Spinal Column: Looking forward to challenges, opportunities in 2015, beyond

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By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

With the close of 2014 came the close of the 97th Michigan Legislature. It has been a pleasure working the past four years with my colleagues in the Senate and House, along with the current administration, to effect significant changes that have put the state on the road to recovery. We have witnessed substantial decreases in unemployment while at the same time seeing production and personal income continue to increase.

I expect 2015 and beyond to offer new opportunities for growth in Michigan—as well as new challenges. I am excited about meeting my legislative challenges head on in my new role as Senate majority floor leader. I am humbled to have been chosen by my Senate colleagues for this position.

I look forward to serving Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and the Senate as a whole in this role as I help lead the chamber and set policy.

One of my tasks will continue to be shining the light on the importance of the automobile industry in Michigan. We remain the leading auto-producing state in the U.S., and the domestic auto industry accounts directly and indirectly for one of every ten jobs in the nation.

The health of Michigan’s automotive industry remains vital to the economic health of the state as a whole. Likewise, the success of the industry will always be critical to Michigan’s success.

The continuing significance of the auto industry prompted Sen. Steve Bieda and me to form the Michigan Legislative Automotive Caucus, which Sen. Bieda and I co-chair. The focus of the caucus is to highlight the impact the auto industry has had in shaping our state, its history and its culture as we know it today.

Related to my work on the auto caucus is my number one priority for 2015: a focus on skilled trades and career technical education (CTE). Last year the governor signed a CTE initiative that includes schools, local businesses, public-private partnerships, trade organizations, universities and community colleges working together to make information about career and technical education more accessible to students and families through a new website.

This law will help prepare all students for success and help them meet the skilled workforce needs of a growing economy through hands-on career and technical education.

Some of the jobs that will be in highest demand in Michigan in 2015 will not require an advanced degree but will require job skills that CTE can provide. These positions include truckers, welders and high-tech sales and marketing associates.

Another one of my top priorities is to find better ways to deliver government services to Michiganders. While we have accomplished a great deal over the past four years to bring Michigan back from its decline, we cannot pat ourselves on the back and rest on these accomplishments. Now is the time to focus on good government.

If you have any questions or suggestions for me or my staff regarding the new legislative session or the future of Michigan, please do not hesitate to contact me. You may reach my office through email at OfcMKowall@senate.michigan.gov or by phone at 517-373-1758.

I look forward to hearing from you, and I look forward to serving you as a member of the 98th Legislature.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Senate Majority Floor Leader. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.