Michigan Governor Sees Vocational Schools as Economic Key

Government and businesses will be better off if they can encourage more students to enter vocational training, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said at an annual gathering of auto-industry officials.

People skilled in trades are needed in the workplace more than ever, said Snyder, speaking at the Center for Automotive Research’s annual Management Briefing Seminar near Traverse City, Michigan. That’s especially true in Michigan, where 70,000 jobs are open, many of them in industries, including autos, that require skilled workers.

“The decision we largely made as a society is we essentially told everyone they should go to a university,” said Snyder, a Republican. “The mistake we made was that we didn’t equally emphasize career tech education. That’s where we messed up, and we messed up most everywhere.”

Snyder said he would try to make his state a leader in vocational training by working with businesses and schools.

“We need the collaboration of the private sector, the creativity with the education sector, and we need the connection with the government sector” for vocational training to succeed, Snyder said.

The event hosted by CAR draws industry experts, executives and public officials to the lakeside Michigan city. Snyder participated in a session that discussed how the automotive industry can move forward in an increasingly global and changing marketplace.

Coming Home

The auto industry is “coming back home” to Michigan as automakers add jobs and expand domestically, Snyder said. Speaking with reporters following his speech, he congratulated automakers for strong sales and for designing competitive cars.

Snyder, who is seeking re-election in November, praised voters’ approval yesterday of a ballot measure that would phase out Michigan’s personal property tax on businesses such as automakers, which are also referred to as original equipment manufacturers or OEMs.

“Taxing equipment is a really dumb thing,” Snyder said in an interview. “We want to encourage investment. Some of the OEMs would be good illustrations. When you look at GM and Ford and Chrysler, all those companies, and ask in the last two or three years when they’ve announced their capital investments what percentage have come to Michigan, you’re going to see a big percentage coming to Michigan. I think GM is as high as 80 or 90 percent.”

Machinery Tax

Under the current law, Michigan businesses pay taxes every year on machinery and other equipment, even on items that are decades old. Proposition 1, which voters approved yesterday, will phase out the old tax and replace it with revenue from other sources, including from the state’s use tax.

Proposition 1 “was a very exciting win,” Snyder said. “It’s going to create more jobs in Michigan, it’s going to strengthen local government, and it’s not going to cost taxpayers money.”

Snyder said the repeal of the tax will attract automakers and other industries back to the state.

“We’re very proactive” on collaborating with the auto industry, Snyder said following his speech. “One of the things we’ve done is that we’ve created an automotive office, which is doing a good job with getting engaged with the industry in a very proactive fashion.”

The development of autonomous vehicles is key to the future of the industry in the state, Snyder said. Michigan is one of four states to pass autonomous-vehicle legislation, and the state has partnered with the University of Michigan and automakers to develop connected-car technology, Snyder said.

“I really see Michigan being a center for connected and autonomous vehicles,” he said.

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