Mich. looks to lead on green manufacturing

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm wants her state to be the nation’s epicenter for green manufacturing. Last week, the Granholm administration announced a string of investments, totaling more than $1.5 billion, to transform auto assembly plants into solar power and battery systems manufacturing facilities. Gov. Granholm also announced the creation of a new state agency meant to manage and promote Michigan’s environmental, natural resource, and related economic interests.

Through a series of incentives and programs, Michigan is launching a concerted effort to turn the state’s once-powerful auto-manufacturing infrastructure into a bastion of clean and alternative energy product manufacturers. Through mechanisms such as the Advanced-battery incentives, the 21st Century Jobs Fund, alternative-energy and high-tech tax credits, renewable-energy Renaissance Zones, Anchor Zone incentives and Centers of Energy Excellence, Michigan is attracting a range of clean-energy companies who are bringing with them tax revenue and jobs.

In her weekly radio address, Gov. Granholm outlined two solar panel operations that agreed to build facilities in Michigan. Clairvoyant Energy will convert part of Ford’s former Wixom Assembly plant in Oakland County and Suniva is building a new solar manufacturing plant in Saginaw County. Clairvoyant will be joined by Xtreme Power, a builder of stationary battery systems to store solar and wind energy, at the Wixom plant, as Xtreme Power is said to invest $475 million and create 2.500 jobs.

In order to land these companies, the state has issued $140 million in tax credits over the course of five years. But Gov. Granholm and Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) President and CEO Greg Main are betting the solar business will be worth every penny.

“Together, Clairvoyant and Suniva are investing more than $1.1 billion in Michigan and hiring 1,250 workers,” Gov. Granholm said in her radio address. And MEDC President and CEO Greg Main praised the governor and state legislature for giving Michigan the tools needed to entice industry leaders. “Thanks to a coordinated strategic plan driven by research and designed to leverage our strengths, we are now out in front of our competition to capture the solar market and create thousands of new jobs in Michigan,” Mr. Main said in a statement.

To help streamline the policy and regulatory side of Michigan’s green economy equation, Gov. Granholm also announced the dissolution of two natural resource and environmental agencies to be combined under one roof. The Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) will implement an ecosystem-based strategy for resource management, effectively using natural resources in a sustainable manner, and providing for continuous improvements in Michigan’s air, water and soils while facilitating and encouraging economic growth. Lt. Governor John D. Cherry, Jr., who is leading a broad review of state government in an attempt to reorganize the state executive branch from sixteen departments down to eight, said the new DNRE will have a host of conservation authority.

“The new department will be leaner, more efficient and better able to manage our natural resources and protect our environment,” Cherry said.

A transition manager has been put in place until a permanent department head is announced in January 2010.

Lastly, Gov. Granholm and Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle unveiled their plan for jobs and energy infrastructure at a closed session of the Midwestern Governors Association last week. The Jobs and Energy Infrastructure Accord will serve as a basis to help attract investment in clean energy, by aligning energy, economic and workforce policies. The Energy Infrastructure aspect of the accord identifies steps the states will take to expand electricity transmission, carbon capture and storage, smart-grid, and biofuel transport technologies so they can efficiently transmit clean energy throughout the region to the rest of the country.

“We are focused on ways to create jobs in this new energy economy, both in Michigan and across the Midwest,” Gov. Granholm said.

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