As part of a three-day campaign tour throughout the state, U.S House Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate hoping to succeed outgoing U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), stopped in Ann Arbor Tuesday afternoon.
Peters toured the Arbor Brewing Company, a craft beer brewery and pub, as part of his Great Lakes Job Tour, which aims to highlight how the Great Lakes support Michigan’s economy. Peters has advocated for protecting the Great Lakes watershed during his time in Congress, most recently backing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and has been endorsed by the Sierra Club, a prominent environmental nonprofit.
During the tour, led by brewery and pub owners Matt and Rene Greff, the three discussed how the brewery’s operations and the importance of the Great Lakes as a resource for Michigan communities and businesses. Greff said access to well-managed water sources are essential for a brewery and noted the different challenges faced by Arbor Brewing Company’s operation in India, which lacks the benefit of infrastructure like the Great Lakes, leading to a more complex process to access the water required to make beer.
Co-owner Rene Greff agreed, adding that the recent water quality issues in Toledo, Ohio led her to consider the impact of not having water available for commercial use for even a short period of time, such as a week, which she said would pose huge problems for the brewery.
Peters, who serves on the House’s Financial Services Committee, has also made several other areas of economic development a focus over his time in office, including the auto industry, education and entrepreneurship.
In an interview after the event, Peters discussed his involvement in several of those other parts of Michigan’s economy in an interview after the tour with The Michigan Daily. He said a number of higher education issues, including student debt, are impacting the state’s economy and potential for future job creation.
Peters has focused on the financial impacts of student loan issues during his time in office, which he said was a major concern for him. He was a lead co-sponsor of a 2012 bill to stop interest rates from doubling on on subsidized Stafford loans, a form of federal financial aid and supported a bill introduced by U.S Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) to allow students to refinance their student debt. He currently has a bill pending in committee that would allow student loan borrowers who have defaulted on their loans to more easily mediate the default’s damage on their credit score.
“When I graduated from college, many years ago, I had help from my parents, I got some scholarships and was able to do some part-time work and get out of college without debt,” he said. “Now, if you have help from your parents, get some scholarships and work part-time, you still have debt. There’s just no way to get around it.”
He said he supports a more aggressive approach to providing students with grants, namely through the federal Pell Grant program, instead of only loans as aid towards paying for college.
To retain newly graduated students, whom he said are vital players in the state’s economy, Peters cited creating job opportunities as a main approach toward retention, with an emphasis on efforts targeted towards start-up businesses and innovation.
Currently, close to 40 percent of U.S.-born students in Michigan under the age of 28 are leaving the state post-graduation, according to a study released by the Detroit Regional Chamber last year.
“We have incredible intellectual capital here in the state of Michigan,” Peters said. “And now we’ve got to match that with financial capital and jobs that allow us to hang on to the crop of young talent that we have here.”
Peters, who also stopped in Battle Creek Tuesday, will continue his Great Lakes tour throughout the state over the next few days, with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) joining him.