Spinal Column: Small Business Week celebrates the companies that drive our economy

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Before I became a public official, I worked in the family business.

My training is in carpentry, and the family business is a woodworking and carpentry company started by my parents nearly 65 years ago.

I was honored to work for 38 years for the company, including serving as president until I joined the Michigan House in 1998. My time at the business instilled in me the importance of discipline and hard work.

As president of the company, I became well aware both of the joys and the struggles facing small businesses. I also grew to appreciate their importance to the economy and to the well-being of families and individuals.

In less than two weeks we will recognize the importance of small businesses statewide and nationally.

Sunday, April 29 through Saturday, May 5 we will celebrate Small Business Week.

Since 1963, the president of the United States has issued a proclamation every year announcing National Small Business Week. This is a time to recognize the vital contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

The numbers surrounding these businesses are significant. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and these businesses create about two out of every three new jobs in the United States each year.

In Michigan, there are more than 169,000 small businesses with employees and another 687,000 small businesses without employees. These companies employ more than 1,755,000 workers, representing roughly 51.7 percent of the private-sector labor force.

America’s progress has been driven by those who think big, take risks and work hard. These traits are the hallmarks of small business owners, and they form the backbone of our economy.

Small businesses often have greater contact with their community and can better respond to their customers’ needs. In many cases they can fulfill the needs of their customers better than larger companies can. Corporate bureaucracy is not a significant threat to most small businesses, which helps them adapt to change more quickly.

For more information on the significance and value of small businesses, visit the Small Business Association of Michigan at www.sbam.org.

Large, multinational corporations may get most of the press. But make no mistake: Small businesses — mom-and-pop outfits, family restaurants, professional services, internet marketing companies, and many more enterprises too numerous to count — are critical to our success. So make sure to pay these businesses a visit this year during Small Business Week, from April 29 to May 5.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Kowall participates in event commemorating Vietnam Veterans Day

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, participated in a joint event in Lansing on Thursday to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day in the state.

Kowall, the Michigan Veterans’ Memorial Park Commission, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency formally recognized and presented certificates of honor and lapel pins to the families of U.S. Army Spc. Four Arthur Wright, missing in action since Feb. 21, 1967, and U.S. Army Pfc. Nathan Ray Sales, killed in action on Sept. 22, 1968.

The Vietnam War Commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense, and then formally launched in 2012. It was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America, in light of the 50th anniversary of the war. Recognition is given to these heroes when commemorative partners hold events for the veterans and their families.

Information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.

Note: For a print-quality version of this photo or other Kowall photos, click the image or select Photowire at right.

Final Notice: Kowall to host a joint Vietnam Veterans Day event March 29

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Kowall on Thursday reminded interested parties that he and the Michigan Veterans’ Memorial Park Commission, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency will host an event in Lansing on Thursday, March 29 to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day in the state.

The event will take place beginning at 1 p.m. at Michigan Veterans’ Memorial Park, east of the Hall of Justice, between Allegan and Ottawa streets in Lansing. Overflow parking will be at the Michigan Historical Center parking lot at 702 W. Kalamazoo St., located between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Pine Street.

The event will:
• Announce that March 29 of each year is formally Vietnam Veterans Day in the state of Michigan, through a resolution passed by the Michigan Legislature in 2017;
• Recognize and honor two families who lost their soldiers in the Vietnam War. Marty Eddy, who is Michigan state coordinator, National League of POW/MIA Families and secretary/treasurer, POW Committee of Michigan, will formally present a certificate of honor and lapel pin to the families of U.S. Army Spc. Four Arthur Wright, missing in action since Oct. 31, 1977, and U.S. Army Pfc. Nathan Ray Sales, killed in action on Sept. 22, 1968;
• Formally provide a commemorative lapel pin to any Michigan Vietnam era veteran who has not yet received a pin and accompanying items;
• Provide the first 300 veterans attending the event with a green light bulb indicating their military service; and
• Commemorate the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Timeline Replacement Project in the Michigan Veterans Memorial Park.

