Report: Many Tennessee Economic Indicators Trend up, Others Mixed

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, Nashville, Tennessee. One of Nashville's renowned honky-tonk bars, Tootsie's has featured over the years many performing artists who have since become famous, such as Willie Nelson, Patsy Cline and Kris Kristofferson.

How is Tennessee’s economy doing? A lot of it is doing well when compared to the COVID-19 lows on many economic indicators such as employment, a new Sycamore Institute report shows.

But other items are troubling, such as there being 40% fewer small businesses in Tennessee as of late June data than there were before the pandemic. That’s considering that 99% of private sector workers in the state work for small businesses, defined as companies of 500 employees or less.

“There are a lot of things going on here,” said Brian Straessle, the Sycamore Institute’s Director of External Affairs. “There isn’t like one nice neat narrative of the economy right now.”

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Study: Democrats’ Capital Gains Tax Hike Could Cost More Than 745,000 Jobs

Chris Van Hollen

A new Democratic proposal to increase the capital gains tax could cost 745,000 jobs, a study published by the Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI) projects.

The Sensible Taxation and Equity Promotion (STEP) Act, which would tax unrealized capital gains when heirs inherit assets, among other things, would have a “significantly negative impact” on the economy, including average job losses of 745,000 over 10 years, the report found.

The analysis, conducted for the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, found that sustained annual job losses from eliminating a tax benefit on appreciated assets known as the step-up in basis could eliminate between 537,000 to 949,000 jobs, with models predicting a base of 745,000 lost jobs through 2030.

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800 Virginia Businesses Back Tourism, Hospitality Relief in Budget

More than 800 businesses and business associations are jointly urging the Virginia General Assembly to approve a budget item for $291 million in relief to the travel and hospitality industries, which was proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Northam’s proposal would appropriate funds from the federally passed American Rescue Plan to help these industries bounce back from losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic restrictions. The General Assembly is scheduled to meet on Aug. 2 to consider the budget proposal.

The businesses and business associations signed a joint letter showing their support. It includes the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Restaurant Lodging and Travel Association.

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New E-Commerce Facility to Bring over a Thousand Jobs to Tennessee

A golden lab and black lab in front of a Chewy box

Chewy Inc. plans to build a new e-commerce fulfillment center in Wilson County that will lead to 1,200 new jobs, Tennessee officials and the company announced Tuesday.

Details on the size, cost or economic incentives related to the project, projected to open in fall 2022, were not immediately released. Once finalized, those details will be included in the state’s economic development database in the next 15-30 days, according to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

“At 1,200 jobs, Chewy will become one of the top three largest employers in Wilson County,” TDECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said in a statement.

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Partnership Boosts Supply Chain Resiliency for Florida’s $56B Manufacturing Industry

Aerial shot of downtown Miami, Florida

According to an April-June McKinsey Global Survey poll of 60 senior supply-chain executives from across the nation, 73% encountered a shortage of suppliers – not just supplies – and 75% faced production/distribution shortfalls during the 2020 height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida’s 21,000 manufacturers – not to mention farmers, restauranteurs, hoteliers, retailers – were also affected by pandemic-induced supply disruptions, as they were by Hurricanes Irma in 2017 and Michael in 2018.

To mitigate disruption for the state’s $56 billion manufacturing industry, which employs about 400,000 Floridians, the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), Space Florida and FloridaMakes have formed Connex Florida, an online database to link manufacturers connect with prospective suppliers and develop business opportunities.

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Michigan Could Get $800 Million from Opioid Settlement

Close up of white pills

Michigan could receive $800 million under a proposed multibillion-dollar national opioid settlement, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

The settlement would involve Johnson & Johnson and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country: Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.

The historic agreement would resolve the claims of state and local governments nationwide and require industry changes.

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Georgia to Issue Licenses to Companies for Medical Marijuana Production

Zane Bader

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission will pick six companies to start producing the plant for medical uses in the state.

Nearly 70 companies applied for licenses to grow marijuana and convert it to oil to treat various illnesses. Once the commission approves them, the companies could be looking at paying up to $200,000 in licensing fees to the state. They will have one year to get product to thousands of Georgians who have been waiting for more than five years.

Patients with a Low THC Oil Registry card legally can purchase up to 20 fluid ounces of the THC oil from licensed dispensaries or pharmacies under legislation signed into law by former Gov. Nathan Deal in 2015. However, without guidelines and a medical marijuana marketplace, the 14,000 registered patients in Georgia have no way of legally obtaining the oil.

