SIDNEY — Rick Outman is receiving a little help from his friends in his bid to be re-elected state representative of the 70th District … one “relentlessly positive” friend in particular.
Outman, R-Six Lakes, appeared with Gov. Rick Snyder at a town hall meeting Friday at Montcalm Community College. Also in attendance were Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, 33rd District Rep Ken Goike, 58th District Rep. Ken Kurtz and 82nd District Rep. Kevin Daley.
“What we wanted was somebody who was not a politician,” said Outman as he introduced Snyder. “We wanted somebody who didn’t care about political connections. Instead of an ‘R’ or a ‘D,’ the governor probably has a ‘B’ behind his name, which stands for business. He is not a politician. He is all business and that is refreshing and that is what we needed for this time and place. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this team. I’m proud to call him my governor.”
“I’m a huge community college fan,” Snyder said. “I started my college career at Kellogg Community College and so I’m a huge advocate of community college. The whole concept of dual enrollment is very personal to me because I started going to community college when I was a junior in high school and there weren’t any dual credit systems so I had to do it the old-fashioned way. That’s why I always love coming to a wonderful community college like this.”
Snyder was present to stump for Outman’s re-election bid on Nov. 6, as well as to highlight positive things happening statewide.
The governor had the attention of a welcoming audience as the room was filled with a who’s who of Montcalm County Republicans. The governor began his remarks by noting the importance of educational facilities such as Montcalm Community College.
Continuing to reinvent Michigan
Snyder spent some time detailing what he thinks state government’s role should — and shouldn’t — be.
“A couple years ago, I believe we were a broken state and we had a broken government and we needed to do something about it and fixing Michigan was not good enough,” Snyder said. “It really was about reinvention. So Rick (Outman), thank you so much for having that fire and that passion and reinforcing that message.”
Snyder asked the audience, “Why does government exist?”
“Taking money from someone and giving it to someone else is not the point of having a government,” he said. “People are always saying, ‘We need money’ or ‘We want money’ and that’s not right. I never said it because I’m a positive guy, but I wanted to ask them, do I look like an ATM machine?”
The audience laughed in appreciation as Snyder continued.
“I think we need to spend more time talking about what the role of government is, and it’s really simple: We’re a customer service organization and you’re the customer,” he said. “We’re here to give you great service. I want to make you feel good that you bought the right amount of government. You buy your education from us. You buy public safety from us, in many respects. You have other shopping choices. I want you to feel good that you made a smart purchasing decision, that you got value for money.”
Snyder said government and residents need to focus on three things — having a positive attitude, not being concerned with who gets credit and focusing on solving problems.
“The biggest challenge we have in Michigan is changing our culture,” he said. “We’ve gone through so many tough years, we got too negative on ourselves, we got too down on ourselves. Too often we fight with one another instead of working together. We need to turn it around.”
The governor adopted a philosophy of “relentless positive action” to work toward his goals.
“It’s an attitude that says we don’t blame anyone for anything,” Snyder said. “Have you ever seen blame solve a problem? It doesn’t. The key to solving these problems is common sense. You see a problem, you solve it. Then you go on to the next problem and the next problem and you’re relentless in the pursuit of solving problems. That’s that business attitude Rick (Outman) was talking about.”
Snyder said Michigan has made great strides recently, including an almost five point decline in unemployment, an increase in personal incomes, an increase in home sales and the sixth fastest growing economy in the country, compared to Michigan’s ranking of 48th, 49th or 50th in years past.
“We are the comeback state of the United States, but our work is not done,” Snyder said. “We still have too much unemployment, we still have too many issues and we just need to keep going. We have a big election in November. My view is we need to re-elect a team because we’re showing great progress. That’s why I feel it’s critically important we keep Rick (Outman) in office and keep his colleagues that are with us today in office and keep that trend going. We have several years of work left to go and I’m fired up to make it happen. Let’s just go get this done. Let’s get to November, let’s have the election, let’s get the good team in place.
“Rick, you’re doing a great job,” Snyder added. “Keep going.”
Skilled trade training
Several audience members submitted written questions and Outman read the questions to Snyder during a question and answer segment of the town hall meeting. One question asked how Michigan can apply skilled trade training courses to core curriculum requirements in schools.
“One thing that we messed up in our education system is we got too far away from skilled trades,” Snyder said. “Community colleges have been kind of the core that’s kept it going, but this was a decision that we sort of messed up on 30 or 40 years ago.”
Snyder said a website was launched, mitalent.org, and results showed 60,000 to 70,000 open jobs in Michigan.
“I’m talking good jobs,” he said. “It really highlighted the fact that a lot of these are skilled trade jobs. If you’re a welder you can get a job in Michigan in about 20 minutes in any corner of this state and you can make a really good living. But how many of us know what it’s like to be a welder? We need to get back to that.”
Similar to Snyder’s earlier question to the audience about the purpose of the government, he also asked those present about the purpose of an educational system.
“There are two main goals,” he said. “One of the key goals is to help people find a career and the second goal is self-enrichment. We have a disconnect there. I think we need to emphasize both people potentially getting a four-year degree, particularly in science, technology, engineering or math, or in skilled trades from community colleges or other certificate holders. We’re going to lead the country in coming back on this because the country’s messed up on this.”
Support for agriculture
Another question asked how the state will support agriculture in the future.
“I think agriculture is one of our great opportunities,” Snyder said. “Most people think of automobiles as the big three, but our big three are agriculture, automotive and tourism. Our agriculture industry is well positioned for a great future. We need to do more research and development in agriculture from a state perspective, we need to do more value added processing and we need to do more exports. In the state of Michigan, if we can’t do well in agriculture for the next 40 or 50 years, we’re really missing the boat because it’s just a fabulous opportunity. For all the messed up things in Michigan, the one industry that helped carry us along, that did great stuff, that was very successful, that never got any credit was agriculture, so thank you to the agriculture people.”
Another question asked how the state can better engage in economic development.
“We had a messed up motto on economic development when I got into office,” Snyder said. “We were going hunting for out-of-state companies and we were giving big incentive packages, we were sort of trying to buy people to come into Michigan and that was backwards. That violates Business 101. Do you take care of your current customers first, or do you go after new customers? You always take care of your current customers. We were trying to go after new customers, bringing in big game.
“What we did was flip it around,” he said. “I call it economic gardening, where the comeback in Michigan needs to start with Michiganders, people starting businesses, small businesses, medium-sized businesses, growing all that and starting with who we already have is where most of the jobs are going to come from.”
Snyder emphasized that the role of government is not to create jobs, but to create an environment where jobs can flourish. He said state legislature has eliminated 13 rules for every rule that’s been added in the past year and a half — more than 800 rules in total — and more red tape is set to be eliminated in the future.
“Let’s focus on Michiganders’ economic development, let’s be a supportive environment and then let’s let free enterprise and people do their thing, right?” the governor said. “That’s the role of government.”