Master of ceremonies for the event will be retired U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard Col. Frank J. Walker, an Air Force Academy admissions liaison officer and veteran advocate.

The Hooligans Flight Team will perform a flyover to formally begin the ceremony. Singer/songwriter Kelly Trudell will lead attendees in the national anthem and a “God Bless America” singalong, and she will perform her hit song “Sound of Hope,” written specifically for Vietnam era veterans. Trudell travels throughout the U.S. singing for veterans. She previously was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her work with veterans, soldiers and their families.

Others at the event will include:
• Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director James Robert Redford;
• State Chaplain of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Michigan Jennifer Smith, who will deliver the invocation;
• Veteran Service Officer and Chaplain Lawrence Girard, South Haven, Post 49 American Legion, who will give the benediction;
• Guest speaker state Sen. Vincent Gregory, corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam veteran, 1968-70; and
• Past and present Veterans’ Memorial Park commissioners.

RSVP to Lynn O’Brien, Sen. Kowall’s director of district and veteran affairs, by email at lobrien@senate.michigan.gov or for any questions at 517-373-0563.

The Michigan Vietnam Monument, located within Michigan Veterans’ Memorial Park, is a solemn location recognizing Michigan residents, by county, who served in Vietnam. The monument recently underwent a revitalization project.

Kowall encouraged residents to consider helping fund the Veterans’ Memorial Park by purchasing a Veterans’ Memorial “Lest We Forget” license plate when they renew. The revenue from this plate is the sole source of income for Michigan Veterans’ Memorial Park. The funds help maintain the park to honor and remember those who serve and have served our nation.

The Vietnam War Commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense, and then formally launched in 2012. It was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America, in light of the 50th anniversary of the war. Recognition is given to these heroes when commemorative partners hold events for the veterans and their families.

Information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.

Note: Click here for directions to the Michigan Vietnam Monument.

Oakland Press: Let’s celebrate reading in March and beyond

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

It’s that time of year again: The snow is melting, our kids are seeing the light at the end of the school-year tunnel, basketball is in the air, and buds will soon be on the trees.

March means all these things. But it also means it’s time once again to focus on an activity that is both pleasurable and highly profitable: reading.

March is Reading Month.

For students across the state, this means that they will concentrate more exclusively this month on reading and its benefits.

Those benefits are many — and they start well before kids become students. For example, the benefits of parents talking, reading and singing to their infant children and continuing on for the first several years of their children’s lives are immense. Children learn more rapidly in their first six years than at any other stage in life as the brain’s neurons, synapses and connections are formed and strengthened by a caregiver interacting with a child.

Learning to read at a young age increases a student’s ability to remember facts, comprehend information and be successful in both school and a career.

Unfortunately, about one in six children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers. Encouraging students to read and teaching the basics of language are vital steps on the path to a brighter Michigan future.

In addition, reading expands the imaginations of both children and adults. It teaches us to ask good questions and envision a better life. A lifelong love of reading is essential for a balanced and successful life, and fostering this love in students at a young age leads to greater achievements at all levels of their education.

Reading is good for us. It’s good for our minds; it’s good for our education; it’s good for our social life and human interaction; it’s good for our careers. But equally important to all these benefits: Reading is fun.

So this March and beyond, crack open a book, and encourage the young people in your life to do the same.

This column appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Kowall welcomes Highland pastor to Capitol to give Senate invocation

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, welcomed the Rev. B. Michael Hefner of Highland Church of the Nazarene in Highland to the Michigan Capitol on Tuesday. Hefner gave the invocation before the start of the Senate session.

Joining Kowall and Hefner were Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Sen. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc.

Note: For a print-quality version of these or other Kowall photos, click the images or select Photowire at right. A video of Tuesday’s invocation is available by clicking the Video link.