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Rental Car Companies Across U.S. Struggle to Replace Diminished Fleets

Blue sedan during sunset at dealership in lot

The country is opening up and travel is increasing, but visitors are finding the rental car landscape a bit empty.

Rental car companies are continuing to have a hard time keeping up with demand after selling off fleets to stay afloat during the pandemic.

“The fundamental thing that’s causing it is the very rational corporate response to the pandemic and the almost shutting down of international and domestic travel for most of 2020 and the first half of 2021,” Gregory Scott, spokesperson for the American Car Rental Association (ACRA), told The Center Square. “Airport rentals dropped 70-90% in March and April of last year, and as a result there were literally tens of thousands of vehicles sitting unrented and unwanted because people stopped traveling.”

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Michigan Secretary of State Says Backlog Should Clear by September

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the 15-month backlog for processing transactions through her office should be cleared by Labor Day or the end of September.

Outside a Mason branch office, Benson touted her efforts to slash down part of the backlog after all 131 branch officers were shuttered to walk-in service in response to COVID-19 by opening 350,000 additional appointments by optimizing appointment times, extending hours, and offering more services online.

From July 19 to Sept 30, all offices will stay open until 6 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and open at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Previous office hours were 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday.

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Federal Reserve Chair: Inflation to be ‘Elevated for Months’

Jerome Powell

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell tried to calm lawmakers’ fears about rising inflation but also said it would probably remain elevated for months to come.

Testifying before Congress this week, Powell said the Federal Reserve was willing to step in to address the situation, but that inflation should level out next year.

“As always, in assessing the appropriate stance of monetary policy, we will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and would be prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if we saw signs that the path of inflation or longer-term inflation expectations were moving materially and persistently beyond levels consistent with our goal,” Powell said in his prepared testimony.

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More Than $300M Available to Ohio Small Businesses

Mike DeWine OH Small Businesses

Government money that established grants for small businesses in Ohio has doubled since June and remains available, according to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

DeWine initially established the grant program in June with $155 million in federal relief dollars. The fund doubled to $310 million at the beginning of July after DeWine signed the state’s new budget, which included the additional money approved by the General Assembly.

The money is meant to help small- and medium-sized businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Ohio May Forgive Overpaid, Fraudulent Unemployment Payments

Woman on computer

Ohioans victimized by unemployment fraud or were overpaid unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic could be off the hook for repaying those funds, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder said late last week if a waiver is approved, claimants will not have to repay money previously labelled as an overpayment and also could receive benefits that have been withheld because of an overpayment status.

Claimants should be notified soon of how to apply for a waiver and processing could begin later in the summer, Damschroder said.

“We understand the hardships that overpayments caused during what is already a very stressful time.” Damschroder said. “Our unemployment program is in a much better position than it was a year ago.”

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Gov. Whitmer to Spend $15.6 Million on Economic Recovery

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) announced grants totaling more than $15.6 million to help get Michigan back to work. 

The government awarded Michigan Learning and Education Advancement Program (MiLEAP) grants to 10 groups who will help support individuals who are dislocated, underemployed, essential workers, living in distressed rural and urban communities, or economically disadvantaged.

“My administration is committed to uplifting Michiganders whose economic security has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Whitmer said in a statement. “By providing grants to help people make the move from education or training programs to good-paying, high-skill jobs, we can ensure all Michiganders thrive as we continue our economic jumpstart. The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and their Regional Consortia partners will help people get back on their feet and take the next step on their path to financial security.”

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Lumber Demand Drives Georgia Home Prices Higher

A beige house in a suburban community during the day

A spike in lumber prices has compounded the state’s housing crisis, Georgia housing advocates said.

The price of lumber increased by 300% this spring compared with the same time last year, reports show. The building material reached an all-time high of $1,515 per thousand board feet on May 28.

The price of oriented strand board, which is most often used for sheathing, has increased by 400% since last spring.

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Georgia Long-Term Care Facilities Face Financial Hardship from Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll on Georgia’s long-term care facilities, officials said.

Devon Barill, communications director for the Georgia Health Care Association and Georgia Center for Assisted Living (GHCA/GCAL), said the facilities have faced increased expenses and revenue losses from caring for the state’s most vulnerable population.

