If Not Now, When? Immigration Reform At A Time Of National Crisis

By: Brad Williams, Vice President, Government Relations, Detroit Regional Chamber

“We have the responsibility to (secure the border), but we cannot blame everything on border security. The more we do that, the more we talk ourselves into a false solution,” said former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez at the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference.

He went on to add: “If we are 100 percent successful at sealing our border and sealing overstays of visas, then God help us, then we’ll see what a real recession is like.”

With our country in the midst of a recession like nothing we have seen before because of COVID-19, advocates for meaningful immigration reform are a raising key question that strikes at the heart of the effectiveness of our federal government at this point in time.

If not now, when?

Yet amid a time of national crisis, some in the current administration appears to be attempting to shut down one of our biggest economic tools when we need innovation, talent, and job creation more than ever.

The U.S. Chamber recently filed a lawsuit aiming to convince President Trump and his administration to pull back on restrictive immigration policies that threaten to strip our country of one of its historical competitive advantages. It is further evidence of a growing frustration among business leaders partisanship overwhelming meaningful policy, something that dates back years.

That comes on the heels of a different lawsuit filed by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that forced the administration to rescind a policy that would have banned international students from staying in the U.S. if their college or university held classes virtually in the fall.

Clearly the politics around immigration have not only stymied long called for reforms, such as revising the visa system to better suit employers’ needs, but have actually started to move toward more restrictive policies.

For business leaders, the region’s and country’s economic recovery from the pandemic must be inclusive to be successful.

In July, the Chamber partnered with city and county leaders, the New American Economy, and Global Detroit to release a report highlighting how immigrants are essential to the region’s COVID-19 response, and its economic recovery.

In 2018, for instance, immigrants had $12.3 billion in spending power and comprised more than 11.7% of all health care workers.

The math is clear amid consistent support and calls for action.

In February, the Detroit Regional Chamber also signed on to the Michigan Compact on Immigration which outlines five principles to guide the discussion in our state.

The Compact very clearly calls on the federal government to take this issue head-on, putting politics aside and charting a sensible path forward that empowers immigrants to strengthen the economy and our competitiveness.

The signatories represent more than 20,000 companies and more than one million employees and calls for a federal immigration system that responds to the needs of Michigan employers and workers in a time when talent attraction and retention are critical to the state’s economic growth.

Of course, back in 2013, Secretary Gutierrez wasn’t alone.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also made the economic case for reforms as the topic was central to discussing Michigan’s competitiveness in the 21st century.

“A path to residency should be made easier so that these great catalytic converters of sustained economic growth pursue their dreams in this country rather than be trained here and shipped back to their country of origin to be our economic competitors,” said Governor Bush.

Unfortunately, the political gridlock since then has resulted in another seven years of stalled reform.

If not then, perhaps now the overdue change will come, as the country deals with a global pandemic that’s challenging it in unprecedented ways.

Brad Williams Joined Frank Beckmann on WJR 760 AM To Discuss The ‘Michigan Compact On Immigration’ Plan

March 4, 2020

WJR AM Radio

The Frank Beckmann Show

Listen to Brad Williams, Detroit Regional Chamber Vice President of Government Relations, and his conversation with Frank Beckmann of WJR, where he discusses the new ‘Michigan Compact on Immigration’ plan to reform immigration for legal and undocumented immigrants.

Listen to the interview here.

Brad Williams Testifies on Infrastructure Funding to Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee

The following is testimony from Detroit Regional Chamber Vice President of Government Relations Brad Williams to the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee on Jan. 23, 2020.

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Brad Williams, I am the Vice President of Government Relations at the Detroit Regional Chamber. Some of you have visited the Chamber’s office in Downtown Detroit and you know that we have one of the most stunning views of any Chamber of Commerce in the entire country. As we do our work, promoting economic growth in our region, we overlook the Detroit River and literally watch commerce flow. Across Jefferson Avenue sits the Detroit Wayne County Port Authority, which represents an opportunity to capitalize on a set of unique assets in our region.

The Chamber supports SB 667, because modern infrastructure is a tool to grow a modern economy. The Detroit region has many existing and future infrastructure assets that will allow for ongoing economic growth and modern port facilities with accelerate that. Michigan’s transportation infrastructure built to support our manufacturing economy is a potential economic advantage. We have redundant highways, meaning that truck traffic has the ability to avoid congestion, we have strong rail infrastructure, we will soon be home to three international crossings for commercial activity including the most modern in North America. However, the policy choices we make will determine whether or not we are able to leverage these assets as successfully as we would like.

