Monday, April 26, 1999
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation today announced that two programs administered by the organization have been named semifinalists in the Innovations in American Government awards competition. The Michigan Renaissance Zone program and the Michigan Virtual Automotive College (MVAC), along with 96 other programs, have been chosen to advance to the semifinalist round. The semifinalists represent just seven percent of the total pool of 1,609 applicants. "This is a great honor for us. We believe that our programs are exceptional, but it's always nice to find out others do, too," said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Michigan's Renaissance Zones are eleven geographic areas of the state designated as virtually tax free for any business or resident presently in a zone or moving into a zone. The zones are designed to provide selected communities with the most powerful market-based incentive--virtually no state or local taxes--to spur new jobs and investment. To date, the zones have attracted 76 projects and more than 4,500 new jobs to some of Michigan's most economically distressed areas. "Offering tax-free status is a powerful tool. Both blighted urban areas and struggling rural areas have been positively affected by the zones," said Rothwell. "Renaissance Zones have brought life back to communities that have had some trouble attracting new business." The Michigan Virtual Automotive College was established in 1996 by the State of Michigan, University of Michigan and Michigan State University in partnership with the automotive industry as a non-degree granting institution. It was created to respond, in part, to the automotive industry's need for employees that are educated and trained in manufacturing foundational skills, quality standards and new technological advances in auto manufacturing. MVAC differs from traditional education in that it uses alternative forms of training, including through the use of the Internet, video, video conferencing, satellite, CD-ROM and on-site instruction at business sites. Today, it is a division of the Michigan Virtual University, which was created in 1998 as part of the Governor's 7-Point Michigan Technology Empowerment Plan to increase the role of technology in the classroom. "With changes in technology every day, it is important to keep Michigan workers on top of the new advances," said Rothwell. "MVAC is not only benefitting employers by helping them educate their employees, it is also giving our workers skills that make them more valuable." Innovations in American Government, which was started in 1986, is sponsored by the Ford Foundation, and administered by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government in partnership with the Council for Excellence in Government. Award semifinalists were selected according to four criteria: originality of the approach; effectiveness in addressing important problems; value of services to clients; and the potential for replication in other jurisdictions. In October, 25 semifinalists will move on to the finalist round. After the finalists host a two-day site visit by an Innovations evaluator and make a brief presentation before the national selection committee in Washington, D.C., ten will be selected as winners and will receive a $100,000 award from the Ford Foundation. The remaining fifteen finalists will each receive $20,000. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, formerly the Michigan Jobs Commission and administrators of the MVAC and the Renaissance Zone programs, works in cooperation with communities and businesses throughout the state to provide job opportunities for Michigan residents.