While COVID-19 can lead to severe complications in older people and those with underlying issues, the congregated facilities are often home to the elderly and people who require supportive care.

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Ohio Ranks Low in Actual Independence

Ohio State flag

Celebrating Independence Day means a little more for some states than others, at least in terms of being independent and self-sufficient.

A report from personal finance website WalletHub showed which states were the most-self-sufficient, and Ohio ranked 36th in where Americans are the most self-reliant despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

To determine the ranking, WalletHub compared five sources of dependency: consumer finances, the government, the job market, international trade and personal vices. Those categories were broken down into 39 key indicators.

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Gov. Whitmer Signs Emergency Insulin, Education Bills into Law

Gov. Whitmer signed a flurry of bills Thursday with topics ranging from affordable insulin to changing college scholarship metrics.

“I am committed to bringing Republicans and Democrats together to make real, lasting change for Michigan families,” Whitmer said in a statement. “For people living with diabetes, access to insulin is a matter of life and death. I’m proud to sign Senate Bills 155 and 156 because they ensure access to an emergency insulin supply for people facing an interruption of care, and require insurance to cover that emergency supply. I’m also proud to sign House Bills 4055 and 4056 – students should be able to afford a college education based on their overall scholastic achievement, especially when facing unprecedented obstacles to taking otherwise required tests like the ACT and SAT. ”

Senate Bill (SB) 155 aims to ensure access to emergency insulin supply at an affordable cost by allowing pharmacists to dispense an emergency supply of insulin to individuals with an expired but otherwise valid prescription issued within the last 12 months.

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NOVONIX Plans $160 Million Expansion in Chattanooga, Expected to Add 290 Jobs

At NREL future research should focus on understanding consumer driving and charging behavior and the nuances determining the choice of residential charging infrastructure for plug-in electric vehicles (PEV). Shown is in the Power Systems Lab in the Energy systems Integration Facility (ESIF)

Tennessee’s role as a center for creating electric vehicles continues to expand.

On Tuesday, NOVONIX announced a $160 million expansion that is expected to create 290 new jobs at its Chattanooga manufacturing facility.

Since March 2017, NOVONIX has made anodes through its PUREgraphite brand. Anodes are a negative electrode used in creating lithium-ion batteries, specifically those used in electric vehicles.

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U.S. Supreme Court Rules Against NCAA on Payment for College Athletes

Paying college athletes has been a hotly debated topic for years, but now the U.S. Supreme Court has released a ruling on the issue.

A group of current and former student athletes brought the lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association, arguing that the organization violated antitrust laws when it prevented student athletes from accepting certain education-related benefits.

The case, filed in 2018, challenged the NCAA and the biggest conferences including the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and ACC. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the students Monday, saying the NCAA could not deny those benefits, which could include things like “scholarships for graduate or vocational school, payments for academic tutoring, or paid posteligibility internships.”

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Michigan House Votes to Suspend $300 Weekly Federal Unemployment Payments

David Martin

The Michigan House of Representatives voted to approve House Bill 4434, which would end the state’s participation in the federal unemployment program.

The bill passed Thursday by a 350-49 vote, and now moves to the Michigan Senate.

House Republicans rallied hard behind the bill, which would immediately halt the federally funded $300 weekly boost to Michigan unemployment checks. The federal program currently is scheduled to cease in September, but legislators argue the additional money is hindering the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Virginia Emergency Ending Could Affect Masks, Remaining COVID-19 Regulations

Young boy getting vaccination

Gov. Ralph Northam intends to let the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency expire June 30, which could affect mask wearing throughout the commonwealth and the remaining restrictions on businesses.

Virginia law normally prohibits a person from covering one’s face with the intent of concealing one’s identity in public spaces, which was put on hold during the state of emergency. According to the Virginia code, a person can only wear a mask in certain situations, which include a legitimate medical reason when advised by a physician or during a health-related state of emergency when the governor expressly waives this section of law.

With the governor ending the state of emergency, it’s unclear whether wearing a mask in public could be grounds for prosecution absent a doctor’s note. The governor has said a person would not be prosecuted for wearing a mask and that he has been in contact with police groups that told him police would not arrest anyone for wearing a mask. The provision that states a person would only be guilty when intending to conceal his or her identity with the mask could be difficult to prove when a person is simply following guidelines from the governor’s office and the Center for Disease Control.

