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Whitmer pitches innovation prizes, incubator at Mackinac

Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivers remarks at the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference.
Rick Pluta
Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivers remarks at the Detroit Regional Chamber Mackinac Policy Conference.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer pitched some of her big ideas Thursday to business, education and not-for-profit leaders at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

Whitmer said Michigan will offer a $100,000 prize for the best idea to fix roads and improve mobility.

“How will you help Michiganders get from point A to point B safely, affordably and efficiently?” she said. Whitmer told the conference it will be a public “shark tank” style competition judged by business experts.

“You need equipment, facilities, tools and expertise. Sometimes those fundamentals just cost too much or are completely inaccessible,” she said. “And while access doesn’t guarantee success, lack of access is a complete barrier.”

Whitmer said the attention from the competition could also help start-ups get attention from potential investors. Whitmer said she wants this to be an annual competition.

Whitmer also said she considers infrastructure funding unfinished business before wrapping up her second and final term.

“We still haven’t done a long-term infrastructure solution,” she said. “We haven’t, despite all the work you see happening, and that’s something that I remain committed to getting done. It doesn’t get easier or cheaper … until we have a longer-term solution.”

Whitmer’s proposal in her first term to dramatically increase the gas tax by 45 cents per gallon failed to gain traction in the Legislature. She did raise money for some road repairs by selling bonds.

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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