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Michigan and Ohio Compete to Become Fuel Cell Capital

July 5, 2002

Michigan and Ohio have recently unveiled dueling state-sponsored programs intended to make each the worldwide leader in fuel cells. In April, Gov. John Engler announced Michigan's NextEnergy Project, which is an economic development plan geared toward making Michigan a world leader in the research, development, commercialization, and manufacture of alternative-energy technologies like fuel cells. The plan, which experts say will cost close to $50 million over the next three to five years, will be a 700-acre, tax-free research zone in Washtenaw County's York Township, designed to attract alternative-energy companies from around the world. Around the same time, Ohio Gov. Robert Taft unveiled his state's Third Frontier Project -- a 10-year, $1.6-billion proposal to promote high-tech research. The fuel cell portion of that plan comes in the form of a three-year, $100-million plan to make Ohio a national leader in developing the new technology. Much of Ohio's investment money will come in the form of low-interest loans, tax-exempt bond financing and employee hiring and training credit. While both states see the importance of preparing for fuel cells, each is approaching the oncoming technology revolution in different ways. While both plans rely heavily on tax and employment incentives, the Michigan plan offers cash incentives in addition to financing options to court businesses into its NextEnergy research den. Some observers point to potential regional similarities that might help bring much of the Rust Belt together when it comes to fuel cells. Most all leaders of Midwest states recognize that commodity manufacturing is a declining economic base and that some collective thinking must happen for the region to take advantage of at least some of the opportunities that fuel cells present. That is why there has been some talk of joint efforts for the entire region.
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