SIDNEY — Gov. Rick Snyder recently appeared with 70th District Rep. Rick Outman at a townhall-style meeting at Montcalm Community College to rally the Republican base.
The Daily News sat down with Snyder for an interview after the event to get the governor’s thoughts on the upcoming election, which takes place one week from today.
Snyder shared his thoughts on what a Mitt Romney victory versus a Barack Obama victory would mean for the country, why positive campaigning always beats negative campaigning and how Michigan can create and sustain long-lasting, well-paying jobs.
Obama vs. Romney
Snyder has publicly endorsed Mitt Romney for president and is happy to explain why.
“I’m a big supporter of Gov. Romney,” Snyder said. “First of all, he’s got the background to do a great job. He’s got private sector experience, which I think is critically important, and then he was governor of Massachusetts, which is a large state, so he has all those skill sets.”
Snyder is blunt when describing the current state of national government.
“Washington’s a mess,” he said. “They haven’t done a budget. They’re not paying down debt. The amount of national debt we’re incurring is scary. We need to do things like tax reform to get our economy back in track. Michigan’s making a great comeback, but I say the mess in Washington’s holding us back. We would be growing even faster if it wasn’t such a disaster there. That shows there’s a need for new leadership and it’d be great for Gov. Romney come in and take the helm and resolve some of these issues and he’s talking about taking positive steps to move us forward.”
Negative vs. positive campaigning
Both Outman, R-Six Lakes, and his challenger, Mike Huckleberry, D-Greenville, have been accused of negative campaigning in their race for 70th District state representative. Outman was elected state representative over Huckleberry in 2010, while Huckleberry was previously elected in 2008.
“There are really two main issues that were true in 2010 that I think are still true in 2012,” Snyder said. “People want more and better jobs and a future for our kids. People don’t want to hear about all the negative stuff. They really want to know who’s going to stand there and say OK, this is what we’re going to do to get more and better jobs and this is what we’re going to do to make sure we have a bright future for our kids.
“In many respects, we’re (Michigan is) the role model for what Washington needs to do,” the governor added. “We’re balancing budgets, we’re paying down debt. The debt piece is part important when you talk about the future for our kids, because that’s going to be largely their liability. Government doesn’t create jobs, we create the environment that can help foster that.”
Sustainable jobs in Michigan
Compact Power, a hybrid battery plant in Holland, Mich., run by LG Chem, recently placed its workers on furlough. The plant opened to much hype in 2010, but has yet to produce a single battery for the electric Chevrolet Volt or the electric Ford Focus, according to news reports.
Snyder, who has an established background in various business ventures, shared his thoughts on why the battery plant and other alternative energy companies, such as the failed United Solar Ovonic in Greenville, haven’t met expectations.
“The battery industry is not coming along as fast people had thought,” Snyder said. “It’s taking longer to develop, which I don’t view as surprising. Starting companies from scratch is really hard work. Quite often people get ahead of themselves in terms of thinking how fast it’s going to come in terms of how it really comes.
“In the long term, I think we’re going to find batteries to be very important, but I think it got too far ahead of itself,” he said. “Longterm, I think there is good potential. I don’t really believe in buying companies into our state versus making sure we’re growing the best companies right here.”
Snyder pointed to Ford’s new assembly plant in Flat Rock as a Michigan success story, noting how the plant is adding 1,200 jobs, a second production shift and a $555 million investment to produce the 2013 Ford Fusion, as well as the historic Ford Mustang. Snyder noted how Ford decided to do this in Michigan instead of sending these jobs out of the country.
“That’s a huge statement,” he declared.
Snyder called the Michigan Business Tax “the dumbest tax in the country” and a “job-killer.”
“We’ve lost a lost of business because of the Michigan Business Tax,” he said. “What we need to do is focus on communities. Having the right talent is one of the most critical things. That’s the plan of having a wonderful community college (like Montcalm Community College) that’s looking at how do to production training for people on a production floor.
“The single most important thing longterm is having the best workforce possible, the most talented people and we need to emphasize the creation of that, but then marketing — we do need to let people know that this is a great place to come set up and build things,” he said. “Made in Michigan needs to be something special, whether it be manufactured, whether it be grown or created in Michigan. And then we really want to see businesses that are going to export those products everywhere around the world. I think you have the seeds of doing that, we just need to continue and follow through and build on the base of the state getting its act together.”
Outman, who sits on a subcommittee for agriculture, added that the committee is currently looking at easing requirements for agriculture processing plants to make it easier for those plants to open in the Montcalm County area.
“Our problem is over-regulation, no doubt about it,” Outman said. “We are working hard to partner with the DEQ and the EPA to try to ease some of those restrictions. It makes sense to bring some of that here to an agriculture community because, why not? This is where everything is at.”
Snyder thinks skilled trade job training is a great opportunity being missed in some Michigan communities, and something that should be taken advantage of at community colleges or trade schools. He said when the website mitalent.org was launched, results showed 60,000 to 70,000 open jobs in Michigan, including many skilled trade jobs.
“We have a lot of open skilled trade jobs today, even with our unemployment rate, and we should be filling those spots,” he said. “How do we get information to parents, to kids, to people looking for that next career and let them know here’s how well you can do by going into this field, here’s the training program where it’s at, here’s the requirements to get in and then facilitate that process, but then let people make their selections and go.
“My goal is to have us lead the country in doing the best job of connecting people with careers and then the education that needs to go with it and make it as easy as possible,” Snyder summarized.