MANISTIQUE - Gov. Rick Snyder visited Manistique Monday to tour the Manistique Papers facility, also discussing the mill's success story and why it contributes to Michigan as the "comeback state." Snyder also participated in a town hall meeting, where he answered questions asked by audience members on a variety of issues.
Manistique Papers Inc. General Manager Jon Johnson noted the event was being held around the one-year mark of Manistique Papers closing its doors, ceasing production and filing for bankruptcy.
With help from a number of parties involved, the mill was able to reopen, and was recently acquired in April by the Watermill Group, a Boston-area private investment firm.
Gov. Rick Snyder talks during a town hall in Manistique Monday afternoon. (Daily Press photo by Jason Raiche)
At the town hall meeting, held outside of Manistique Papers Monday afternoon, Snyder commented on the noise of the mill as "the sound of jobs," before highlighting Michigan as the comeback state of the U.S.
"It's great to be here," said Snyder. "Michigan is the comeback state of the United States today, and we should be proud of that. We were at the bottom. We were at the bottom not just for a couple years, but for a whole decade, and we're coming back strong."
Snyder noted the most important asset in the state are its people, to whom he attributes Michigan's comeback.
He recalled one year ago when he was touring the U.P. and received the phone call with the news of Manistique Papers' closing.
"We changed the plan. I came down, went to mBank, sat in a meeting where Jon presented the vision for what this company could become," recalled Snyder. "He was able to talk about the people of the community coming together that believe in the future of this facility; to say, 'It's about jobs, it's about the livelihood of a community,' and because of that passion, of the community, of the team, we were able to get behind all that."
He added the community is the biggest party to thank for doing the right thing by working together and having a positive attitude, ensuring Manistique Papers would have a future.
"The attitude is we can do this, we will do this - be positive, forward-looking and working as a team," said Snyder. "That is the spirit of our state. That is the spirit of this comeback, and I hope you keep that fire and passion going because we have much more work to do. So we want to keep that wonderful noise going, that noise of jobs."
Snyder also took questions from the audience with the issue of jobs being front and center.
When asked about what is needed to bring more jobs and opportunities to small communities like Manistique, Snyder spoke of the importance of training in the skilled trades. According to Snyder, the biggest concern for most companies and where they locate is to go to places where there are people who have critical talents to help them be successful. He noted that 20 to 30 years ago, the emphasis was taken off vocational training in the skilled trades, which he acknowledges was a mistake.
He said Michigan will lead the country in bringing these skill sets back and that the state will ensure it is building the "most skilled and talented workforce possible."
Snyder also talked about the future of business in the area, noting the state will be doing many "great things" in the timber industry, and said the mining industry in the U.P. is coming back. He said the Pure Michigan campaign has been working for tourism, and noted that despite a year of drought issues, there is a bright future for agriculture across the state, as well as manufacturing.
Snyder also discussed the problem of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes, and vowed to address the issue.
"We need to do more. So, one thing you're going to see going into next year is the state of Michigan is going to be much more proactive on the issue of aquatic invasives, because the way it's working today is not good enough," said Snyder, noting there are other invasive species that also need to be addressed.
Another topic he discussed was the controversial International Trade Crossing downstate over the Detroit River, aimed to increase international trade and create jobs.
"The new International Trade Crossing is a great opportunity for us," said Snyder. "If it hadn't been for one special interest who spent over $5 million of basically misleading ads, everybody would already be on board with this project, because when you get the facts, it's obvious why we should do this...It's about jobs throughout all of Michigan for the long term."
Snyder noted Canada has agreed to fund the project, which will be repaid from bridge tolls.
"So it doesn't cost the Michigan taxpayers a dime to build this crossing. That's a great deal," he said.
When asked about Right to Work in Michigan, Snyder said the "divisive issue" is not even on his agenda, saying there are more important issues for the state to focus on. Other politicians taking part in the town hall meeting included U.S. House Rep. Dan Benishek and State Sen. Tom Casperson.