Northern Michigan receives new liaison

Cameron Witbeck

Considering the many problems facing Michigan, including a projected budget deficit of $1.8 billion, many of the state’s residents are keeping a close eye on every move that recently appointed Gov. Rick Snyder is making in Lansing.

One such move has been to appoint Greg Andrews, a former director of sales and marketing for a bio-tech wastewater company, as a liaison between Northern Michigan and Lansing. Andrews worked with Gov. Snyder on the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. The governor has said that one of the liaison’s responsibilities is to help keep Northern Michigan connected to the capital.

“I’m coming out of the private sector because I love Michigan, and I want my kids to grow up in the same Michigan that I grew up in,” Andrews said. “We’re going to be working long hours to make that happen.”

Andrews, a native of Petoskey, Mich., has relocated himself and his family to Marquette. He said legislators, business leaders and community members to help keep the governor in touch with the geographically vast and often underrepresented region of Northern Michigan.

“Northern Michigan is a huge area so it’s going to be a lot of work. Gov. Snyder said that we’re going to be working in dog years, so in the first 182 days we want to accomplish three years of work and we’re all on board to get that done,” Andrews said.

Northern Michigan faces many of the same economic issues that the rest of the state does, but Andrews said that Snyder plans on focusing on stimulating job growth and creating an economic atmosphere in the state that will be inviting to businesses.

One avenue that the governor is considering, Andrews said, is working on improving the mining and forestry industries that have been historically important to Northern Michigan while being “prudent and being mindful of our environment.”

With the economic stability related to job creation, Andrews said that the governor hopes to see more of Michigan’s young people staying in the state.

“Nearly half of our college graduates are forced to find work outside of Michigan. Gov. Snyder wants to make sure that graduates are able to find jobs and stay in Michigan. For the long-term health of our state, that needs to change,” he said.

Brian Cherry, head of NMU’s political science department, said that Michigan is facing a “structural deficit problem,” which is the result of generated revenues not balancing with expenditures and economic changes like unemployment rates.

“In other words, the system is broken. This is very different from past deficits that are created by cyclical downturns and are fixed by minor changes in taxing and spending,” he said.

Leadership and foresight are going to be important for the state over the coming years, Cherry said.

“Our economy has changed. We need real leadership to lead that change in a positive direction. We can’t rely on how things were; we need to think about what Michigan will look like in 20 years,” he said.

Mitch Foster, a senior political science major and a member of the NMU College Republicans, said that while he acknowledges the state’s major budgetary concerns, he is confident in Gov. Snyder’s ability to get Michigan back on track.

“(Gov. Snyder is) going to gut the budget, but he’s smart enough that he’ll create a tax and business climate in a year that will be attractive to business,” Foster said. “You’ll see businesses coming back.”

Foster said that he is excited about the governor’s plans to encourage more research oriented public-private partnerships between Michigan universities and corporations, which could stimulate the economy and create jobs. Despite these measures, there are still a lot of concerns that college students have, he said.

“The biggest concern for me is, ‘What am I going to do when I graduate?’ There are only so many jobs. There has to be something in the state that we are known for that makes me want to stay, both when I graduate and in the summer time.’ That’s a worry for a lot of students.”