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Michigan House Votes to Suspend $300 Weekly Federal Unemployment Payments

Michigan State Capitol

The Michigan House of Representatives voted to approve House Bill 4434, which would end the state’s participation in the federal unemployment program.

The bill passed Thursday by a 350-49 vote, and now moves to the Michigan Senate.

House Republicans rallied hard behind the bill, which would immediately halt the federally funded $300 weekly boost to Michigan unemployment checks. The federal program currently is scheduled to cease in September, but legislators argue the additional money is hindering the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Atlanta Area Among Country’s Fastest-Growing New Home Construction Markets

Light trails on a suburban highway

A recent National Association of Realtors report shows the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta metro area is experiencing new-home growth amid a national housing shortage.

The area ranked fourth in the country for metro areas with the most single-family home building permits over the past year.

Metro Atlanta real estate agent Allahva Panton has seen a large increase in real estate sales in the Atlanta area, but not so much in Sandy Springs or Alpharetta.

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Ohio Senate Approves Legalized Sports Betting

Cleveland Browns football defense

Sports bettors in Ohio are a step closer to being able to stay in state to place a wager after the Ohio Senate passed a bill legalizing sports betting and e-bingo.

If passed by the House and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, Senate Bill 176 brings Ohio in line with neighboring Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia and Pennsylvania by allowing sports bets through retail or online sportsbooks.

The legislation passed Wednesday with a 30-2 vote.

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Report: Clarksville Among Country’s Fastest-Growing Metro Areas

Clarksville, TN watertower

In a housing market booming across the country, Clarksville stands out.

A recent National Association of Realtors report shows that while the Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin metro area is one of the largest growing markets in the country, it is Clarksville that ranks as the fifth-fastest growing housing market in the U.S. in terms of new housing permits.

Clarksville’s growth coincides with a jobs boom in Nashville, which is located less than an hour away, but it also has seen its own boom with the growth of small businesses and employers such as Hankook Tire.

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Short-Term Rental Bills Divide Michigan Local Governments, Renters

State Representative Sarah Lightner

Legislation in Lansing aims to dictate whether local governments can ban Michiganders from generating income via short-term rentals (STR).

The Michigan Municipal League (MML) opposes the bill backed by GOP lawmakers, Senate Bill 446 and House Bill 4722, which aim to stop governments from banning STRs. A vote is expected within two weeks.

Each side says the other wants governmental overreach. MML says Lansing outright prohibiting local government from banning STRs statewide is advocating for “big government,” while the GOP says local government telling residents how they can and can’t use their home is also government overreach.

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Price Jump for Used Cars Results in Boost in Michigan Sales Tax Collected

Close up of a line of cars

The microchip shortage responsible for bottlenecking the production of new cars has been a boon for the used car market.

However, the lack of available new vehicles also has created a greater demand and thus a scarcity of quality used vehicles.

This has driven up the cost of used cars and trucks, which has also increased the sales tax collected on used vehicle transactions. The national average increase in used car sales prices is 16.8% or $3,926 per vehicle sold.

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‘Dark Stores’ Squeeze Michigan City Tax Revenue

Closed store entrance

Vacant big box stores in Michigan become tax-reducing boons to retail companies statewide when those establishments have property assessed at rates sometimes 50% lower than previous rates.

This is known as a “dark stores” strategy, which often leaves local taxpayers to foot the tab.

An S&P report released Thursday found the strategy is employed nationwide.

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To-Go Alcohol in Tennessee Remains, But with Added Tax

Jack Daniels Honey

Of the many alcohol-related bills that passed the Tennessee Legislature this year and were signed by Gov. Bill Lee, one maintains a popular pandemic rule but taxes consumers for it.

Lee signed an executive order last year while COVID-19 restrictions were in place that allowed restaurants to sell to-go alcohol with restrictions.

The enacted House Bill 241 allows those sales to continue until July 1, 2023, but it also adds a 15% tax on those alcohol purchases.

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Business Tax Filings Could Get Easier in Ohio

Bill Roemer

A bill passed by the Ohio House would eliminate a step businesses owners must take to file taxes with the state and local governments and free up time for those owners to create more jobs and increase business, according to the bill’s sponsor.

The legislation allows businesses to opt into a system run by the Ohio Department of Taxation to pay net profits taxes to the state, and the state notifies each municipality of the taxes. Currently, business owners can decide to be part of the state’s system but must notify municipalities themselves, instead of a one-time notification.

