On April 8, 2013, the Leelanau County board of commissioners will be discussing the creation of an Economic development board; a recommendation of the county administrator Chet Janik. The announcement of this discussion can be read by clicking this link or on the image to the right.
This EDC creation like many others, is merely a ‘pump’ for certain favored types of business and zoning ventures, and will likely reflect more of external wishes than those of the residents of the county. It will funnel through dollars that are designed to elicit certain types of growth. It will favor only certain interests.
Leelanau county’s best growth is left natural, and at a pace that develops on its own. The desirable features that draw folks to settle are not that of a manipulated economy and ‘managed growth’. It is from the natural beauty that is the envy of folks everywhere. Any business ventures in the county ought to be those that naturally derive from fulfilling a need, and providing a value to the community. But of course, this is how it should be anywhere.
Government stepping in by predicting this need and acting on it with taxpayer resources, is flawed for two reasons; It is corruptive, and arbitrary.
EDC boards generally have a mix of elected and appointed individuals, who wish to encourage the success of business venture in their community. The argument that more jobs being created as a result is hard to deny, but what jobs would they be? Would there be promotion of business that follows only the local ‘visionary’ studies and false charettes of consensus? Would the county see growth in areas that have political advantage from one party, organization or another?
The county administrator will likely argue that Leelanau county must compete against other counties for certain jobs. You need to ask him “why?” What advantage, other than select individuals and business entities getting special attention, will it be that makes Leelanau County a more desirable place to live for current residents, and what advantage to those does it offer to attract new enterprise.
And once such an agency of favoritism is crafted, does it not then present only new opportunities for corruption and graft?
Assistance offered through grants and taxpayer funds can only be provided for a small percentage of the hundreds of businesses already a part, or wishing to do business in Leelanau county. Finite resources will always impose limitations on such activities, and a true assistance lottery that would prevent such things as friends giving preference to friends, would deny the reason those EXTERNAL grants exist, and that is to direct a certain type of business development; perhaps even that which is unfavorable to current residents.
I would encourage Leelanau residents and commissioners to reject central planning schemes that offer only more headaches and higher cost for the county’s residents. Throwing away $25,000 on a study to develop a plan that is already pre-ordained manipulation, is foolhardy and irresponsible.
The best ways to encourage natural growth is to see townships address their ‘master plan’ in a way that is more broadly permissive in some areas. Then keep the costs low with appropriate taxation and assessment. Add to this, limit the form based nonsense that makes it hard for folks to settle, and create that natural demand for goods and services. Encourage townships to remove obstacles so that all business may thrive.
If you allow them, “They will come”.