Successful Program Helps Create Jobs, Train Workers for New Jobs

WorkersMichigan’s economy is growing at a faster rate than the nation as a whole, resulting in the creation of more than 300,000 private sector jobs and 75,000 manufacturing jobs in Michigan in less than four years.

Unfortunately, thousands of these new jobs statewide and in Southwest Michigan remain unfilled because employers cannot find enough workers with the necessary skills.

That is why I supported legislation recently approved by the Senate to help the state’s community colleges meet the increased need for specific skilled training for workers.

Senate Bill 1074 would remove certain technical restrictions to allow the Michigan New Jobs Training Program (MNJTP) to expand. The program was established in 2008 to promote job growth and provide skilled training to workers through local community colleges.

It lets community colleges create a training pool through flexible financing mechanisms to support employers who are creating jobs or expanding operations in Michigan.

The Anderson Economic Group reports that the program generated more than $76 million in additional earnings and 2,266 new jobs in 2012. Going forward, the program is projected to annually generate $143 million in additional earnings and more than 4,700 jobs.

The Michigan New Jobs Training Program has proven successful in helping create jobs and train workers for those jobs.

By removing arbitrary restrictions, we can empower local communities to maximize the benefit of this program for area workers and help ensure that we meet the workforce needs of a growing economy.

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Proos: Economic Future is Optimistic

proos commercialHerald Palladium

State Sen. John Proos, seeking re-election in the 21st District, says Michigan’s economy is heading in the right direction, while acknowledging that it still has a long way to go.

“To say that the economy has rebounded for everybody, I think the evidence is clear that no, it has not,” said Proos, seeking a second four-year term in the Senate. “We have a long way to go to get back to where we once were.”

Before being elected to the Senate in 2010, Proos, 44, served as the state representative for the 79th district of northern Berrien County for three terms until he reached his term limit.

If re-elected, it would be his final term in the Senate due to term limits.

Proos is a 1988 graduate of Lake Michigan Catholic High School and has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Marquette University and a master’s degree in higher education administration from Michigan State University.

Before he was elected to the Michigan Legislature, Proos was deputy chief of staff and district director for U.S. Rep. Fred Upton.

Following this November’s election, the 21st District will encompass Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties and will no longer include Van Buren County.

Looking up

Proos said he has talked to hundreds of people on their doorsteps “who are clearly not out of the woods. Not every family feels like they are back to where they were. Not every family feels they are in the jobs they absolutely want. But as the economy improves, they will be seeing the benefits.”

Proos said the state’s unemployment rate, at 7.2 percent, is half of what it was four years ago (while still ranked 47th in the nation).

Michigan leads the nation in manufacturing job growth and in the growth of personal income, he said.

He credits these improvements to a change in the business environment, including eliminating many regulations and replacing the Michigan Business Tax with a 6 percent corporate tax.

The reform has created a tax that is “consistent, fair and flat, with no special place for someone to hide,” he said.

The auto industry, aided by a federal bailout, continues to be a “major driver” in Michigan, Proos said. Michigan has seen rapid growth “in part because we had hit the bottom and had been bouncing along the bottom for many years.”

Proos said that the recovery hasn’t taken full effect for some businesses that are “just starting to reap the benefits of the tax changes that were made.”

Closing the skills gap

A lot of businesses are hanging out the “help wanted” sign but are having trouble finding the skilled workers they need. Proos said there are some 75,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in the state.

Proos supports more career and technical education at the high school and post-secondary level and letting students know “that there is a job available today, and it’s not your grandfather’s dirty shop floor,” but a vocation for the future.

Proos defended Gov. Rick Snyder’s record on funding for K-12 education.

“What is clear is that there has been over $1 billion in new funding for schools since Snyder came into office,” Proos said.

Articles have pointed out that much of that increase has gone toward shoring up the teachers’ retirement system.

Proos called that “living up to our obligations to those who have taught our children in the past.”

“As our economy improves, there isn’t a doubt that we should find a way to put more money into our classrooms,” Proos said.

Another area that needs a large infusion is the state’s roads, Proos said.

He has heard estimates that range from $800 million a year up to $2 billion a year are needed, and he isn’t sure which figures are accurate.

“What I do know is that additional funding for roads is necessary to manage the safety and security of the goods and services and the people being transported down our roadways.”

The first thing that needs to happen, Proos said, is to assure taxpayers that every dollar they pay at the pump in gas taxes, that is not constitutionally obligated for other areas, goes into roads. He noted that about two-thirds of the 6 percent sales tax on gas goes to schools and local governments.

Making sure that money comes off the top of a taxes for roads would guarantee the federal matching funds of between $400 million and $500 million a year, Proos said.

He does not support an increase in vehicle registration fees to fund road repairs because that would hit residents on fixed incomes, and small businesses and farms that would pay more for every vehicle they use.

Proos voted against an increase in the state’s minimum wage, believing that the cost to businesses would be passed along to consumers.

He did support right-to-work legislation that allows employees to choose whether to belong to a union and support it with their dues.

“Freedom to work is a step in the right direction to changing the image of Michigan nationally and internationally as a place welcoming to business,” Proos said.

