Editorial Roundup: Michigan

Detroit News. May 31, 2022.

Editorial: Auto future is Michigan’s to lose

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg likely didn’t drive on Michigan’s “damn roads” to get to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s policy conference this week, hosted at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

If he had, he would notice the reality here doesn’t always match the ambitious rhetoric.

Still, Buttigieg, who is the keynote speaker today, is a welcome presence in a state that is trying to figure out how to compete for electric vehicle investments as the automotive industry transitions.

The rubber will soon meet the road — and in many ways, it already has — if the state continues to lose out on critical investments from both the Detroit Big Three and foreign auto companies.

The competition for the automotive future is real, and that’s where Lansing’s ideologically-driven political agendas are becoming more and more costly. The state’s capitol provides anything but certainty right now, and while that’s not the only factor in multi-billion dollar investments, it certainly is a factor.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signaled she at least takes the competition seriously. She signed on with Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin to the Regional Electric Vehicle for the Midwest Memorandum of Understanding to accelerate adoption of EVs in the Midwest.

And she’s urging the Legislature — and taxpayers to the tune of $135 million — to throw last-minute cash at Ford Motor Co. to keep its investments in southeastern Michigan by retooling plants here for both electric and internal combustion engine vehicles and parts.

Ford projects its investments would create 3,000 new jobs at local facilities.

Economically and symbolically, this is a fight Michigan can’t afford to lose.

Indiana recently landed a more than $2.5 billion investment from Stellantis and South Korea’s Samsung SDI at its second planned electric vehicle battery plant in the country, in Kokomo, Ind. It should bring 1,400 jobs.

In January, Intel announced it would invest $20 billion in two new microchip-fabrication plants in neighboring Ohio, just outside Columbus. That’s excellent for the Midwest, which is competing with the South for foreign automakers and the labor they need to produce.

But it’s not good for Michigan.

The historic presumption has been that production is always going to take place here. But that’s going to require real collaboration, and real money, to compete for the future of automotive talent and production.

Also critical is the state’s electric vehicle infrastructure, and that is an area where private-public partnerships are essential. Some of those relationships already exist here, and the Whitmer administration should pursue more of them with support of Republican lawmakers. There isn’t a ton of room for ideology on issues so critical to the state’s economic growth.

Demand is there for electric vehicles, whether it came naturally or by force. Certainly gas prices that have skyrocketed under the Biden administration are a contributing factor, and one that the president doesn’t seem overly concerned with.

He’s staked out a position for American consumers moving forward: Now is the time to transition to EVs. He even invoked the Defense Production Act to shore up supply chain materials critical to batteries for EVs.

And all of these moving parts, including supply chain issues and all that complicates in Michigan’s manufacturing-based economy, points to the reality that electric vehicles are here to stay along with internal combustion engines. Michigan’s goal should be to continue to lead the nation in automotive production regardless.

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Traverse City Record-Eagle. June 1, 2022.

Editorial: Rural broadband moves net positive

The world hurtles forward at high speeds, leaving too many rural Michigan families behind.

Some will be able to catch up by way of the Affordable Connectivity Program, a federal initiative to credit families $30 toward their internet bills if they make 200% of the federal poverty level or less — up to $55,500 for a four-person household in 48 states.

This, and a Federal Communications Commission program to credit Indigenous families $75 a month, seeks to close the digital divide.

Getting households online is refreshingly bipartisan, and this latest move joins a growing pot of state and federal spending on bringing families online. Cherry Capital Communications is using Rural Development Opportunity Fund money to connect up to 2,781 homes spread across eight counties, including Benzie, Leelanau and Grand Traverse. Michigan Legislature also just passed a $250 million boost to build high-speed internet in rural areas.

Still, a shocking number of our state’s residents don’t have access to high-speed internet — more than 17% of households, according to federal data in a recent Government Technology story. Twenty-three out of the state’s 83 counties remain underserved — where 80% of the population has no access to broadband or high-speed broadband.

Initiatives are great but there is more work to be done. High-speed internet is often an issue of access — or lack thereof.

Companies participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program say the increased demand could increase the likelihood of running fiber in more rural areas. We hope so. High speed internet is viewed by advocates as an economic engine and — more and more — a necessity as education and services increasingly move online.

Bridging the digital divide for rural families will require building and infrastructure. It’s the only way to get Michigan’s families up to speed.

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The Mining Journal. June 4, 2022.

Editorial: Avian influenza remains topic of concern

State of Michigan testing recently confirmed avian influenza in two bald eagles found dead at separate sites in Dickinson and Iron counties.

It is believed the eagles picked up the virus from feeding on sick waterfowl, such as ducks and geese, which are thought to be particularly susceptible to avian influenza.

The Dickinson-Iron District Health Department also announced it has alerted those with domestic poultry in the two counties to be aware that HPAI, or Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, had been detected, and urged them to take proper precautions to protect their birds.

It wasn’t the first avian flu case reported in the Upper Peninsula. In April, it was detected in a non-commercial domestic backyard flock in Menominee County.

Things to watch out for, DIDHD said, include unusual deaths, a drop in egg production, a significant decrease in water consumption or an increase in sick birds.

If avian influenza is suspected in domestic birds, those tending them should immediately contact the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development at 800-292-3939 during the day or 517-373-0440 after hours.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that HPAI occurs mainly in birds, is highly contagious and can be deadly, particularly in domestic poultry.

It noted that the HPAI H5N1 virus detected in the U.S. is a new combination of avian influenza genes not previously seen, but no human cases associated with the virus have been reported and it considers the risk to people low. However, the CDC said it’s possible it could infect people and cause serious disease.

MDARD said following certain measures can help protest domestic birds. For people with just a few backyard birds or a large commercial flock, preventing contact between domestic and wild birds by bringing the domestic birds indoors or ensuring that their outdoor area is fully enclosed is an important step.

Bird owners should wash their hands before and handling birds, disinfect boots and other gear when moving birds between coops, and not share equipment or other supplies between coops or other farms.

Other measures are cleaning and disinfecting equipment between use, using well or municipal water as drinking water for birds, and keeping poultry feed secure to eliminate contact between the feed and wild birds or rodents.

It seems that there always is something in the wild that can pose a danger to farm animals, wildlife and humans, and avian flu is one of those dangers.

We urge people with domestic birds to take precautions, not only for the sake of their birds but the ecosystem in general — which includes people.

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