Q&A: New MEDC chief proposes plan for Michigan economy

Mason, 58 years old, was confirmed this month as CEO of MEDC by the agency’s executive committee, headed by Rothwell, who also held the post.

Mason worked for the MEDC under two governors from 1999 to 2009, notably as Senior Vice President of Business Development.

Bridge/ Crain’s recently spoke with Mason about his vision for the agency, which he says includes opportunities in vehicle mobility, defense, information technology and agriculture. A condensed version of the interview appears below.

Bridge/ Crain’s: What will be your approach to economic development as CEO?

I’m really going to cross state … and really listen to (community leaders) and sort of understand where they’re at. … We are more efficient by working together.

The governor emphasized in my conversation with him that now is not the time to slow down or slow down. Now is the time to hit the gas and see if we can’t really scale up some of the things we’re doing in terms of job growth, community development, some of the activities that we already have underway.

What do you think of the Good jobs for Michigan and transformational brownfield incentives recently passed by the legislature?

We very much appreciate the Legislative Assembly and the Governor for their support, and local state organizations have been very helpful in pushing this legislation through. I think these are two tools that are measured responses to what is going on in the market and that will give us additional tools to really help, not only for community development projects, but also to continue some of these great activities in the market. attraction and not just compete, but hope to win.

Do you think Michigan has been competitive with other states for these big projects?

We were competitive up to a point. The efforts that have been made over the last six years in terms of changes to the tax structure and some business climate issues in terms of regulatory or energy costs – I mean, I think we have a solid foundation that allowed us to compete and succeed, to some extent. I think Michigan’s good jobs package (of) legislation will hopefully allow us to compete and win some of the most important projects. And the landscape, as you well know, in terms of what other states are doing to compete for these projects is very competitive, whether it’s land or free sites or closing funds.

Are there any other gaps in the Incentive Toolbox?

I don’t see any at the moment. If you kind of look at the competitive landscape, we’re not going to compete on the lowest cost basis, because I don’t think we should. The value that we deliver in terms of talent, in terms of manpower, infrastructure in terms of roads and transportation, the education system – we offer, I think, a competitive product at a reasonable cost. … This Good Jobs for Michigan package is kind of the icing on the cake, if you will.

How involved have you been in efforts to attract Taiwanese electronics maker Foxconn Technology Group to Michigan?

I tried not to commit or really go into the details of the deal flow for a particular project, really, until I got on board. … I really wanted to have this firewall.

Why, in your opinion, is the MEDC often in the crosshairs of the legislative budget?

It is a healthy debate taking place within our state and within democracy. I think first and foremost that what this state has done over the past six years is really to put its house in order in terms of fiscal management. … I think we have created this solid foundation. Then it’s a matter of what other policies or programs do we put in place to help us be competitive. … Incentives probably get a lot of attention and attention, and that’s right. But I think there are other things going on within the economic development organization here at MEDC – things like the Pure Michigan Business Connect program, which connects Michigan’s large businesses with small businesses. … It’s not about incentives. It’s about creating the right opportunities to help our existing Michigan businesses be more successful.

What do you think of the community development component of MEDC?

I think about creating the right environment within our communities so that people want to live in those communities and then go to work for some of these big companies. … There’s a lot more going on, I think, that has as much or perhaps more impact than the big Strategic Fund meetings and the agreements.