Governor hosts town hall meeting in Hancock

HANCOCK – Gov. Rick Snyder is touring the Upper Peninsula visiting various businesses, and during a town hall meeting Monday at the Finlandia University Finnish American Heritage Center, he talked about his vision for the future of Michigan.

Also attending the meeting were State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, Hancock Mayor William Laitila and Finlandia University President Philip Johnson.

Before taking written questions from audience members, Snyder gave an overview of what has happened in the state during his first term as governor.

Snyder said the Michigan economy is picking up since 2009.

“If you stop to look at it, Michigan is the comeback state,” he said.

However, the state has had the highest unemployment in the country for years, Snyder said.

“We were 50 out of 50 (states) for far too long,” he said.

After being elected governor in 2010, Snyder said he went to a “new governor’s” school, and at that event, each governor got a packet of information, which included a financial prediction for the states from 2009 to 2014, and Michigan was ranked as 50th.

“I simply rejected that,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.”

Snyder said since 2009, 250,000 jobs have been added in Michigan.

However, Snyder said many Michigan residents aren’t employed as fully as they should be.

“There’s too many underemployed people,” he said.

Although employment may be increasing, Snyder said incomes aren’t where they were in the 1990s when Michigan ranked 17th for per capita income. In 2009, that ranking was 40th.

“We dropped over 20 states in 10 years,” he said.

In the last three years, Snyder said that per capita income ranking rose to 35th.

“There is progress, but that’s still not a good answer,” he said.

Between 2000 and 2010, Snyder said Michigan was the only state to lose population, but that trend is reversing, also.

“That’s because major industries are doing well,” he said.

Snyder said two of those major industries that are growing are timbering and mining, which has special potential for growth.

“I think there’s great opportunity to grow and create jobs (in mining),” he said.

Earlier in the day Monday, Snyder said he visited the MTEC SmartZone business incubators, and he said he thinks that is an example of efforts that will help Michigan recover economically.

Although the state may be recovering, Snyder said there are still too many people “hurting,” and he thinks wages can be increased by providing better training for workers so they can get the higher-paying jobs.

That includes making college and other post-secondary education affordable for more people.

Snyder said he’s continuing to work on the state’s debt.

“We’re modeling out to 2014,” he said.

Snyder said there’s more work to do to get the Michigan economy healthy again, and he wants to be part of it.

“We’re getting there,” he said. “I’m excited for the future.”