MARQUETTE - Local officials are pleased with the state legislature's passage of a bill designating Marquette and Delta counties as a new economic development zone, which will make the areas eligible for tax incentives and state funding.
The legislation -promoted in the House by state Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette, and in the Senate by Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba- is now on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. The legislation was voted to take immediate effect once signed.
Under the legislation, Public Act 275 would be amended to include a sixth Michigan Development Corporation unit for the two-county area. Five such districts exist downstate and are eligible for state funding and tax incentives.
"Marquette and Delta Counties have been economically connected for 155 years. The opportunity to establish a Next Michigan zone will allow the U.P. to benefit from the same modern development building blocks as used by other areas throughout the state," said Marquette city manager Bill Vajda in a news release. "We deeply appreciate the efforts of Sen. Casperson, Rep. Kivela, Gov. Snyder, their staff and our colleagues in both counties for the sustained effort enabling this historic opportunity."
A state Senate hearing on the Next Michigan Development Act legislation was held in Escanaba in August. Snyder attended and expressed his support for expanding economic opportunities in Michigan.
The development act, part of the "Aerotropolis" legislation of 2010, provided for the creation of up to five Next Michigan Development Corps., entities that encourage economic development and investment, job creation and retention, and ancillary economic growth.
"The addition of a zone in the Upper Peninsula will aid in job creation and spur economic growth in the area," Kivela said in a news release. "I am proud to have once again worked with Sen. Casperson to improve the lives of Michigan's U.P. residents."
Casperson said he was "grateful" for the Legislature's passage of the legislation.
"The bills will not only provide a real economic development opportunity for the Upper Peninsula, but they show the power and opportunity behind local and bipartisan partnerships that are focused on good policy," Casperson said in a news release. "Not only was Rep. Kivela a valued partner throughout this process and instrumental in getting these bills passed, but so were the extraordinary efforts and partnerships between Escanaba and Marquette and Delta County and Marquette County, all of whom should be commended for their willingness to look past geographical boundaries and, instead, focus on a broad economic development vision that is sure to benefit the Upper Peninsula by aligning economic policies for the region."
Escanaba city manager Jim O'Toole said he was pleased with the votes in favor of the micropolitan district in the central U. P.
"I'm very pleased with the outcome of the initiative and I'm looking forward to working with the various units of government in Delta and Marquette counties in advancing economic development opportunities for the region," O'Toole said.
Gladstone city manager Darla Falcon expressed similar sentiments.
"I'm very excited about it. I think this is a good thing for both Delta County and Marquette County," she said.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.