Gov. Granholm meets with Mason leaders
From the Ingham County Community News
By CHRISTIE BLECK
Lansing Community Newspapers
MASON — Mason faces some of the same problems as the entire state, so local leaders listened intently when Gov. Jennifer Granholm came to town on Feb. 29 to talk about ways to deal with education, the economy and other issues.
Granholm and State Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga, held a roundtable discussion with about 15 local leaders at Bestsellers Books & Coffee Company to talk about pressing concerns such as the challenging business climate, schools and — particularly at this time of year — roads.
Mason Mayor Leon Clark asked Granholm if she traveled down Cedar Street, part of which is the heavily decaying M-36.
She said she had.
“Did you find all of our potholes?” Clark asked.
Granholm admitted that’s a problem common throughout the entire state. However, Mason is relying this year on the Michigan Department of Transportation to repair the part of M-36 that begins on Cedar and goes through the downtown area. M-36 is a state highway.
That means the city must abide by some requests, such as installing downtown lightpoles that don’t necessarily fit in with the downtown streetscape. These poles, Clark said, would cost the city $60,000 more. At the March 3 City Council meeting, council members learned that the cost estimate had escalated to almost $84,000.
Clark told the governor he wanted her office to work with MDOT to allow the city to keep the character it’s tried to establish downtown “without them (MDOT) telling us what to do.”
City Administrator Marty Colburn also mentioned that Biggby Coffee wanted to open a franchise on M-36. Because of ingress and egress issues created by the state’s reconfiguration requirement, it would cost Biggby $100,000 to start a business there.
“A policy set that does not allow fine-tuning is not a good policy,” Granholm said.
She said she would work with Byrum to address those local concerns, and added that there is enough flexibility within the state government to “soften” the issues and help create “dynamic downtowns.”
Higher education needed
Granholm said Michigan is moving from one economic era to another.
“The question is,” she said, “How do we transition Michigan?”
Granholm acknowledged that sticking just to manufacturing won’t serve the state well.
“We have our own manufacturing sectors,” she said, “but we know we have to gain other sectors as well.”
That means having a well-educated workforce. To that end, Granholm has proposed a goal of doubling the number of college graduates in 10 years. This goal, she said, includes luring adults back for further education and certifying them in areas of need.
Granholm said she agrees with having a standardized curriculum for schools in the state.
“It’s a college prep curriculum for every child so every child sees himself as going beyond high school,” she said.
Mason Public Schools Superintendent Jim Harvey said his district is suffering from declining enrollment, making it harder to stay financially healthy.
“We’re struggling to stay even, much less bring in technology,” he said.
However, Harvey agreed that a curriculum geared toward post-secondary education is a good idea.
“We want to bring in that curriculum,” he said, “and we need the support from everyone.”
One of Granholm’s priorities is expanding the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program to communities across the state, providing students with $4,000 to at least attend a community college.
Under the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program, graduates of a high school in Kalamazoo Public Schools, through private funding, are given scholarships of up to 100 percent to attend a public university or community college in the state.
Granholm also is stressing the training of adults in areas of need, such as health care, with hospitals helping to write the education curricula.
Mason Area Chamber of Commerce Director Doug Klein expressed concern about keeping local dollars within the local economy.
Granholm said she favors tax cuts for small businesses.
“We want to create a culture of entrepreneurship,” she said.
Another of Granholm’s priorities is Invest Michigan!, a $300 million investment fund that will make funds available to businesses that agree to create new jobs in the state. The program would be funded through a $300 million contribution from the state’s pension funds, which represents less than 1 percent of the state’s overall pension fund.
Granholm said she favors on creating a comprehensive energy plan for the state that would focus on renewable and alternative forms of energy. For example, with Michigan’s close proximity to water, the potential for wind power is huge, she said.
The jobs created through new forms of energy, Granholm added, would replace those lost in the manufacturing sector.