(The Center Square) – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spent $285,709 on her seven-day trip to Japan.
The September trip marked her third privately funded trade mission this year including trips to Switzerland ($44,117) and Austria ($55,705).
Spending records obtained by The Center Square obtained from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation show the following expenses:
Transportation: $108,133Flights: $76,990Hotels: $73,989Miscellaneous: $19,672Meals: $6,924
It’s unclear how many people attended the trip.
John Mozena, president of the Center for Economic Accountability, a nonprofit organization for transparent economic development policy, said the trip was an example of the “incestuous relationship” between the MEDC and the big businesses that wield power and influence over Michigan’s elected officials.
“The MEDC is supposed to be the part of the government that holds businesses accountable on behalf of the people of Michigan, but it’s controlled and even partially funded by those exact same businesses,” Mozena wrote in an email.
He continued: “These corporations sent Gov. Whitmer and MEDC bureaucrats on a junket to Japan, and we’re expected to believe that they’re going to come home and exercise painstaking due diligence over those businesses’ next hundred-million-dollar subsidy applications, or hold them accountable when they don’t meet their existing contractual commitments?”
The group including MEDC CEO Quentin L. Messer, Jr., other MEDC officials, Michigan Economic Development Foundation Board members, and partners from local economic development organizations including Battle Creek Unlimited, Detroit Regional Partnership, and Oakland County also attended the trip.
On average, they spent more than $40,000 daily.
Whitmer justified the more than 12,800-mile round trip by saying she would bring back financial interest in Michigan’s mobility, automotive and advanced manufacturing industries. This is the first Michigan governor’s business visit to Japan since 2017.
“Michigan has a powerful story to tell as we compete to bring jobs and investment home,” Whitmer said in a September statement. “As a hub of high-tech innovation, we are embarking on an economic mission alongside business leaders to bring Michigan’s story to East Asia in the coming days. Our state is full of potential, from our hardworking people and our vibrant cities and towns to our entrepreneurial spirit and culture of innovation.”
Whitmer also visited the Japanese External Trade Organization headquarters and the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association meeting in Tokyo.
“Michigan has a long and fruitful relationship with Japan, including being the home of a Consular Office in Detroit. I am honored to join Governor Whitmer and Team Michigan’s entire delegation to deepen our partnership during this trip while creating new opportunities for our friends and neighbors back home,” Messer said. “While we have more work ahead to ensure anyone can see his/her/their future here in Michigan, this trip is a critical step in growing opportunities with Japanese businesses and citizens who have invested in our state for generations.”
The MEDC and the MEDF, an independent not-for-profit organization that promotes economic development efforts in Michigan that create private investments and increase jobs and wages, funded the trip through company donations.