Sunday, January 02, 2011

Naive hubris

Greg Main, the retiring head of the MEDC looks back on his accomplishments. This is his second term (his first stint was in the 1980s) as Michigan's chief economic planner, and it appears he has learned little from the experiences.
"When I came back (in 2009), it was apparent that there was a good plan in place (at the MEDC) already," Main said. "It is just a matter of executing it."

..."It became real clear to me that it was one thing to create plans, and another thing to get them implemented," Main said.
Well, yes, it is. Unfortunately, the plan executed during his second term is not what rational people would describe as "good." So it is just as well it was not easy to do. In any case, no government has ever successfully executed an activist economic plan, so Main is not to be faulted for that failure. Only for the attempt, and continuing faith in it. (Note: the LSJ seems to have disappeared this next part in the online version. It was there this morning, online and in print.)
The strategies are paying off, Main said. Since he came to the MEDC, the state has captured six new manufacturing plants for advanced battery technologies.

"We are going to be the epicenter of that industry, and it didn't even exist in the U.S. two years ago," Main said.

Manufacturers of products needed by the solar and wind energy industries also have invested in Michigan.

Other campaigns and incentives - such as a tax credit for filmmakers who hire state residents and film in Michigan, and the state's Pure Michigan travel ads - have elevated the state's profile.
Windmill manufacture, battery plants that will be obsolete before they are fully operational, solar panel subsidies for India, and movie subsides(!)? Since he didn't mention it, I guess ethanol was before his time.

This all makes me even more nervous about Rick Snyder, first head of MEDC, and his "public/private partnership" "plans." If the "plan" requires public funding because private capital sees it as too risky, then it probably is too risky. Maybe a good test would be whether Union pension plans would provide the venture capital - with a no bailout clause.

This fascination with mini-Manhattan Projects needs to cease.

2 comments:

Rougman said...

Some thirty miles or so north of Lansing on 127, there is a pair of huge billboards, one facing north and the other south, begging the legislature to fund Pure Michigan, the MEDC's propaganda arm for tourism.

I was interested to note that the signs were paid for by some tourism consortium obviously wanting to get the taxpayers on the hook for money that should be squeezed, if from anywhere, from those same people who would benefit from the Pure Michigan funding; in other words, those placing the billboards in the first place.

Now, why do you suppose those who would pay the thousands necessary for the placement of such a sign would not be willing to spring for the millions being asked for by the sign?

Sorry, rhetorical.

Hershblogger said...

Where but government can a ten thousand dollar "investment" buy you 10 million dollars of other people's money?