That is why the Chamber supports SB 667 to allow for greater investment in port facilities. That is why the Chamber supports efforts to dramatically increase our investment in preserving our surface transportation assets. That is why the Chamber supports efforts to create a regional transit system in our region. Because regions that can effectively move people and goods are going to continue to have a leg up and be more competitive into 2030 and beyond. We encourage your support of SB 667.

WWJ NewsRadio: Brad Williams Talks State of the State Address

February 12, 2019

Michigan Matters

CBS Detroit


Brad Williams was on WWJ to talk about the State of the State address on February 12. 

Detroit chamber PAC backs Whitmer for governor

October 17, 2018

Crain’s Detroit 

By: Chad Livengood

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s political action committee is splitting its ticket this year in election endorsements at the top of the November ballot.

The chamber PAC’s board of directors on Wednesday endorsed Democrat Gretchen Whitmer for governor over Republican Bill Schuette, while siding with Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard to succeed Schuette as attorney general over Democrat Dana Nessel.

In endorsing Whitmer, the chamber PAC cited Whitmer’s support for the group’s priorities in regional transit, infrastructure funding and construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge as well as her past votes as a state senator for Detroit’s bankruptcy “grand bargain” and expansion of the Medicaid program for the working poor.

“Gretchen has a better record on those and a better plan,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Whitmer’s commitment to seeing through construction of the Gordie Howe bridge was stronger than Schuette’s publicly stated support for both the Gordie Howe project as well as the Moroun family’s desire to construct a replacement span for the aging Ambassador Bridge, Williams said.

“That’s certainly an acceptable opinion,” Williams said of Schuette’s support for multiple new bridges over the Detroit River. “But for us, getting the Gordie Howe bridge is going to require laser focus getting that done.”

Whitmer’s support of a citywide education commission in Detroit to manage public and charter schools in the city was another factor in the chamber’s endorsement, Williams said.

The chamber PAC’s endorsement of Whitmer is the first time the regional business organization has backed a Democrat for governor since 1990, when the group endorsed then-Gov. Jim Blanchard’s re-election over Republican John Engler, Williams said.

The Detroit chamber’s endorsement of Whitmer for governor makes it one of the only major business groups in Michigan to buck Schuette’s campaign to occupy the governor’s office next year.

To date, Schuette has racked up endorsements from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Michigan, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Manufacturers Association, the Michigan Restaurant Association, the Small Business Association of Michigan and the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business.

In the August primary, the chamber’s PAC endorsed Whitmer over her two primary opponents and backed Lt. Gov. Brian Calley over Schuette. Since soundly defeating Calley in the primary, Schuette has not been able to win the endorsement of outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who has been closely aligned with the Detroit Regional Chamber during his eight years in office.

“This endorsement was about Senator Whitmer, not about the attorney general,” Williams said in a conference call with reporters. “Certainly, (Schuette) has served this state honorably for 34, 35 years and is certainly qualified to be governor of this state.”

The Detroit Chamber’s PAC previously endorsed Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s re-election before Detroit businessman John E. James won the August primary.

“Her leadership and willingness to work across the aisle in Washington has helped move Michigan in a positive direction,” Williams said in a statement.

The Detroit chamber PAC did not endorse in the secretary of state’s race between Democrat Jocelyn Benson and Republican Mary Treder Lang after the PAC’s board could not reach a consensus.

The PAC’s bylaws requires a two-thirds supermajority among board members to issue an endorsement, Williams said.

In competitive congressional races, the chamber’s PAC also is not endorsing in the hotly contested 11th Congressional District race between Vesco Oil Co. co-owner Lena Epstein and Haley Stevens, a former chief of staff to President Barack Obama’s auto bailout task force.

“This two-thirds threshold we put in place is a high bar to clear — as I learned today,” Williams told reporters. “It’s not always neat and tidy.”

In the 8th Congressional District, the Detroit chamber’s PAC endorsed U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop’s re-election against Democratic challenger Elissa Slotkin.

