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Michigan OKs new, 4-year contract with top economic developer to boost jobs

ford builiding
Ford Motor Co.’s plans to invest $11.4 billion in battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky galvanized Michigan’s economic development efforts about two months after Messer took over leadership of the MEDC in July 2021. (Courtesy rendering)
  • Quentin Messer Jr. started as head of the MEDC 18 months ago and just secured a new, four-year contract 
  • Messer will lead the state’s attraction and retention efforts as auto companies expect to spend billions on sites for EV production
  • Details on the contract were not made available Tuesday

Michigan’s top economic developer will lead the state’s business attraction efforts for the next four years after officials approved a new contract with him on Tuesday.

Quentin Messer Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, will remain in his role through at least 2026, years when the auto industry is likely to invest billions of dollars in new and retooled production sites for EV expansion.

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Quentin L. Messer Jr. is the third CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation under Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. (Courtesy photo)

Details on the terms of the contract  — including pay — were not disclosed to Bridge on Tuesday. However, the MEDC said on Wednesday that Messer’s new base pay will be $325,000 per year when he finalizes the deal.

Related: Michigan turns to New Orleans for new economic development CEO

The contract was approved by the executive committee of the MEDC, a public-private partnership with the state that oversees business attraction and retention, along with the Pure Michigan advertising campaign. The public funding arm of the MEDC is the Michigan Strategic Fund. 

Messer “has worked tirelessly to drive results around building a strong and vibrant economic recovery to help our state’s businesses retain, grow and create more good-paying jobs,” said Awenate Cobbina, CEO of Bedrock Group and chair of the MEDC executive committee, in a statement. 

“Today’s action is a recognition of the results he has delivered, and will continue to deliver, while providing certainty and consistency to MEDC, our customers, and our partners across the state of Michigan.”

Messer took over the MEDC in July 2021, becoming the third CEO during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s tenure. Former CEO Jeff Mason, appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in 2017, retired in 2020. Mark Burton, Whitmer’s chief strategist, stepped into the role in March 2020 and led the state’s COVID-19 relief programs for businesses.

Messer’s new contract coincides with Whitmer’s second term in office. It replaces his original two-year deal, which would have expired this summer.

Within months of Messer arriving in Michigan from New Orleans, where he headed the New Orleans Business Alliance, Dearborn-based Ford Motor Co. announced its $11.4 billion vehicle electrification projects in Kentucky and Tennessee, dismaying its home state with its massive investment elsewhere.

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The shock prompted the state — which had been touting its dominance in the U.S. automotive industry — to shore up its efforts to attract business to Michigan, including bipartisan legislative approval of the $1 billion Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve (SOAR) fund just months later. 

Since then, the state has announced about $13 billion in new investment, including several large-scale EV battery sites, and expanded the SOAR fund. 

Former State Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, told Bridge in 2022 that Messer is among the state’s top business advocates. Messer, who has degrees from Princeton and Columbia universities,  was named by Consultants Connect as one of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers in 2019 and 2020. 

“I really have a lot of faith in Quinten Messer in his ability to harness … opportunity for the state of Michigan,” Horn said at the time.

The MEDC has a $107 million budget, and employs 356 people.

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