Spinal Column: Let’s celebrate reading in March and beyond

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

It’s that time of year again: The snow is melting, our kids are seeing the light at the end of the school-year tunnel, basketball is in the air, and buds will soon be on the trees.

March means all these things. But it also means it’s time once again to focus on an activity that is both pleasurable and highly profitable: reading.

March is Reading Month.

For students across the state, this means that they will concentrate more exclusively this month on reading and its benefits.

Those benefits are many — and they start well before kids become students. For example, the benefits of parents talking, reading and singing to their infant children and continuing on for the first several years of their children’s lives are immense. Children learn more rapidly in their first six years than at any other stage in life as the brain’s neurons, synapses and connections are formed and strengthened by a caregiver interacting with a child.

Learning to read at a young age increases a student’s ability to remember facts, comprehend information and be successful in both school and a career.

Unfortunately, about one in six children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers. Encouraging students to read and teaching the basics of language are vital steps on the path to a brighter Michigan future.

In addition, reading expands the imaginations of both children and adults. It teaches us to ask good questions and envision a better life. A lifelong love of reading is essential for a balanced and successful life, and fostering this love in students at a young age leads to greater achievements at all levels of their education.

Reading is good for us. It’s good for our minds; it’s good for our education; it’s good for our social life and human interaction; it’s good for our careers. But equally important to all these benefits: Reading is fun.

So this March and beyond, crack open a book, and encourage the young people in your life to do the same.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column newsweekly. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Reminder: Kowall to host a joint Vietnam Veterans Day event March 29

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Mike Kowall on Thursday reminded interested parties that he and the Michigan Veterans’ Memorial Park Commission, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency will host an event in Lansing on Thursday, March 29 to commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day in the state.

The event will take place beginning at 1 p.m. at Michigan Veterans’ Memorial Park, east of the Hall of Justice, between Allegan and Ottawa streets in Lansing. Overflow parking will be at the Michigan Historical Center parking lot at 702 W. Kalamazoo St., located between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Pine Street.

The event will:
• Announce that March 29 of each year is formally Vietnam Veterans Day in the state of Michigan, through a resolution passed by the Michigan Legislature in 2017;
• Recognize and honor two families who lost their soldiers in the Vietnam War. Marty Eddy, who is Michigan state coordinator, National League of POW/MIA Families and secretary/treasurer, POW Committee of Michigan, will formally present a certificate of honor and lapel pin to the families of U.S. Army Spc. Four Arthur Wright, missing in action since Oct. 31, 1977, and U.S. Army Pfc. Nathan Ray Sales, killed in action on Sept. 22, 1968;
• Formally provide a commemorative lapel pin to any Michigan Vietnam era veteran who has not yet received a pin and accompanying items; and
• Celebrate the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall Timeline Replacement Project in the Michigan Veterans Memorial Park.

Master of ceremonies for the event will be retired U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard Col. Frank J. Walker, an Air Force Academy admissions liaison officer and veteran advocate.

The Hooligans Flight Team will perform a flyover to formally begin the ceremony. Singer/songwriter Kelly Trudell will lead attendees in the national anthem and a “God Bless America” singalong, and she will perform her hit song “Sound of Hope,” written specifically for Vietnam era veterans. Trudell travels throughout the U.S. singing for veterans. She previously was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her work with veterans, soldiers and their families.

Others at the event will include:
• Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency Director James Robert Redford;
• State Chaplain of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Michigan Jennifer Smith, who will deliver the invocation;
• Veteran Service Officer and Chaplain Lawrence Girard, South Haven, Post 49 American Legion, who will give the benediction; and
• Guest speaker state Sen. Vincent Gregory, retired corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, Vietnam veteran, 1968-70.

RSVP to Lynn O’Brien, Sen. Kowall’s director of district and veteran affairs, by email at lobrien@senate.michigan.gov or for any questions at 517-373-0563.

