Dr. Ed Montgomery, the White House Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, held a press conference with Governor Jennifer Granholm during his last visit to Michigan in April. (Bill Pugliano / Getty Images)
Ed Montgomery, the national auto czar, comes to Michigan today to show the Barack Obama administration's support for automotive communities hard-hit by the ongoing recession and auto crisis. If he comes with a pocketful of hand-outs wrapped in Washington string, he might as well stay home. But if Montgomery is open to ideas for transforming Michigan's economy for the long haul, then the welcome mat is out.
Obama has charged Montgomery with directing "a comprehensive effort that will help uplift the hardest hit areas" affected by the automotive crisis, promising to leverage "the full resources of our federal government" to do so.
We could use some of that.
The state's full congressional delegation -- Democrats and Republicans -- have put some very specific requests on the table for rebuilding Michigan.
That's a good mix of short-term aid and long-term measures to rebuild Michigan's industrial foundation.
There are other ways the federal government could help.
The Aerotropolis proposal for Detroit Metropolitan Airport has stalled in the recession. If the infrastructure were in place, the Aerotropolis could be a major job creator coming out of the economic downturn and turn Metro Detroit into a powerful logistics hub. That would be a fine use of stimulus money.
Montgomery should also push the White House to invest more in Michigan worker retraining efforts and make it easier for local communities to apply for federal economic development assistance grants, which require a local 50 percent match -- money few Michigan communities have on hand.
He should also remind Washington that Michigan has historically sent far more money to federal coffers than it has received back. Yet the state has received less than 1 percent of $4.6 billion of stimulus money allocated to the Army Corps of Engineers. The state had hoped the Soo locks in the Upper Peninsula would be upgraded to boost the shipping industry.
If Montgomery really wants to help, he'll support some of these proposals.