An article in Saturday's Grand Rapids Press contains one of the most troubling quotes from an economic development official we have ever read. It comes from Ron Kitchens of Kalamazoo's Southwest Michigan First and it continues a "stop picking on us" theme first advanced by Michigan Economic Development Corp. officials in a May letter.
The quote reads: "It is a sin in God's eyes not to create jobs..."
First, who died and made Kitchens and other government agents the "apostles" of job creation? Markets were creating jobs long before there were governments.
Second, Kitchens presumes his work actually works. There is a lot of scholarly evidence suggesting otherwise, including a Meta-Review of academic literature on the subject titled "The Failures of Economic Development Incentives," and two exhaustive analyses of MEDC and the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, which MEDC administers, in 2005 and 2009. Neither agency has ever refuted a single point of fact in either. Mr. Kitchens should familiarize himself with them.
Lastly, since when did the state's vast and expensive economic development apparatus become a faith-based initiative? Invoking religion to help maintain a policy status quo suggests an act of desperation. With a massive reform of incentive programs on the horizon, the job that Mr. Kitchens may be most concerned about is his own. The state's economic development bureaucracy has had to fight for its political life before and it appears to be doing so again.
This bureaucracy has presided over one of the biggest declines in Michigan's economic fortunes in perhaps the history of the state. Let us hope that whoever wins this year's governor's race has the good sense to rein in and ultimately eliminate the state's ineffective development programs.