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Northview grad named to Mich. governor's cabinet

One of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's new cabinet appointees is a former Toledo-area man who graduated from Sylvania Northview High School.

Steven Hilfinger, 49, a Detroit lawyer with expertise in corporate mergers and acquisitions, was appointed in February to recast the old Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth under its new name and mission as the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

His job will be to work with other departments to "revise, and repeal and otherwise make their regulations business and customer-friendly," he said.

"I'm very excited to work in that role of chief regulatory officer," Mr. Hilfinger said of his new job in Lansing.

Meanwhile, the functions of developing the state's workforce and developing an energy sector are being transferred to the quasi-public Michigan Economic Development Corp.

"They're taking over energy and workforce development. That's a little more core to their mission of business attraction and job growth. Part of our mission is to make sure we don't put up unnecessary regulatory impediments to the businesses that are there already or want to come to Michigan," Mr. Hilfinger said.

Unlike Mr. Hilfinger's department, the MEDC is funded partly by the state's general fund and partly from casino revenues. It's board of directors is appointed by the governor, but the board selects the chief executive officer of the MEDC, said Bridget Beckman, a vice president of marketing for the MEDC.

Mr. Hilfinger said his own department, which had about 4,000 employees under the administration of former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, will shrink only slightly because it is expanding in the regulatory sphere. For example, the department is adding new professional licensing categories for health systems, such as hospitals and nursing homes, and health professionals, such as nurses and doctors.

Mr. Hilfinger was born in South Toledo and moved as a 2-year-old with his family to Sylvania. He attended Maplewood Elementary, where his mother, the late Margaret Hilfinger, was a teacher, and McCord Junior High School.

As a high school student, class of 1980, Mr. Hilfinger was on the school's Quiz Bowl team, which won first place when he was a freshman, and he played on the school tennis team. He also home-delivered The Blade newspaper.

"The governor had that ad campaign about one tough nerd, so he had to have a couple of those around him," Mr. Hilfinger joked.

Still living in this area are his father, Howard, and four of his five siblings. A brother has moved to Indiana.

Prior to his appointment, Mr. Hilfinger was a founding and managing partner of the Detroit office of Foley & Lardner LLP, which has more than 900 lawyers in the United States and internationally. He said he met the governor when Mr. Snyder, a Republican, returned to Michigan to establish some venture capital funds. Mr. Hilfinger handled the legal aspects of those accounts.

"Steve Hilfinger has an extraordinary background in helping companies navigate expansion and turnaround," Governor Snyder said in announcing the appointment in February. "He has an impressive knowledge of the business and regulatory environment and will do an outstanding job in creating a more practical and efficient regulatory system in this state."

Mr. Hilfinger lives in the village of Beverly Hills, near Royal Oak, Mich., with his wife, Cathy, and their four children.

He received a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from the University of Michigan in 1984, with Phi Beta Kappa honors. He graduated magna cum laude with a law degree from Northwestern University in 1987, where he was editor-in-chief of the Northwestern University Law Review from 1986 to 1987.

His activities have included teaching at Wayne State University Commercial Law Clinic, serving as a member of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors, and mentoring with the Detroit Catholic Diocese's Cornerstone Schools.

Contract Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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