“The current system for filing municipal net profits tax in Ohio creates unnecessary paperwork for our hard-working business owners,” Rep. Bill Roemer, R-Richfield, said. “As if the complications of the tax code itself weren’t enough, the state also requires businesses to jump through unnecessary administration hoops to meet their tax obligations. This bill streamlines and simplifies this process, so our business owners can spend more time creating jobs and contributing to our local economies, instead of complying with burdensome filing requirements.”

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Ohio Holidays Could Pack More Punch with Fireworks

Fireworks in the night sky

It may not come in time for the Fourth of July, but Ohioans could add some excitement to certain celebrations if a bill passed Wednesday by the Ohio Senate eventually clears the House and gets signed into law.

Senate Bill 113 would allow people to have consumer-grade fireworks in the state and set them off on certain days and holidays.

Ohioans would be allowed to set off fireworks on New Year’s Day; Chinese New Year; Cinco de Mayo; Memorial Day weekend; Juneteenth; July 3, 4 and 5, along with the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays preceding and following; Labor Day weekend; Diwali; and New Year’s eve. Local communities, however, can eliminate any of those days or ban the practice entirely.

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Migration Study Shows Big Cities Continue Losing Population During First Quarter

U-Haul truck

Americans in the first quarter of 2021 continued their 2020 pattern of moving from expensive, densely populated areas to warmer, more tax-affordable states, according to a new study from Updater Technologies.

Updater Technologies is an online platform that allows people to use a centralized hub for moving, including finding a moving company, connecting internet and utility services and updating their address. The company says the inbound and outbound data it uses is more reliable than tabulating mail forwarding forms because it captures fully completed permanent moves in real time. It also indexes cities and states based on population, since using raw numbers would skew toward the most populated areas based on sheer volume.

Out of roughly 300,000 household moves during the first quarter, only 16 states had a greater percentage of inbound moves than outbound: Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, Georgia and Maine.

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Study Finds Tennessee Collects $38M in Court Fines, Fees Each Year

Tennessee flag on pole

A new report from The Sycamore Institute shows Tennessee collects nearly $38 million annually in fines and fees through the criminal justice system, while county governments are collecting a shrinking amount in fines and fees.

While the Tennessee Department of Revenue reports its collections of fines and fees annually, other agencies, such as the Department of Correction, the Department of Safety & Homeland Security and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, do not report detailed information on their collections.

The Sycamore Institute study found 360 fees and fines authorized in Tennessee law, from being charged with a crime to civil asset forfeiture to incarceration costs.

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Critics Question Gov. Whitmer’s $1.3 Million Spending on Holland Private Sector Jobs

Mission Design and Automation, LLC

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is spending taxpayer money on private business Mission Design and Automation in Holland Charter Township.

Mission will house new large-scale automation projects and space for offices and meeting rooms, but critics argue government funds shouldn’t be used to subsidize private enterprises.

Michigan awarded the private company $400,000 in taxpayer money through the Jobs Ready Michigan Program grant. The project is expected to generate a total private investment of $5.3 million and create 109 well-paying new jobs over two years.

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Virginia DMV Expands Appointment Opportunities Reduced During Pandemic

People at windows of DMV

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is gradually expanding its appointment opportunities this month and next month now that most of the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have come to an end.

Starting June 1, the DMV opened 184,000 additional appointment opportunities  and the department will open up more appointments June 15 and again in July. Residents can secure their slots for the June 15 appointment expansion at this time. The department is hiring and training new employees to keep up with the higher number of appointments.

“Virginians have told us they appreciate the convenience and high quality service the appointment system affords,” Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said in a news release at the time of the announcement. “The Governor’s announcement … enables us to open more windows so customers can secure appointments sooner, but we are still taking great care to offer service that is safe for everyone.”

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Starkist Moving Headquarters from Pennsylvania to Virginia

Starkist Tuna

Packaged tuna manufacturer Starkist is closing up its headquarters in Pittsburgh and moving to northern Virginia, but most of the details about the move have not been revealed.

Starkist will close its office in the North Shore of Pittsburgh on March 31, 2022, but will maintain a presence in the area. Its new headquarters will open in northern Virginia in 2022, but the company did not say in which locality.

The company did not announce the reasons for its relocation. No announcements have been made related to taxpayer-funded subsidies or other incentives, which could be part of a deal.