The contentious Bishop-Slotkin race is now the most expensive congressional race in Michigan history, with spending topping $16.5 million and three more weeks to go before the Nov. 6 election, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

View the original article here

Michigan House, Senate Pass ‘Good Jobs for Michigan’ Legislation

Today, Michigan legislators passed the “Good Jobs for Michigan” bill package, Senate Bills 242-244. This is one of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s legislative priorities as the government relations team has continuously urged legislators to adopt all three bills. A leading regional economic development organization, the Chamber leveraged its influential public policy voice as a key advocate for the legislation’s passage.

“The Chamber is thankful for the leadership of Governor Snyder and the Legislature to create this policy that will allow Michigan to compete with every state in the nation for job growth,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

MORE: Read the Chamber’s testimony to the House Policy Committee in support of House Bills 242-244.

Under the legislation, business expansions or new locations that create a minimum of 500 new jobs and pay wages at 100 percent or more of the regional average wage would be eligible to capture up to 50 percent of the personal income tax withholdings of the new employees for up to five years. In addition, business expansions or new locations that create a minimum of 250 new jobs and pay wages at 125 percent or more of the regional average wage would be eligible to capture up to 100  percent of the personal income tax withholdings of the new employees for up to 10 years. There is a cap of 15 projects per year with a rolling cap of $250 million for all projects.

“The passage of this legislation creates a vital tool as the Chamber travels the nation and globe to attract companies to grow in our region,” said Justin Robinson, vice president of business attraction for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

This is the Chamber’s second major economic development victory in the state this year, following the MIThrive package that will incentivize transformational brownfield developments in cities across the state.

Report: Michigan’s roads, bridges rapidly deteriorating

The Detroit News 

By Shawn Lewis 

April 4, 2017 

Michigan’s roads and bridges will get worse over the next half decade despite a boost in infrastructure funding from the Legislature, according to a report released Tuesday.

The report conducted by TRIP, a Washington D.C.-based national transportation advocacy organization, looks at what has happened with roads and bridges since lawmakers in 2015 approved expanded funding for roads.

The TRIP report says 20 percent of state-maintained roads were in poor condition in 2016 and are expected to deteriorate significantly over the next three years, projecting 46 percent will be in poor condition by 2020.

“About one in 10 bridges in Michigan are structurally deficient,” said Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research for TRIP.

According to the report, the Michigan Department of Transportation estimates the number of bridges rated in poor condition will increase by 50 percent between 2016 and 2023. This means the number of bridges in poor condition will increase from 236 to 354 in that time frame.

According to the report, funding for state state roads, bridges and transit will increase from $2.2 billion in 2015 to nearly $3.4 billion in 2023.

The 28-page report says despite the 2015 funding boost, numerous needed transportation projects in Michigan remain unfunded.

The value of these needed transportation projects is $3.3 billion, including $2 billion in Metro Detroit, $483 million in the Lansing area and $234 million in the Grand Rapids area, according to TRIP.

The list of unfunded projects in the Metro Detroit area include: reconstruction of Interstate 94, from I-96 to Wyoming, at a cost of $110.5 million; M-10, Griswold to M-3, for resurfacing at a cost of $15.8 million; and U.S. 12, from Rosa Parks to Cass, for reconstruction and overlay at a cost of $14.8 million.

Tuesday’s press conference where the report was released was held at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the chamber, said the business community has been focused on transportation needs for decades.

“We still have a long way to go because we all know the condition of our roads is severely damaging our ability to progress economically,” Williams said. “While we made a down payment two years ago, our infrastructure requires more funding.”

He said the 20 percent of Michigan roads already in poor condition is 20 percent too much.

“The lack of investment costs us in time, repairs and in customers,” he said.

View the original article here: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2017/04/04/report-michigan-roads/100023430/

Congress Passes the Water Resources Development Act in its Final Vote of the Year

On Dec. 9, the U.S. Congress passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 prior to adjourning for the year. The legislation is highly supported by the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition (GLMCC), in which the Detroit Regional Chamber is a member and Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Chamber also serves as the executive director.

The bill authorizes 25 critical Army Corps projects in 17 states, Michigan being one of them, and provides critical investment in the country’s aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, assists poor and disadvantaged communities in meeting public health standards under the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and promotes innovative technologies to address drought and other critical water resource needs.

The bill also responds to the drinking water crisis in Flint by providing emergency assistance to Flint and other similar communities across the country facing drinking water contamination.

