Michigan has always been a leader in manufacturing and agricultural production, and now as Chair of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee and Co-Chair of the Senate Manufacturing Caucus, Senator Stabenow is in a unique position to help both our largest and second-largest industries grow and create jobs. She recently addressed the Detroit Economic Club where she talked about her new role and the new opportunities it means for Michigan's economy.
Some excerpts from her speech:
"I worked hard to get on the economic committees in the Senate because it's so important to us in Michigan. On the Finance Committee, the Energy Committee, the Budget Committee, and the Agriculture Committee - in every committee, every single day, I'm working to help our businesses create jobs and rebuild our middle-class. The only reason we have a middle class is because we make things and grow things."
"As important as anything, we need to help small businesses grow and create jobs. Small businesses create more than half of the jobs in this country. Last year, I supported our efforts to pass the Small Business Jobs Act, which cut taxes for small businesses by $12 billion - including an expansion of bonus depreciation and Section 179 expensing. It increased access to small business loans, and it rolled out a nationwide initiative, modeled after an innovative program at MEDC, to help companies whose collateral has lost value."
"When most people think about Michigan, they think about making cars, and that's it. But we're great at growing things - in fact, we have over 8 million acres of farm land in Michigan, and agriculture contributes up to $70 billion to our economy every year.
But here's a surprise... when people think about cars in Michigan, maybe they should think about agriculture, because the two are more related than you might think.
In fact, one of the foremost agricultural pioneers in Michigan was none other than Henry Ford. He grew up on a farm in Dearborn, and never forgot his roots. During the Great Depression, when American farmers were being hurt more than anyone else, he went to work finding ways to integrate agriculture and manufacturing. He opened a research center at Greenfield Village where his scientists worked around the clock, with nearly every known farm crop, trying to find something that would work in car production. He found the answer in soybeans..."
"Thanks to him, farmers in Michigan started planting more soybeans to keep up with Ford's demand. By the 1940s, there were two bushels of soybeans in every single Ford car - it was used in the paint, plastic horn buttons, interior panels, gearshift knobs, and plastic gas petals, among other things."
"But even today, every single Ford Focus that comes off the line at the retooled Wayne Assembly Plant is made with seats made in part from soybeans. And the same is true of every one of the Chevy Volts that roll down the line in the Hamtramck Plant!"
"In Michigan, we have 79 companies manufacturing biobased products. And they aren't just for cars - there are botanical soaps and cleaning products, which are more traditional, but also insulation, plastics, foam products, and fabrics."
"There is also tremendous growth opportunity around food processing - which is really the manufacturing side of agriculture. We certainly do a lot of processing - canning, freezing, and packaging food products - in Michigan. Right here in Detroit, for over 80 years, Better Made has been making potato chips using Michigan-grown potatoes.
Michigan invented breakfast cereals, and Kellogg's, Post, and General Mills all maintain strong manufacturing presence in the Battle Creek area. Our dairy industry - which is Michigan's top agricultural product - accounts for billions of dollars in food processing receipts every year. Up north, our cherry farmers process dried cherries that are sold all over the world. We package and freeze blueberries in the west, and Paw Paw is actually the birthplace of our wine industry. Statewide, food processing accounts for over 40,000 jobs and contributes nearly $15 billion to our economy - and it could be much, much more."
"But with so much growth potential, I've been working with State government and local communities to find ways to attract more of those companies to Michigan, so that we're not only growing the food here, but we're packaging it here too."