Starkist has been owned by South Korea-based Dongwon Industries since 2008. It employs about 2,630 people and generates more than $24 million in revenue, according to Zippia.

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After National Criticism, Whitmer’s Campaign to Pay for Florida Flight

Governor Gretchen Whitmer

Months after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer flew on a secret trip to Florida, Michiganders are starting to find answers.

Whitmer’s campaign committee will pay for her March Florida flight to visit her father after she initially attempted to use a nonprofit to charter the flight through a separate company.

The flight sparked an Federal Aviation Agency investigation, because the jet company was not authorized to operate charter flights.

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Expanding Broadband Access in Ohio Becomes Law

Gov. Mike DeWine

Advancing broadband access across Ohio became official when Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law a bill that creates a grant program that government and business groups said is critical to economic development.

DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted signed the bill Monday at Middletown’s Amanda Elementary School, along with students, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria and Ohio Development Services Agency Director Lydia Mihalik.

“Reliable high-speed internet is a necessity for all Ohio industries, including manufacturing,” said Ryan Augsburger, president of the Ohio Manufacturers Association. “The pandemic has illuminated the need for Ohio families and businesses to efficiently access broadband in today’s technology-based economy.”

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Businesses, Republicans Raise the Alarm over Biden Taxes

Local icecream shop with chalkboard menu

As President Joe Biden promotes his several trillion dollars in proposed federal spending, Republicans and small businesses are raising the alarm, arguing the taxes needed to pay for those spending plans are a threat to the economy.

The House Ways and Means Committee met Thursday to discuss infrastructure development and in particular the impact of proposed tax increases to pay for it. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the ranking member on the committee, argued that only 7% of Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill goes to infrastructure and that raising taxes would incentivize employers to take jobs overseas.

“As bad as the wasteful spending is, worse yet, it’s poisoned with crippling tax increases that sabotage America’s jobs recovery, hurts working families and Main Street businesses, and drives U.S. jobs overseas,”  Brady said. “We cannot fund infrastructure on the backs of American workers.”

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Republicans Release Plan to Address Growing Inflation Under Biden Administration

High gas prices

Congressional Republicans grabbed headlines this week after releasing an aggressive budget they say would cut taxes and spending, but key measures in the plan also would address one of the country’s most serious economic problems.

The House’s Republican Study Committee released a budget that lays out several measures to deal with inflation, a growing concern among economists after the latest federal data showed a spike in consumer prices. Notably, the index for used cars and trucks rose 10%, the largest one-month increase since BLS began recording the data in 1953. Food and energy costs rose 0.9% in the month of April, prescription drugs rose 0.5%, and gasoline rose 1.4% during the same month. The energy cost index rose 25% in the previous 12 months.

Republicans on the committee say their plan would address concerns over inflation by balancing the budget within five years, thereby eliminating the need to monetize debt, a process where the federal government prints money to make payments on what it owes. The national debt has soared to more than $28 trillion and is expected to continue climbing under President Joe Biden’s new spending plans.

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Whitmer to Ease Michigan’s COVID-19 Restrictions June 1

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced outdoor capacity limits will disappear after June 1, when indoor capacity limits will increase to 50% under updated public health restrictions.

The state will lift the broad mask and gathering orders July 1, Whitmer said Thursday at Dow Diamond In Midland.

“We look at this as the last moment of this type of orders,” Whitmer said after Michigan has battled COVID-19 for 14 months via a wide range of emergency orders.

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Michigan Business Leaders Expect Robust Economic Recovery, Return to Partial In-Person Work

Man in business suit walking on crosswalk in city

Michigan’s business leaders anticipate robust growth in the state’s economy within the next year.

They also plan a return to in-person office work in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2021, according to a quarterly economic survey completed by Business Leaders for Michigan.

Approximately 92% of survey respondents say the state’s economy will likely remain strong and growing during the next six to 12 months.

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Controversy Surrounds Whitmer’s Secret Florida Flight

Gov. Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is once again under fire for a Florida trip she took months ago.

The trip was partially paid for by a 501(c)4 group, which critics say presents legal questions.

Whitmer used funds from an inauguration-related nonprofit to pay for a $27,521 trip to Florida to visit her ailing father in March, MIRS News reported. “She continued to carry out her duties as governor while she assisted her father [in Florida] with household duties like cooking and cleaning,” JoAnne Huls, the governor’s chief of staff, wrote in a memo. “The governor’s flight was not a gift, not paid for at taxpayer expense, and was done in compliance with the law.”

