Gavin Leach, vice president for finance and administration at Northern Michigan University, is the only U.P. representative and one of 27 members statewide serving on the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission created by Gov. Rick Snyder. The commission will develop a comprehensive, long-term vision that guides strategic infrastructure planning, investment and prioritization in Michigan.
Leach is one of 15 gubernatorial appointees. He was recommended by David Behen, director of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. Behen has worked extensively with Leach and his staff on the expansion of the university’s state-of-the-art wireless educational broadband network–NMU LTE–across the Upper Peninsula.
The commission is also composed of four legislative appointees and eight non-voting department directors or their representatives. All have expertise related to the commission’s four subgroups: transport systems; water, sewer, stormwater and drainage; funding and policy; and communications and energy. Leach serves on the latter.
“I will be part of the discussion for issues the commission will be addressing based on my experience and the rural perspective I can offer as the U.P. representative," he said. "There are unique challenges related to infrastructure in this region.”
Leach earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and master’s in public administration from NMU. He also holds a certified public accountant certificate. He said the commission will engage with the public, both electronically and through town hall meetings in various locations. He has offered NMU as the host site for a potential U.P. meeting.
“Serving on the commission has been a good eye-opener in terms of all that falls under infrastructure and the many variables that need to be considered and coordinated in the planning process,” he said. “Sound and modern infrastructure is vital to the health and well-being of Michigan residents and it also supports economic growth.”
Leach added he’s looking forward to working with the members of the committee as they develop recommendations that help to prioritize the state’s needs for the next 30-50 years. The governor’s office has indicated that Michigan is the first state to develop a long-term comprehensive infrastructure plan.
The subgroups convene between monthly commission meetings to allow ample time to gather reports, discuss data and prepare an implementable set of recommendations according to the governor’s timeline. The commission must present its infrastructure assessment and recommendations no later than Nov. 30.
Snyder proposed $165 million be allocated to a newly created Michigan Infrastructure Fund as part of his FY17 budget. The commission will suggest how that funding, assuming it is included in the legislatively passed and enacted budget, can be used most efficiently to improve safety and the quality of life for Michiganders.