The Michigan Vietnam Monument, located within Michigan Veterans’ Memorial Park, is a solemn location recognizing Michigan residents, by county, who served in Vietnam. The monument recently underwent a revitalization project.

The Vietnam War Commemoration was authorized by Congress and established under the secretary of defense, and then formally launched in 2012. It was designed to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families in hometown America, in light of the 50th anniversary of the war. Recognition is given to these heroes when commemorative partners hold events for the veterans and their families.

Information regarding the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration can be found at www.vietnamwar50th.com.

Note: Click here for directions to the Michigan Vietnam Monument.

Senate OKs $175 million for road funding

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved a bill allocating $175 million for roads throughout the state, said Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall.

“If you’ve driven or ridden on Michigan’s roads recently, you know what horrible shape they are in,” said Kowall, R-White Lake. “This money allows us to strengthen our commitment to better roads this year, instead of waiting.”

In Gov. Rick Snyder’s recent budget proposal he had allocated the $175 million for the fiscal year 2019 budget instead of this year’s budget, fiscal year 2018.

House Bill 4321 moves the funding up to this year.

“I appreciate the governor’s action to allocate money for roads, but that money is needed now,” Kowall said. “With some carryover money from last year, the money is there, and this bill ensures it will go to roads.”

The legislation would dedicate $160 million for the preservation and construction of state, county, city and village roads, and $15 million to next-generation technologies and service delivery to support Michigan’s automotive and mobility research industry.

HB 4321 now heads to the state House for concurrence before heading to the governor for his signature.

Oakland Press: Tax reform provides welcome relief

Sen. Mike Kowall

Sen. Mike Kowall

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

Among my many responsibilities as a state senator, one of the duties I take very seriously is my responsibility to help remove unnecessary encumbrances our government places on residents. One of these is the tax burden.

Easing the tax burden is good for Michiganders personally, and it is good for the economy, providing a stimulus to investment.

The recent federal tax reform simplifies the tax code, lowers tax rates, doubles the standard deduction and increases family tax credits — all worthy achievements. Unfortunately, the reform also effectively ended the federal personal exemption.

Since the state personal exemption is based on the federal return, without a revision to state law, Michigan taxpayers would no longer be able to claim personal exemptions on their state income taxes.

Senate Republicans crafted Senate Bills 748 and 750 to address this issue. The measures, which recently passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, would ensure Michigan taxpayers can continue claiming the personal exemption on their state and city income taxes after the federal reform goes into effect.

SB 748 would gradually raise the state’s personal exemption to $4,900 by 2021, while keeping it tied to inflation. In 2018, the exemption would be $4,050. It would increase by $350 yearly through 2020 and then bump up to $4,900 in 2021.

Preserving and increasing the personal exemption is a responsible and affordable solution for Michigan taxpayers. They have earned a break helping energize our economy and creating jobs.

I urge the governor to act swiftly to sign Senate Bills 748 and 750. Michiganders deserve this relief.

This column appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.

Kowall, Colbeck present lapel pin to Vietnam veteran Robert Harris

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, and Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, on Thursday presented a Vietnam veteran lapel pin at the Michigan Capitol to U.S. Navy veteran Robert Harris, a lifetime member of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

As a mechanic during the Vietnam War, Harris worked 12-hour shifts maintaining aircraft. He received a citation from the commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet because his squadron flew 2,280 combat missions during the cruise while maintaining 85 percent aircraft availability.

“Robert Harris served his nation in a faraway land with honor and distinction,” Kowall said. “Today we were able to recognize Bob’s service with this lapel pin and let him know we appreciate all he has done for his country.”

The symbolism attached to the Vietnam veteran lapel pins is significant. The pins honor all Vietnam veterans, whether they served in-country, in-theater, or were stationed elsewhere during the Vietnam War period.

Note: For a print-quality version of this photo or other Kowall photos, click the image or select Photowire under the Media Center tab, above.