Stopping meth

Legislative initiatives supported by Proos include the creation of the NPLEX system that allows pharmacies to keep track of the sale of ingredients used in methamphetamine, and to stop sales to people over the limit.

Law enforcement agencies have told Proos that this has stopped the sale of 3 million grams of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine and allowed them to investigate where these ingredients are being sought in large quantities.

Proos launched the “Swift and Sure” sanctions for people on probation, with immediate jail time for those who fail random drug tests.

Berrien County Judge Sterling Schrock, who oversees the “Swift and Sure” program here, told Proos that the rate of probationers failing drug tests has fallen from 71 to 4 percent.

“A decrease in crime in our communities means less victims and less costs in the community, while changing people’s lives,” Proos said.

Proos said meeting and listening to constituents is the most important part of his job, and his office has handled 12,000 cases for citizens in four years.

That has included explaining tax law changes to local school administrators, and helping businesses including the new Greenbush Brewery in Sawyer and the rebuilt Stray Dog in New Buffalo obtain liquor licenses.

“If folks know their voice has been heard and they know that I have listened to their thoughts and concerns and considerations, I think they have a better chance to feel as though their government has been responsive, even if it’s not in agreement with their position,” Proos said.

Tele-town Hall a Resounding Success

Proos on the PhoneI recently held the latest in a series of “tele-town hall” meetings to hear from residents about their priorities for the rest of the year. It was a resounding success with 8,600 residents participating.

I believe that listening to citizens is vital and irreplaceable in providing the best possible service, and tele-town halls allow me to hear directly from thousands of local constituents.

In addition to having residents ask me 45 questions, everyone was able to give their viewpoint on a series of questions concerning their families and Michigan’s fiscal and economic health. In fact, we received 740 responses to our three poll questions.

It was great to hear the positive opinion residents have about the state’s direction, with 64 percent of participants saying that they think Michigan is moving in the right direction.

When asked what is most important to their family, 18 percent said creating jobs, ranking it third behind health care (23 percent) and government debt (19 percent). This illustrates the tremendous progress we have made to turn around our economy and attract new jobs and investment to our state.

Michigan is on the right track and our proactive reforms are working, yet we must continue our efforts to ensure workers have the necessary skills to get one of the many well-paying jobs currently available right here in Southwest Michigan.

Thank you to everyone who called in and listened or asked a question. Your input is valuable to me, and I always enjoy hearing your opinions.

Career Training Will Help Students be Job-Ready

Proos_Average JoesThousands of Michigan jobs remain unfilled because employers cannot find enough skilled workers. To help meet this workforce need, Gov. Rick Snyder has called for an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education in our schools.

I am strong supporter of STEM and career and technical education (CTE) because applied learning done in coordination with public-private partnerships and STEM education can help prepare children for success and also meet the workforce needs of a growing economy.

Recently, my bill to connect unfilled jobs with classroom education and training was unanimously approved and sent to the governor to be signed.

Senate Bill 66 allows for the sharing of information between schools and businesses with workforce needs and provides students and parents with information on CTE opportunities.

The Department of Education would be required to provide CTE course information to schools and post online about CTE best practices from around Michigan and the country.

The department will also post online details on how CTE courses can be used to fulfill the state’s high school graduation requirements; information on successful CTE programs; and information on how schools can work with local businesses, public-private partnerships, trade organizations, universities and community colleges to provide quality CTE.

Applied learning is most effective when students who complete the courses are job-ready. That is why the bill also urges schools to establish programs that award credit toward a college degree or a professional certificate – giving students on-the-job training.

Make Sure to Vote – It’s the Foundation of our Nation

VoteAmerica was founded on the revolutionary idea that our government doesn’t give us power; our government only has the power that we, the people, choose to give it.

Our rights are endowed upon us by our Creator, and key to these is the right to vote. This freedom to choose or reject our leaders makes us the beacon of liberty in the world. People in countries worldwide have fought and continue to fight for what many of us take for granted.

I encourage all citizens to exercise their voice by getting out to vote. While voter turnout nationwide remains low, I am proud that Southwest Michigan residents take voting to heart and turn out to participate in our democratic republic. Every vote matters and sometimes a single vote can make all the difference.

I would also urge you to learn as much as you can about the candidates and the issues. Our state and nation continue to take on big issues and we need effective leaders who are willing to stand up for their communities.

This August, voters are being asked to weigh in on a statewide ballot proposal that would eliminate the personal property tax (PPT) businesses pay on equipment or machinery and dedicate a portion of the state’s current use tax to local municipalities and school districts that rely on the PPT to ensure they are held harmless.

For more information about Proposal 1, including the actual ballot language, residents may visit my website at www.SenatorJohnProos.com and click on the Proposal 1 graphic.

If you do not know where you’re supposed to go to vote, visit the Michigan Voter Information Center at: www.michigan.gov/vote. Enter your first and last name, date of birth and residential ZIP code, and the website will give you the address and a map of your polling location.

For voters who cannot attend the polls on Aug. 5, the website also includes information about absentee voting.