The bill will now be sent to the President for signature.

Biz groups push plan to raise $1.2B for state infrastructure repairs

From Crain’s Detroit Business

February 25, 2013

By Chris Gautz

Business groups representing the state’s largest industries gathered Monday morning to again urge the Michigan Legislature to act on a plan to increase revenue by about $1.2 billion annually for infrastructure repairs in the state.

The point was clear from those in the room: Doing nothing is not an option.

The form of the plan crafted by the Legislature to increase revenue is open for debate. Most business leaders prefer a system based on user fees that would affect both individuals and businesses and would be similar to what Gov. Rick Snyder put forward in his proposed budget this month.

Snyder’s plan would raise both gas and diesel taxes at the pump to a flat 33 cents a gallon and increase registration fees for vehicles and heavy trucks.

“User fees are the best and the fairest way to fund transportation,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Mike Johnston, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Manufacturers Association, said that taking no action will just make the problem bigger later, requiring an even higher gas tax increase eventually.

“We’ve addressed so many structural problems here in Michigan, and transportation stands out like a sore thumb,” Johnston said. “It’s something that has to be addressed, and we ought to do it now.”

Jim Holcomb, senior vice president of business advocacy and general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said it is comparing apples and oranges to say the business community received large tax breaks in the past two years and therefore should shoulder more of the burden in this plan.

Chamber members recognize that transportation is an essential government service and are willing to pay for it, he said, as they would under a plan to increase gas taxes and registration fees.

Williams said the need to fix the state’s infrastructure is great, especially in Southeast Michigan.

“We need the Legislature to invest to make sure that those pieces of infrastructure stay in good condition and that our businesses can make sure they get their products to market,” Williams said.

Right now across the state, the condition of the roads hurts the condition of food products that farmers ship, said Matt Smego, legislative counsel for the Michigan Farm Bureau.

Some farmers have indicated that they lose anywhere from 5 percent to 10 percent of their fresh product because it is bounced around and damaged while traveling on state roads, Smego said.

Ninety percent of agricultural freight in the state travels over Michigan’s roads and bridges, he said.

“We work in a global marketplace, and so shipping that product all over the world is important, and we’ve got to have the infrastructure necessary to do that,” Smego said.

Part of the hesitance to approve Snyder’s plan or something close to it is that everyone thinks someone else should pay for the improvements and that constituents are telling their lawmakers to vote against raising the gas tax or registration fees.

But neither the Detroit nor Michigan chambers would commit to including a vote in support of increased transportation funding on their legislative scorecards this year.

“No one vote determines whether or not you get the political support of the Detroit Regional Chamber,” Williams said.

But he noted that transportation funding is at the top of the chamber’s legislative priorities this year.

Chris Gautz: (517) 403-4403, cgautz@crain.com. Twitter: @chrisgautz

Detroit Regional Chamber’s Political Action Committee Announces Endorsement of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in General Election

DETROIT, October 18, 2012 – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Political Action Committee (PAC) Board of Directors announced its endorsement of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in the general election in Michigan.

“Debbie Stabenow has been a tremendous champion for Michigan in Congress,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber. “The Chamber is endorsing Senator Stabenow because of her strong support of key business priorities such as the New International Trade Crossing, small business growth and regional transit. Senator Stabenow’s leadership in Washington has helped move Michigan in a positive direction during very difficult times.”

The Chamber PAC Board of Directors regularly meets to identify and support pro-business candidates and policies that support the Chamber’s public policy priorities. After careful consideration, the Chamber PAC Board of Directors made endorsements based on responses to a Chamber PAC survey, input from PAC members and personal interviews with leading candidates interested in the Chamber’s endorsement.

“We would also like to thank Congressman Pete Hoekstra for his public service and his willingness to stand as a candidate for the U.S. Senate,” Williams said. “His approach to taxation reform and entitlement spending is critical to our nation and should be addressed urgently. We look forward to working with him in the future.”

For a full list of Chamber-endorsed candidates, visit the Chamber’s website.

About the Detroit Regional Chamber

With over 20,000 members and affiliates, that employ over three-quarters of a million workers, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the largest chambers of commerce in the country. The Chamber’s mission is carried out through business attraction efforts, advocacy, strategic partnerships and providing valuable benefits to members. For more information, please visit detroitchamber.com.

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