Prioritizing road investments by their impact on the economy and attracting businesses to fuel Michigan’s supply chains are among the recommendations backed by Business Leaders for Michigan to help the state recover from disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The statewide roundtable of business leaders on Monday shared details of its economic recovery policy plan to support employers and their workers. The suggestions are meant to be inexpensive to implement, CEO Doug Rothwell said, and draw from actions in other states and regions during previous crises.

“We decided to develop a playbook because there wasn’t one sitting on the table,” Rothwell said. “We think the state needs a roadmap over the next 12-18 months.”

That includes how to allocate resources to improve Michigan’s actual roads, a priority of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration. Although Whitmer has shared plans for a $3.5 billion bonding plan to fund road repairs, with residents under stay-at-home orders, fewer people are on the streets traveling to work and other places. To best use tax revenues for transportation, Business Leaders for Michigan is recommending an economic impact analysis for the projects.

“We did some research, and we found that economic impact actually is not a criteria for determining which projects get funded,” Rothwell said. “What we felt was during a time of crisis when you’ve got limited dollars and you may not be able to do all the bonding, for example, that the governor thought of a few weeks ago, you need to make sure what you are spending is going to help the most people as possible.”

Additionally, COVID-19 has contributed to more than 1.2 million people filing for unemployment in the state since March 15. The roundtable’s plan emphasizes continued support for the Unemployment Insurance Agency’s Work Share program, connecting employees of places like bars and restaurants that remain closed with opportunities at grocery stores and logistics companies where they can return to work quickly, and ensuring state-certified workers can renew their licenses as quickly as possible to avoid worsening the problem.

Some efforts to attract new businesses may be put on pause as Michigan must focus on retaining the businesses it does have, Rothwell said. That includes looking at ways to bring businesses supplying existing companies in the state here, such as material providers for personal protection equipment or ingredients for pharmaceuticals. The state’s Good Jobs for Michigan incentive program perhaps could support those efforts.

“Those supply chains tend to be pretty broad,” he said. “A lot of it is now being produced overseas. Is there an opportunity for some of our Michigan manufacturers or headquarters-based companies to be able to look at opportunities to reshore more of that and what can the state do to incentivize that?”

The plan also recommends using federal Community Develop Block Grants to support small- and medium-sized businesses during their current hardship instead of infrastructure projects to where those dollars usually go.

The recommendations do not address the expected $3.2 billion shortfall in the state’s budget, but the organizations expect to produce some suggestions in a week or two, Rothwell said. The plan does recommend the state review its tax structure and how some businesses opting permanently to have their employees work from home or increasing home delivery could impact its revenues.

This article appeared in the Detroit News. Read more here