tax incentives

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State money is being used to attract everything from a Jehovah's Witnesses convention in Detroit to an international soccer match in Ann Arbor.

Detroit Free Press business columnist Tom Walsh, notes that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has spent more than a million dollars this year to bring in things like conventions and sporting events.

Walsh says it's a common practice and could generate a lot of state tax revenue from out-of-state visitors.

Walsh says the payback from the first few events is about $20 million in state tax revenue.

Tuesday the Michigan Strategic Fund OK'd another $1 million for the program through Sept. 15, 2015.

Read more in Tom Walsh’s article in the Detroit Free Press.

*Listen to the full story above. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder was on hand to help celebrate as the Michigan Strategic Fund approved state-paid incentives to 14 new business projects.     

The governor said lower taxes, fewer regulations, and a skilled workforce should make incentives less necessary in the future. But he said state assistance still has to be part of the mix. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow will introduce a bill next week to prevent companies from getting tax write-offs for moving overseas.

Currently businesses can write off moving expenses on their taxes if they’re moving within or out of the country.  But no such break exists for businesses moving into the U.S.

“That makes absolutely no sense,” Stabenow said at a press conference Monday at Grand Valley State University.

Tax incentives have become the weapon of choice among states battling for new business investments. Niala Boodhoo reported in December that offering incentives has become a sort of strategy game for Midwest states hoping to one-up each other as everyone fights to grow jobs. But, as Niala reported, these are games with millions of dollars in tax breaks and thousands of jobs on the line.

American Seating Company

Biden visited a Grand Rapids Public High School back in October to promote the President’s jobs bill. Biden returns this week, this time he’s expected to talk to workers at a manufacturing plant about the administration’s tax plan that’s supposed to boost American manufacturing.

Biden will visit American Seating Company in Grand Rapids on Wednesday. American Seating Company has been making seats for tour busses, trains, and big stadiums for about 125 years. Dave McLaughlin is Vice President and General Sales Manager of Transportation Products Group at American Seating. He’s been working there for 27 years. He says the company is trying not to view Biden’s visit as simply a political event.

“I’m sure there are people that are looking at it as a political event,” McLaughlin said, “We really need help as a nation in rebuilding our manufacturing infrastructure.”

The company employs 500, mostly unionized workers. Most are in Grand Rapids, but all in the United States. McLaughlin says about 75-percent of the company’s goods and services are sourced from companies based in Michigan, Ohio or Indiana.

“We just like to do things here,” McLaughlin said simply. “Now having said that we clearly are in the minority.” He says labor costs are the biggest challenge in staying in the U.S.

So if labor costs are the challenge, what can the U.S. government help manufacturers out with?

  1. Tax incentives: “Certainly a way of mitigating that fact of life could be through tax breaks of one sort or another,” McLaughlin said.
  2. Strengthening the Buy America content provisions: “They could raise that threshold to the point where it’s more difficult for offshore organizations to meet,” McLaughlin said.
  3. Have local, state, national projects buy American made products: “It seems ridiculous to me to see those dollars go offshore when quite often they don’t get reinvested back into the United States,” McLaughlin said.
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Three Detroit businesses earlier this year began to offer up to $25,000 to encourage their employees to buy a place to live in Midtown Detroit. But the "Live Midtown" incentives have created a new kind of housing crisis in the city: a housing shortage. 

Austin Black is a realtor with City Living Detroit in midtown. He says in 2007 - 2008, the area was flush with unsold units. But he says now many of his clients have become frustrated looking for housing in the area.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Democrats in the Michigan Legislature say they want to revive tax incentives specifically set aside for advanced battery manufacturers.

The industry-specific tax credits are among those scheduled to be phased out under tax policy changes approved by the Republican-led Michigan Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder.

Democrats say Monday they'll support bills that would continue the industry-specific credits for battery production, facility construction and related activities.

The Democratic plan also would include tax credits for buying electric vehicles and charging stations.