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Pipeline Hack Revives Call for Florida to Create Its Own Stash of Gas

Gary Farmer

The ransomware attack that paralyzed the Colonial Pipeline for nearly a week, causing gas shortages throughout the Southeast, including Florida’s Panhandle, may revive one senator’s multi-year effort to convince the Sunshine State to establish its own petroleum stockpile.

Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, has filed bills since 2018 seeking to create a Florida Strategic Fuel Reserve Task Force to study creating a fuel stash similar in concept, if not in size, to the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Farmer Thursday called on Republican statehouse leaders to add his 2021 proposal, Senate Bill 1454, to the agenda when the Legislature convenes Monday for a special session to vet a proposed 30-year gaming compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

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Kemp Extends Suspension of Georgia Gas Tax by a Week

"Sorry out of service" bag covering gas pump

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp extended the state’s temporary suspension of the fuel tax through May 22 as Colonial Pipeline works to become fully operational after a cyberattack.

Kemp issued an executive order Monday that suspended the gas tax, increased weight limits for trucks transporting fuel and prohibited price gouging. The order was set to expire Saturday before Kemp extended it Friday.

“While Colonial Pipeline is now operational, the company has informed the public that it will be a few days until full service is available statewide,” Kemp said in a statement. “This executive order will ensure fuel supply chains have every resource needed to deliver gas quickly and safely, and that Georgians aren’t hit with state gas taxes at the pump during this shortage. I continue to ask Georgians to only purchase the fuel they need for essential travel through the upcoming weekend.”

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Lee Signs Slew of Bills, Including Tax Deals for Titans, Smokies

Nissan International Stadium

Tax deals for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans and minor league baseball’s Tennessee Smokies were signed into law this week by Gov. Bill Lee.

The governor also signed two bills that are key cogs in his criminal justice reform initiative. They aim to reduce recidivism and keep lower level offenders related to substance abuse and mental health out of jail and in community-based alternative programs.

The Titans deal is estimated to have a $10 million annual sales tax impact on the state. It will allow the team to retain sales tax revenue from all events at Nissan Stadium and keep half of the tax revenue from a planned mixed-use development around the stadium to use toward future stadium upgrades.

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Economic Development Roundup: Charging Station Producer Heliox Opening Headquarters in Georgia

Black, electric car being charged at charging station

E-mobility charging systems producer Heliox is establishing its North American headquarters in Atlanta, creating more than 70 clean-energy jobs, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said.

Netherlands-based Heliox makes fast-charging systems for electric vehicles. It has installed more than 1,600 fast-charging points worldwide.

The headquarters is expected to open June 1 and will include a campus for research and development and corporate offic

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Discharging Fireworks in Ohio Moves Closer to Reality

Brian Baldridge

 The Fourth of July for Ohioans could come with a little more bang in 2022 if the General Assembly comes together on a pair of bills that would move the state closer to legalizing the discharge of fireworks.

While coming up short of allowing fireworks throughout the state, House Bill 253 would allow cities to legalize fireworks over July 3, 4 and 5, and it requires the state fire marshal to develop rules on how and when fireworks can be used. House Bill 172, which passed the House on Thursday, removes the statewide ban on the discharge of fireworks.

“Every year, the 4th of July is marked with family picnics and parades as a way to celebrate our nation’s birthday and the many freedoms we enjoy as Americans,” Rep. Brian Baldridge, R-Winchester, said. “Even with all this, each and every year brings disappointment when Ohio’s citizens cannot legally and honestly discharge fireworks as a means of celebrating with family, friends and neighbors.”

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Business Fairness Act Would Allow Ohio Businesses to Stay Open During Emergencies

Mike DeWine

Ohio businesses would be able to continue to operate during a public health emergency if a bill passed by the Ohio House clears the Senate and is signed by Gov. Mike DeWine.

House Bill 215 would require businesses to comply with safety standards from government orders or regulations to stay open, but it does provide an avenue to keep businesses up in running in times of emergency.

“Small business owners had their worlds turned upside down when they were forced to shut down last year,” Rep. Jon Cross, R-Kenton, said. “Getting this bill signed into law will send a strong message that Ohio will remain open for business and keep our economy moving forward.”

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