“Optimistic” is the word that Kyle Mazurek, the vice president of government affairs for the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce, uses to describe the feelings most Ann Arbor business owners have about governor-elect Rick Snyder taking office on Jan. 1.
“We are doing everything we can to support him,” Mazurek said. “We want to see him succeed, and we want to see the state succeed.”
Business owners throughout the city say they’re excited for Snyder to take office because they anticipate his business experience and potential tax policies could draw new businesses to the area and boost Ann Arbor’s economy.
“The bottom line for everybody is getting Michigan moving in the right direction,” Mazurek said.
However, Mazurek said he isn’t sure if Snyder’s promises on the campaign trail will come to fruition during his term.
“We are at a point in time where he is coming off the election cycle and campaign and starting to fully flesh out some of the ideas he talked about in a broad sense during the campaign,” he said.
One of Snyder’s ideas is to eliminate the current corporate business income tax and replace it with a new six-percent flat corporate income tax. The tax would exclude some small businesses and reduce business taxes by about $1.5 billion.
Mazurek said this proposed policy is one of the reasons people in the business community voted for Snyder.
Though Snyder’s ideas to stimulate the economy are currently conceptual, Mazurek said Snyder has a plan to create a more efficient government so that citizens get “more bang for (their) taxpayer dollar.”
He added that Snyder’s lack of political experience helped him win votes.
“A lot of folks, especially in the business community, thought it was time to get someone from the business community a shot at the governor’s office,” Mazurek said.
Ann Arbor business owners echoed Mazurek’s sentiment. Karl Couyoumjian, president of TeL Systems in Ann Arbor, which makes audio and video equipment, said it’s time someone in the business realm leads the state.
“Rick understands what’s entailed in starting a business, running a business and the challenges we are all faced with, especially in the economic climate,” said Couyoumjian, who is also the chair of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber Board of Directors.
Couyoumjian said Michigan would benefit if Snyder runs the state in the same ways he’s managed his businesses. Before running for governor, Snyder was chairman of the board for computer giant Gateway and president of venture capital firm Avalon Investments, Inc.
“He is approaching his governorship as he has done with many of his businesses,” he said. “He had a plan, assembled a great team, he ran a great campaign and as governor (will do) the same thing.”
Couyoumjian said Snyder’s honest and forward-thinking attitude makes him the best choice for governor. He added that he is excited for the revitalization of the Michigan business tax, which he says is currently “broken.”
According to Couyoumjian, Snyder’s business policies could attract more companies to the state, which would yield more clients for businesses like TeL Systems and make Michigan more competitive with other Midwest states.
“Right now, one of the biggest things working against Michigan is that we have a really great state with a lot of great resources, but we just don’t have a climate conducive to attracting new businesses,” he said.
Snyder can make the state more “business-friendly,” Couyoumjian said, adding that the state is not retaining new businesses.
Rod Byrne, treasurer of the Washtenaw Economic Club and director of Wright Griffin Davis and Company — an accounting firm in Ann Arbor — said Snyder has been a “positive force” for attracting businesses to the Ann Arbor area.
Byrne said Snyder is a “goal-oriented and focused individual.”
“He speaks our language and understands the tax code a whole lot better than anyone else.” These attributes, he said, could help the Ann Arbor business climate.
Byrne, who is also the past chair of the Ann Arbor Chamber of Commerce, said the Washtenaw Economic Club — a group of businesses that partner to bring speakers to the Washtenaw community — could prosper with Snyder as governor because one of Snyder’s objectives is to develop new business technologies.
“Right here in the Washtenaw county area, between the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan (University) and Washtenaw Community College, you’ve got (students with) a high level education dedicated towards those new technologies and creating a new economy for Michigan.”