Updated: Thursday, 09 Sep 2010, 6:35 PM EDT
Published : Thursday, 09 Sep 2010, 3:24 PM EDT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Michigan's 21st Century Jobs Fund has helped companies in the state retain or create more than 20,000 jobs since the fund began operating in 2006, according to a report released Thursday.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who called for the creation of the fund in her 2005 State of the State address, touted the Michigan Economic Development Corporation report as she toured Display Pack Inc. in Grand Rapids on Thursday afternoon.
The program, funded by the state's share of a settlement with tobacco companies, helped Display Pack save at least 50 jobs, company president Victor Hansen told 24 Hour News 8. And it aided in the creation of 10 new full-time jobs and 20 temporary jobs, Hansen said.
"This has really been able to open the floodgates for some new business," he said.
The old business -- the automotive sector -- had the Grand Rapids packaging firm cutting jobs.
Before the recent troubles in the auto industry, Hansen figures the firm employed nearly 500 people. After the auto troubles, it was down to 170. Hansen said it could have been worse without the aid from the jobs fund.
"My guess is, we'd probably have about half of the employees we have now -- at best," he said.
The company president said the program allowed his company to reduce its dependence on the automotive industry from two thirds to one third.
"It made money available to a company that was heavy in automotive," Hansen explained. "If you had just looked at our portfolio and you were a generic bank, you'd say well, heavy automotive, big risk here -- not a bright future."
Huntington Bank helped Display Pack access the 21st Century Jobs Fund.
Michigan has invested about $380 million of tobacco fund money into the fund, according to the MEDC report, but drew in about $1.5 billion in federal and private investments.
The fund also helped create 575 patents, according to the report, which Granholm said was a sign of the potential for future business growth tied to new ideas.
The MEDC report is critical of funding cuts to the program.
"If this trend continues, the early successes from these programs will be minimized and the long-term results from these investments will never be realized," it stated.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which has been critical of the MEDC and has called for its elimination, has not yet reviewed the report, spokesman Michael Jahr said. But Jahr said the center is generally skeptical of the MEDC's job creation claims.
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