HARRIS - Gov. Rick Snyder spoke about the economic opportunities and challenges facing the Upper Peninsula at a breakfast forum held in the Wolf Conference Room of the Island Resort and Casino Thursday.
The event was moderated by Kenneth Meshigaud, tribal chairperson of the Hannahville Indian Community. Meshigaud began by introducing Snyder and members of the panel, and spoke about Hannahville's role in the economic development of the Upper Peninsula. He noted that, between tribal government and the Island Resort and Casino, Hannahville is one of the area's major employers.
During Snyder's opening speech, he expressed his enthusiasm towards the Upper Peninsula before introducing two of his primary messages - the importance of vocational training, and the necessity of increased cooperation between small businesses.
"A lot of great things are going on. There's good opportunities here. Let's just keep going," Snyder said.
Later, remarks were made by the small business representatives who made up the panel, assembled by the Delta County-Hannahville Collaborative Taskforce. The panel consisted of EMP Director of New Business Development Paul Harvey, the Hannahville Indian Community Chief Financial Officer Scott Herioux, Delta Manufacturing President and co-owner Jean Ross, Swanee, Inc. owner and developer Matt Sviland, and VanAire owner and CEO Bill VanDeVusse.
Among the topics raised in their discussion were the importance of attracting young people to the area, problems caused by the revamped healthcare system, and the economic impacts resulting from the approval of Proposal One, which will eventually phase out Michigan's personal property tax.
Snyder then responded to the representatives' comments, urging "relentless positive action" in the face of cynicism. The governor also noted the importance of "placemaking" - city-wide revitalization efforts focusing on the improvement of public spaces - as a method of combating the U.P.'s relative isolation.
"By definition, you're a destination," Snyder said.
Snyder also praised Escanaba and Gladstone's high school robotics teams, both of which qualified for the First Robotics World Championship held in St. Louis in April, as an example of young talent in the region.
"That's the kind of thing that gets recognition," Snyder said. "Believe me, people at the world championships are going 'where's Escanaba? Where's Gladstone? And how can you have two neighboring schools both show up at the world championships?'"
Finally, Snyder asked the region's small business owners to cooperate and collaborate with each other on a grassroots level.
"Each of you has a unique strength," Snyder said. "Figure out how they complement each other."
The event ended with a traditional Potawatomi prayer, and an exchange of gifts between Meshigaud and Snyder.