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Proposal for funding Michigan infrastructure lands CMU student second place, $5,000 in state competition

Bay City freshman Lauren Grotkowski placed second out of 39 in a state-wide infrastructure development competition to win a $5,000 prize.

On Jan. 23, Grotkowski received word of her second-place win in the Student’s Reinventing Michigan Competition. The competition was developed through the Great Lakes Institute for Sustainable Systems in order to develop advanced means for funding infrastructure needs in Michigan’s transportation system.

The 2011 competition focused on how the legislature can improve Michigan's infrastructure with public support, despite challenging economic times.

With the help of Thomas Rohrer, GLISS director, former director of Central Michigan Universities' environmental studies program and her faculty mentor, Grotkowski developed a proposal for a Michigan infrastructure fund through changes to the Michigan sales tax code.

“It’s basically a way to redirect money for infrastructure,” Grotkowski said. “We want to protect things like road conditions and bridges. Some of the changes that we’d like to see are things like an increase on license plate registration, as well as changes to the tax laws so more money goes into infrastructure.”

Grotkowski’s proposal was one of 39 submitted by college students throughout the state of Michigan. According to the contest website, SRM Corporation sponsors said the “choosing of the winning proposals was very difficult.”

“This was such an honor,” Grotkowski said. “The competition was throughout the whole state, it’s not just the school or out of so many people. It is really nice to represent CMU.”

Grotkowski will be awarded $5,000 during an award banquet to be held Feb. 21 at the state capitol in Lansing. The win also awards Rohrer a Mentor Prize of $1,000. The winner, Shane Barry of Michigan State University, will receive $10,000.

Rohrer broke down the expenditure habits of the legislature, and said more often than not transportation maintenance is put on the back burner. He said their proposal mentions an establishment of separate funds that will acquire money overtime. This fund was said to be “easily sellable to the public” through means of advertisement and social media.

“If this is sellable to the public, legislatures will feel good about voting for it,” he said. “Everyone wants good, improved roads and infrastructure, but not everyone wants to pay taxes. This is a good way to make people understand why we have to put up the money to save money in the long-run.”