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

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FILE - Electric vehicle charging stations at a freeway rest stop.

FILE - Electric vehicle charging stations at a freeway rest stop.

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

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

Sen. 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 full-time 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,” she said.

The governor’s budget recommendation includes 20 full-time 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.

Reporting by Colin Jackson

Other headlines for Tuesday, May 14, 2024:

  • Detroit City Council is asking Mayor Mike Duggan to fund certain priorities left out of the budget, such as a free bus program for all residents.
  • Jabal Coffee House, a new Yemeni coffee house in Dearborn, is holding a grand opening celebration from 2 to 4 p.m. on Friday, May 17.
  • The third annual Rising Voices Feast of Resistance, a potluck celebrating Asian American history through food and community, is taking place from 4 to 8 p.m. this Sunday, May 19, at the ACA Chinese Community Center, 32585 Concord Dr., Madison Heights.

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