UPDATE from Larry Steckelberg, division administrator of community services for the Michigan Department of Treasury:
The purpose of the Energy Transition Impact Project (ETIP) is to “partner with impacted communities to help them implement a comprehensive playbook to maintain critical services when faced with the closure of energy facilities.”
Simply, we deal with communities across the state that are facing the debilitating impact of a changing energy environment and empower them to revitalize.
Energy Facility Shutdowns
Because of concerns about climate, costs, and a variety of things happening in the energy market, long-standing facilities that generate either coal or nuclear power are finding themselves closing down. And the local communities that have relied upon these facilities for employment and for tax base have found themselves now losing funding and jobs.
Under Executive Directive 2020–10, our role is to look across the state and identify the communities impacted, which we’ve done in the ETIP Annual Report 2022.
The other part of our role is to generate ideas and strategies to help the communities now in transition. To do that, we started two different projects.
The first project is in Southwest Michigan. Led by the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, we started working with a team of people surrounding the Palisades nuclear facility to support an effort they had to bring a transition planning strategy online.
The SW MI group convened a variety of community and state agency representatives to help them understand what’s happening, the timeline involved, and how to begin developing an economic transition strategy to overcome the loss of jobs and tax base. That’s a three-year strategy. We worked with that team of people to make sure they could form an agreement between the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission, the University of Michigan Economic Growth Institute, and a local economic development team.
Then we reached out to a variety of entities to come up with the money for the 20% local match for the $1.2 million federal grant. Between Treasurer Eubanks working with the Consumer’s Energy Foundation, and me bringing together resources from other agencies, we were able to produce a $240,000 match. We supported the local planning effort and now we’re partnering with them to continue to bring state, federal and local resources to the conversation over the next three years to maximize the impact of the planning.
While we were waiting for the Southwest Michigan project grant to happen, we started a second project in the Wayne County downriver communities with a similar grant application. We got a community proposal together and formed a community group to plan what would be included in a transition strategy for River Rouge, Ecorse, Wyandotte, Riverview, and Trenton, which are being adversely affected by two coal-fired power plant closures in Trenton and River Rouge. We were able to unlock a $1.6 million federal grant, and the match was funded mostly by state agencies with help from our local partner, DTE.
Making the Transition
Over the next several years, both projects will plan local strategies for overcoming their economic losses, and for making new investments in economic activity. Each community will have assets and specific expertise of business concentrations that will open the best routes for new investment.
In Southwest Michigan, there’s a lot of agriculture, food processing, pharmaceutical activity, and manufacturing. In Southeast Michigan, there’s a great deal of activity in the downriver communities driven by the auto industry, which could develop into the electric vehicle space. Our charge during these transitions is to bring resources and expertise to the communities, and to help them position themselves to be investment ready.
When we’re done, the communities will be able to build new opportunities, new economic development, new jobs, and new investments in the community in a variety of areas that overcome the loss of these large anchor facilities. The most important part of our responsibility in the transition project is bringing everybody to the table, from local residents to the federal government.
Environmental & Social Justice is Part of the Plan
ETIP is not just taking care of the businesses and the well-heeled areas of these communities. We’re understanding there are some people who are left out of the conversation. Every community has voices that have encountered barriers in being heard, and we have to bring them into the conversation. We’ve got to figure out how to tie these residents into economic opportunity going forward.
I sit on the Environmental Justice Task Force, and I will make sure ETIP’s efforts consider environmental justice concerns. We have infused an environmental justice ethos into the overall project to make sure that the plans include those issues, and that the investments meet those needs. I think Treasury plays an important part in ensuring that our community-based activities have an environmental justice focus.
One of our goals in working in both of these communities with the University of Michigan Economic Growth Institute, is to develop an economic recovery playbook. When we are done, we will have a document that communities across the state can implement in times of transition.
Economic change always happens. We need to be increasingly more agile on how we prepare communities for transition, because it is inevitable! We know from Michigan’s experiences that there’s a lot of change that occurs in our economic space, and getting communities prepared, resilient and practiced is something we all need to be thinking about now and into Michigan’s future. ~
Follow the Michigan Department of Treasury on Twitter!