Voters in Berrien County may also get their polling location information by contacting the county clerk’s office at 269-983-7111 ext. 8264 or by email at: elections@berriencounty.org. Voters in Cass County should contact 269-445-4464.

Please exercise your constitutional right to vote. Residents who want a copy of our Michigan or U.S. constitutions for their own use or to help teach your children about our democratic republic, please contact my office at 1-517-373-6960 or via email at: SenJProos@senate.michigan.gov.

Business Roundtable Focuses on Job Creation, Meeting Workforce Needs

David gooch; pres gary wheeler, glen oaks ccWe have achieved much to turn around Michigan’s economy and make our state more competitive in the pursuit of jobs, including manufacturing jobs.

As a result, in less than four years, Michigan has added more than 275,000 new private sector jobs and 75,000 manufacturing jobs. Many of these new jobs are right here in Southwest Michigan.

We have created a more welcoming business environment by cutting red tape – including the elimination of more than 1,400 needless government rules – and by adopting a more favorable tax structure for small businesses to grow.

As we continue to help grow our economy and create jobs, we must also ensure our workforce is able to fill the needs for prospective employers. The access to highly skilled workers is critical to attracting new jobs and investment to our state.

I want to thank Lt. Gov. Brian Calley for his recent visit to Michigan’s Great Southwest for a roundtable discussion with area business leaders about strategies to continue job growth in the region and statewide.

Part of this open dialogue was a tour of Maximum Mold, Inc. in Benton Harbor. The small business is a leader in the designing and building of plastic molds and die-cast dies. Most importantly, it is a testament to Michigan success. It has grown from humble means in a cabin to a large facility employing two dozen workers.

Michigan is now encouraging entrepreneurship and creating jobs, but many businesses are having difficulty finding enough skilled workers to fill these new positions.

Currently, there are thousands of open high-paying jobs in Michigan – many still unfilled in Southwest Michigan.

These are not our grandfather’s manufacturing jobs. These positions are high-tech, clean and invaluable to Michigan’s economy. Filling the skills gap will play a critical role in meeting the workforce needs of a growing economy.

I will continue my efforts to encourage schools to offer applied learning programs that award credit toward a college degree or an industry-recognized certificate. These programs can help us prepare future generations for success while also giving them a leg up on getting into college or getting a well-paying job.

Lt. Gov. Makes BH Campaign Stop

Calley in BHHerald Palladium

By Louise Wrege

BENTON HARBOR – Lt. Gov. Brian Calley toured Maximum Mold in Benton Harbor.

And it sounded like a victory lap.

Calley told those gathered that Michigan looked very different just a few years ago.

“We were in perpetual fiscal crisis,” he said. “In fact, we were in crisis for so long no one was acting like we were in crisis.”

Calley and Gov. Rick Snyder are seeking re-election to second terms this year. They are claiming job growth, lower taxes and an improved business climate.

Polling suggests the Republican incumbents are in a close race with likely Democratic nominee Mark Schauer.

During the visit, Dave LaGrow, president of Maximum Mold, took the officials on a tour of his facility. LaGrow explained how his company grew from starting in 1996 with two workers in a pole barn in Coloma to its current 24 employees in a 13,000 square foot facility in Benton Harbor.

Calley said he and Steve Arwood, the director of the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, have been meeting with local officials all over the state to share the progress the state has made since Snyder became governor. Next week, he said they are meeting with officials in Monroe.

“When Steve and I started doing this … at first it was singularly focused on trying to get the word out about changes we have made within state government – the way that we’re operating, particularly the regulatory department,” Calley said. “It’s kind of evolved from there into more of a discussion generally about the policies of the state of Michigan and how they’ve changed, how they were working, and then helping us to set the agenda for the future.”

He said they needed to stabilize the state and create a more dependable and predictable environment for businesses.

He said the state’s credit rating is improving and the state government is functioning better.

“We can change all the policies we want but if the state government doesn’t operate well or implement well, there’s only so much improvement that can be made,” Calley said.

He said the state has gotten rid of thousands of forms that people used to have to deal with.

Calley said he was interested in meeting in Benton Harbor because it’s near other states.

“The discussions about competitiveness … are particularly important along the borders with other states,” he said. “We’re talking about a city like Chicago or a state like Indiana. This is an area where competition means something much different from the way people look at it if they’re in Saginaw or Traverse City or Detroit.”

Calley said it’s important to meet with smaller companies and help them connect with larger ones.

“We try to get out of the way … of our smaller companies in particular,” he said. “They don’t have compliance departments and teams of lawyers. The owner is the main sales person and the accountant and the compliance officer and the copy machine jam fixer. … We want people to spend more time on productive activities and do things with their community and their business.”

Officials said one of the main obstacles to Michigan’s growth is that students are not being trained for the jobs that are available today.

State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, said there are 72,000 to 75,000 unfilled jobs in the state because companies can’t find skilled workers.

“We have students who are preparing themselves for four-year track, students who are preparing themselves for community college and so forth, but they’re not necessarily tracked towards today’s jobs,” Proos said.

He said the state legislature has passed bills to knock down barriers so high schools can be more flexible with career and technical education programs.