in the dark.” were sent to 4,500 California businesses, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Kopp. Michigan utilities haven’t projected any blackouts this summer.

“Although California seems like the high-tech Mecca, Michigan actually has a substantial high-tech workforce that is very well educated,” Kopp said.

MSU has played a key role in the efforts since participating in the Life Sciences Corridor program, which assists Michigan universities in developing biotechnology applications. About $1 billion of the tobacco settlement was set aside for the next 20 years to help develop to the Life Sciences Corridor program.

“MSU has done its job to bring businesses to the area, and has partnered to bring strong relationships between the private and public sector,” Kopp said.

The program partners universities like MSU with businesses. Businesses receive grants from the program, and can eventually use technology developed in real business applications.

Brad Shaw, the licensing and marketing manager for the intellectual properties office at MSU, said the Life Sciences Corridor is good for MSU and offers benefits for businesses relocating to Michigan.

“We would like to do research here that is carried forward for commercialization,” he said. “If you make a scientific discovery, there is a long road to making it into a product and companies usually help in the process.

“By having those companies closer to us, it increases the amount of industrial research and projects we can do in relevant fields.”

Michigan was awarded for having the most new developments in the nation for the fourth consecutive year.

“We offer a stable environment,” Shaw said. “The lights don’t go out here like in California. Workforce rates are lower and we have a good research basis with Michigan State, University of Michigan and Wayne State. It could be a very good environment for potential companies.”

Programs like the Life Sciences Corridor make the state more attractive, helping the state to maintain the fourth-largest technological workforce in the nation, Kopp said.

Kopp said Michigan has taken several steps to its economy to provide a good environment for possible relocators. The state has cut taxes 31 times in the last 10 years, and is in the process of phasing out the single business tax.

“We have a variety of training programs to create a skilled workforce for businesses to hire,” Kopp said. “We also offer incentives to stop businesses who are considering moving to other states, or those who want to come here. We have leveled the playing field to make Michigan an attractive place to do business.”

Ed Sarpolus, vice president of EPIC-MRA, a Lansing-based polling firm, said Michigan’s quality of life and business environment allow incentives for businesses to relocate to the state.

“As energy prices go up and availability of water goes down in the West, places like Michigan will be rediscovered because we have the natural resources, water and energy,” he said.

“Employers look at that. Michigan workers are stable compared to southern workers. The Michigan workforce tends to stay there if the pay and education is the same.”

Staff writer Eric Morath contributed to this report.

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