CORUNNA — U.S. Congressman John Moolenaar, R-Midland, visited several area businesses Thursday afternoon to highlight small businesses, tax reform and tornado recovery efforts.

Moolenaar, who represents Michigan’s 4th congressional district, toured Meridian Brick with Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership President/CEO Justin Horvath and plant manager Robert Clements.

They discussed the effect the 2017 tax reform is having in Shiawassee County, job opportunities and what Congress can still do to improve conditions for area businesses.

Moolenaar began his tour of Meridian with Clements, who gave some background on the plant’s history, location and how the different kinds of bricks the plant produces are in demand.

Clements said the plant was originally the site of a coal mine, and sits on about 600 acres of land. It would cost about $50 to $60 million dollars to build a similar plant from scratch.

One product Meridian produces, a “thin” brick, for exterior finish on houses is currently a big seller. Clement added Meridian produces 25 to 30 different colors of bricks.

“We are the only brick manufacturing facility in the state,” Clements said. “Tax abatements and the road upgrade have really been a help to us.”

Clements showed off the manufacturing area, which included an oven used to cure the bricks to the desired hardness. He shows how bricks are bundled for shipment. Clements said costs for things like natural gas, used in the curing process, are important to keeping overhead down, and allow companies to hire more workers.

Moolenaar, a member of several House committees, including appropriations and agriculture, asked Clements what he could do to help companies like Meridian.

“I guess the biggest thing that would help us is any upcoming legislation that would hinder us,” Clements said. “The one that really bit us is the new silica policy. It really tightens up guidelines a lot. If you see any air quality stuff, we do everything we can to keep it as clean as we can. The more regulations we get, the more cost. More monitoring, more regulations. So that’s some of the things we’re watching.”

Moolenaar said he’s encouraged by the economic climate in Michigan and the U.S.

“The growth and job creation here is good for Michigan,” Moolenaar said. “Working people are finding jobs and are supporting their families. I will be working to make sure that environment for businesses can continue.”

Horvath thanked Moolenaar for his record of supporting Michigan businesses.

“I think with lower taxes and less regulation, it’s going to be easier for people to do business in Shiawassee County,” Horvath said. “And that’s a credit to (Rep.) Moolenaar.”

Rep. Moolenaar also visited MJ Farm Services in Durand and met with owners Macy Cole and Jeremy Hall.

MJ Farm Services suffered damage from the tornado that struck Shiawassee County in March, and has received assistance from Ag Community Relief, a nonprofit organization that coordinates volunteers and donations to help farmers that experience devastation.

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