By DAVID EGGERT
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Ann Arbor entrepreneur Shri Thanedar, an immigrant from India who has experienced a rollercoaster of business successes and failures, is running for Michigan governor in 2018, saying he is best-suited to help the state in part because of his own comeback story.
The 62-year-old Democrat announced his candidacy at a Detroit business incubator on June 8. Last year, he sold a majority stake in Avomeen Analytical Services, a chemical-testing company he founded, and made news by giving $1.5 million in bonuses to roughly 50 employees.
“I want to give back and help others achieve their dreams,” Thanedar told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
He moved to Michigan in 2010 and started Avomeen after living more than two-dozen years in Missouri, where he bought a small three-person lab and grew it to a 450-employee business only to lose the company, Chemir, to receivership and see his multimillion-dollar home foreclosed. He said that while the business did well, a bank took control after his other companies — including a pharmaceutical developer — faltered in the Great Recession when biotech customers’ venture capital dried up.
“The important thing is that I bounced back,” said Thanedar, who worked as a postdoctoral scientist at the University of Michigan in the early 1980s after immigrating to the U.S. to get his Ph.D. in chemistry. “After all the heavy loss, at the age of 55, I started a company again. That didn’t keep me down. In the last six years, I have worked harder than ever in my life.”
He said he sold majority control of Avomeen for at least $20 million. He intends to solicit campaign donations.
“To the extent that I fall short, I will certainly put my own money into it,” Thanedar said.
The political novice is the sixth Democrat to file paperwork to run. Three — former legislative leader Gretchen Whitmer, former Detroit health director Abdul El-Sayed and former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs — are actively campaigning.
Prominent lawyer Mark Bernstein also may enter the race.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder cannot seek a third term due to term limits. Physician Jim Hines and state Sen. Patrick Colbeck are actively vying for the GOP nomination, and higher-profile Republicans such as Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley are expected to launch campaigns later this year.
Thanedar said he is running because Republicans in control of state government are too focused on “corporate welfare” and not “human capital.” He cited business tax cuts, right-to-work laws, Flint’s water crisis and other issues.
“I want to shift the balance in Lansing,” he said. “Certainly we need some participation by the Democrats in a meaningful way. … I know I’m an underdog. I know I look different. I know I speak different. I know I can make a difference.”