Michigan's tax credit program and federal assistance have helped several battery manufacturers get started in the state. Credits that already have been granted will be honored. But Snyder and Republicans say they don't want to pick winners and losers with industry-specific tax credit programs.

Leading auto consulting firms are lowering their forecasts for U.S. auto sales in 2011. 

But it is unlikely to send automakers into a panic.

Some observers say the lower volume of sales means the U.S. is ripe for an incentives war among car companies.  

But Anthony Pratt with the auto consulting group R. L. Polk doesn’t see it happening.   He says a lot of the triggers that set off incentives wars in the past are missing. 

For one thing, U.S. car companies are making money at the lower volume of sales. 

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Several Detroit businesses are paying their employees to move to the city as part of a new incentive program called "Live Downtown."

Employees can get $20,000 dollars toward the purchase of a new home. Those who rent will get up to $3,500 for two years. Even employees who already live in the city can get money to make home improvements.

Here's a list of the 5 companies behind the new "Live Downtown" program:

MEDC

Together the projects will generate up to $602 million in new investments and create close to 2,000 new jobs.

By far the biggest project approved by the board this month is in Charlotte. Spartan Motors Chassis designs and manufactures a variety of special products for vehicles. They’re expected to add 450 new jobs along with an expanded facility.

George Bosnjak manages business development at The Right Place. It’s an economic development group in West Michigan. He helped two companies expanding in Grand Rapids get the tax breaks. Atomic Object LLC will expand its current location over a site in California. They expect to launch two new programs that’ll add 30 high tech software design jobs. Knape & Vogt Manufacturing Company makes all kinds of storage related components in Grand Rapids. They purchased a company in Illinois and will move production to Michigan, creating more than 120 new jobs.  

Bosnjak is optimistic about industry growth in West Michigan.

 “We really see a positive trend across all sectors, certainly nothing where it’ll turn around and change what’s happened over the last three years overnight but I feel that our economy and companies here are certainly moving in the right direction.”

However, Governor Rick Snyder is proposing to eliminate these and many other tax breaks. Bosnjak says they’re playing it by ear.

“I don’t think anyone really knows exactly what the programs will be and what the changes will be and how it’ll affect companies. But we’ll certainly deal with the tools that we have and make the best and do the best job that we can.

Snyder says the incentives inherently pick winners and losers when he says the state needs to create a simple and fair tax structure so all businesses are on an even playing field.

Lloydpictures.com

Republican state senator Rick Jones says Michigan’s film tax credit might need to be trimmed, but he doesn’t think it should be eliminated. 

Governor Rick Snyder has said he’s going to put Michigan’s generous film tax credit policy under the microscope.

Movie companies can get up to a 42 percent tax credit if they film here.

But State Sen. Rick Jones says movies made in Michigan can be good for the state, because a hit can bring residual money into a community:

A good example would be "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeve." We still have people traveling to Mackinac Island to see where that movie was made. There are still souvenirs sold, and it increases tourism.

Jones says his position has nothing to do with the possibility that the next Batman movie may be shot in his hometown of Grand Ledge.

Another movie, “Red  Dawn,” was also filmed in  Grand Ledge  and is awaiting release.

Rapper Curtis Jackson "50 cent" gets the red carpet treatment for the premier in
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Grand Rapids’ movie theater rolled out the red carpet Wednesday night to benefit Michigan’s burgeoning film industry. New York rapper, turned movie star Curtis Jackson, know more commonly as 50-cent, held a special premier of his new movie in Grand Rapids. Jackson signed autographs, took pictures with fans and introduced an early screening of his new movie “Gun”.

The deadline for businesses to apply for 2010 tax breaks is Oct. 31
whiteoaksblog.com

Local approval is one of the first hurdles companies must overcome to get the tax breaks they want. The deadline to get tax breaks in 2010 is October 31st. That means there's a surge of projects in front of local city councils and commissions.