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Whitmer forms new agency for workforce, economic development

June 6, 2019

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday reshaped and renamed a state department that handles workforce and economic development, and named a director to fill out the last permanent piece of her Cabinet.

The Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED), which was formed by former Gov. Rick Snyder as part of a similar organization, will become the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) unless the Republican-led Legislature objects to the Democratic governor’s executive order .

At a news conference in her office, Whitmer said her action will consolidate a number of workforce and economic development functions that are scattered across state government. She announced that Jeff Donofrio, the city of Detroit’s executive director for workforce development since 2015, will lead the department.

“This is going to give us the ability to be much more efficient,” she said, touting the opportunity for more synergy. Whitmer wants to increase the number of people with a post-secondary degree, credential or certificate to 60%, from 45% today.

Stephanie Beckhorn will remain as acting director until a start date is confirmed for Donofrio.

“We’re going to work to close that opportunity gap, because we know when people succeed, our businesses thrive,” he said.

Whitmer’s order will also restructure the system for unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation appeals, replacing a commission with two separate commissions. It was not immediately clear if the changes could run into resistance from the business community.

“This is a smart way of ensuring that we’ve got experts that can tackle the issues that are being brought before them,” Whitmer said. “It was cumbersome before, and frankly I don’t think the expertise was there on the workforce side as well as the unemployment side. They were all mashed together. That’s what we’re trying to remedy here.”

She said her team briefed both Republican and Democratic legislative leaders, and made some changes to the final order because of their feedback.

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