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New state agency holds clean energy, EV transition roundtable in Detroit

Community & Worker Economic Transition Office

State officials say they hope the office can connect communities to resources that can help re-purpose old plants, re-train workers, and other needs

Officials from a new state office met with stakeholders Monday to talk about efforts to prepare workers and businesses for Michigan's move away from fossil fuel-based industries.

Jonathan Smith is senior chief deputy director of the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

He said the Community and Worker Economic Transition Office will help the state keep people from being left behind in that transition.

“What makes me really excited about this work is it does create a huge opportunity for Michigan to do something that no other state has done, which is combine our clean energy and our environmental goals with our economic development and our equity goals and really do something that is comprehensive and whole,” Smith said.

Friday marked the ninth roundtable the office has held with stakeholders since coming together in February.

The first eight led to a summary of the initial feedback and plans for the agency presented Monday.

A couple dozen stakeholders attended Monday’s roundtable discussion, including representatives from the City of Detroit, Redford Township, and various affected industries.

Terri Weems is group executive of workforce for the city of Detroit. After the meeting, she said she’s optimistic but concerned about making sure people are trained and available for future jobs.

“But I love, again, the fact that we’re proactive in planning for it as we begin to understand what is necessary, we’re going to have a plan in place to make sure that our employers have the talent that they need,” Weems said.

Smith, with the state labor department, said the transition office is still in its early days and is staffed with dedicated LEO employees in the interim while it waits on a budget appropriation from the Legislature.

Senator Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Twp) chairs the state Senate subcommittee that handles writing the LEO budget proposal. Their offer includes $2.5 million to help cover 10 fulltime employees and other expenses.

Cavanagh said she can see the office receiving more funding in the future once it makes some progress.

“I think this is a really good idea. I think this is exactly what Michigan needs but we need to do it right. So, we need to be very strategic and fiscally responsible of what this office looks like and what our community needs,” Cavanagh said.

The governor’s budget recommendation includes 20 fulltime employees for the office and twice as much funding.

A proposal from the House of Representatives includes 10 employees but would keep the funding level at $5 million.

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