we are All Going to Sink or Float Together - Bill Ford

By: Mike Bartley

There are several ways to transform the auto industry that also will benefit the state of Michigan, said William 'Bill' Ford Jr. Thursday during the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy conference.

A replacement for the single business tax, a commitment to making Michigan a research and development hub, and passing climate change legislation that takes into account the entire economy and not just the auto industry are starts, said the executive chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ford Motor Company.

"Clearly, it is up to automakers to address the challenges we face, and that's what we are doing," Ford added. "But the issues confronting us are bigger than any one industry, and they impact everyone in Detroit, and the State of Michigan. It doesn't matter if the leak is in someone else's part of the boat, we are all going to sink or float together."

The great-grandson of Henry Ford suggested that the United States use Europe as an example of how to address global warming. The company's plan includes tax incentives and the inception of a carbon trading program. Another noteworthy goal is to put emphasis on alternative-fuel vehicles, instead of focusing so heavily on fuel efficiency standards.

"The automobile industry is getting a lot of attention in regard to CO2 emissions and global warming," Ford said. "But the fact is cars and trucks contribute about 20 percent of CO2 emissions in the U.S., and ten percent of the worldwide total. We need to do our part as an industry, but we are only one piece of a much bigger puzzle."

Ford also called on the state Legislature to pass the Michigan Business Tax that has passed the state House, but is stuck in the state Senate. "This plan promotes a more competitive tax structure for manufacturers in Michigan. It broadens the base of business taxpayers by including out-of-state companies who sell their products and services in Michigan, but don't invest here," he said. "It also encourages the retention of research and development in Michigan through tax credits."

When Ford visited Mackinac Island to deliver a speech at the policy conference, he was on an I-told-you-so kind of mood. Ford told everyone how foolish some people were for not listening to him then. "We didn't move fast enough," he lectured. "Much of what I talked about then is happening today."

Given the struggles of the American automaker, it is really hard to assert Ford a scorned prophet. But his stand, that businesses often are slow to act, is well taken. "When I joined Ford Motor Co. 30 years ago, I was asked to stop associating with environmentalists," he said. "When I talked about the environment 20 years ago, or even five years ago, many people thought I was eccentric at best." He admitted his own failure to act quickly enough in creating greener and environmentally-friendly vehicles. "My only regret now," he said, "is we didn't move further faster."

Critics say those words from Ford's executive chairman should be a warning for everyone. Action is needed now to improve health care and regional collaboration. These are two of the conference's top themes this year, both of which were addressed by the executive chairman.

If in four years little or nothing has been accomplished on those essential issues, the Mackinac policy conference would mean nothing more than a luxurious social gathering. And Ford, or someone like him, will return to deliver a verbal lashing likened to the striking .

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