Airport, CTE key local economy: House candidate

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Matt Morgan, a Democratic candidate for Michigan’s 1st District of the U.S. House of Representatives, talks during an interview with the Daily Mining Gazette Friday.

HOUGHTON — Democratic U.S. House candidate Matt Morgan said he supports maintaining Essential Air Service funding, which he sees as key to the area’s economic fortunes.

The Houghton County Memorial Airport has been in the EAS program since 2010.

Trump’s 2018 budget proposed eliminating the program. The 2019 budget calls for a 38 percent cut.

“I was just over at MTU, and we know how important this airport is,” Morgan said Friday during an interview at the Daily Mining Gazette. “We have to be able to maintain it.”

Morgan, of Traverse City, is running for the 1st District seat held by U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet.

Morgan said alternatives to Enbridge’s Line 5 are critical, particularly for areas such as the central U.P., where about one in five houses heats their house with propane. 

“We’ve seen what happens when propane prices go up,” he said. “It places working families at tremendous risk, and we have to have an alternative to that.”

Morgan said he would combat stagnating wages through means such as training and education. The Copper Country Intermediate School District’s career and technical education program is the sort of program that needs to continue, he said.

“I’ve talked to leaders in the U.P. in particular who are looking at trying to get companies to invest here, and the biggest shortage they have is talent,” he said. “That’s the number one issue that they cite. It’s not because we don’t have good people. It’s just that we need to make sure that our kids have pathways into these career tech programs that provide them the skill sets they need to find those good-paying jobs.”

Morgan also supports the push for a $15 federal minimum wage. However, he said, it has to be done in a way that protects small businesses. 

“I know that particularly in the service industry, that that would be a tremendous burden to them,” he said. “I know there are a number of ways we can attack the minimum wage, but doing so in a way that supports the businesses and local economies.”

One obstacle to bringing businesses into the Upper Peninsula has been the lack of broadband penetration. Morgan said the government should look to rural electrification of the mid-20th century as a model, which combined federal investment, cooperatives and public-private ventures. 

“We’ve seen some businesses that are having some success, but we’re not going to get broadband to every household in the U.P. and the northern Lower (Peninsula) until we can get the federal government to prioritize that,” he said. 

TOMORROW: Although it was a “clumsy” rollout, Morgan supports the president’s tariff plan and also predicts the Republican-led U.S. House will not bring any gun legislation to the floor.